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Several reports have surfaced over the past few days that reveal Apple is working on a new 15-inch MacBook that would be targeted at those who don’t need “Pro” level specs. While many assumed that it might just be a larger MacBook Air, more recent reports suggest that this could be the return of the 2015 “MacBook” (sans suffix) in an entirely new form.
For the past few years, Apple’s laptop lineup has fit into two generally distinct categories: the entry-level MacBook Air and the more powerful MacBook Pro lineup. However, this was not always so.
The MacBook Air actually began its life as an impossibly thin “executive” laptop. This was the MacBook that Steve Jobs famously pulled out of a manila envelope on stage at Macworld 2008. It was arguably one of the most iconic moments for the legendary Apple CEO, second only to the announcement of the original iPhone the year before.
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Back then, “MacBook Air” actually meant “ultra-premium.” The laptop was underpowered compared to everything else in its price range, but it was also dramatically thinner than any laptop made up to that point. Some would even suggest that this was the launching point for Apple’s obsession with thinness, which would permeate nearly all of its products for the next decade or so.
That first MacBook Air was born into a world where Apple’s MacBook Pro was the aluminum powerhouse, and the standard MacBook was still made from plastic, available in both white and black versions. A few months later, a short-lived aluminum unibody MacBook came along to replace the higher-end black model, but that was rebranded the following year as the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro. This was essentially the spiritual predecessor to the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro that we know today.
By the summer of 2011, the MacBook Air had become the de facto entry-level model, and Apple retired the MacBook lineup.
Nevertheless, in a strange reversal of roles, Apple chose to resurrect the “MacBook” name in 2015 as its next-generation ultra-portable. With an ultra-slim design and a 12-inch footprint, Apple was endeavoring to recapture the magic of the original 2008 MacBook Air. The 12-inch MacBook was also the pinnacle of Apple’s obsession with thinness — this was the Mac that brought us the ill-fated butterfly keyboard design.
However, most customers weren’t quite sure what to make of the 12-inch MacBook; it received one big update in 2016 but otherwise floundered until it was discontinued in the summer of 2019. By that point, it’s safe to say few people missed it.
There have been a few rumors of Apple resurrecting the 12-inch design, particularly with the move to Apple Silicon. However, it’s probably fair to say that Apple considers that size to now be the domain of the iPad Pro.
The 15-inch MacBook
By now, it’s a pretty safe bet that this fall will herald the arrival of a new M2 MacBook Air lineup, which is also expected to feature a pretty significant redesign. This will include a selection of new colors, similar to last year’s new 24-inch iMac, along with better speakers, microphones, cameras, and more ports.
Earlier this week, display analyst Ross Young shared the news that Apple was working on a MacBook with a 15-inch display, although that’s not expected to be ready until next year. Meanwhile, Young says, the new M2 MacBook Air will see a slight increase in screen size, from 13.3 inches to 13.6 inches.
The mysterious new 15-inch model will actually measure in at 15.2 inches, although Young is hedging on the name following a suggestion by Ming-Chi Kuo that it may not be called the “MacBook Air.”
For this year’s MacBook Air, the footprint likely won’t change much, if at all. A 0.3-inch increase in screen size can easily come from smaller bezels, which we’re already expecting on the new MacBook Air. It may even include a notch similar to the current 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Since the 15-inch MacBook is at least a year away, it’s possible that Apple hasn’t even decided what to call it yet. Resurrecting the name “MacBook” would make a lot of sense, as it would allow Apple to keep the “Air” designation exclusive to its smallest and lightest laptops.
Whatever it’s called, a 15-inch MacBook would be designed for customers who want a larger display but don’t need the power of a 16-inch MacBook Pro.
There’s also been some speculation that Apple could choose to rename the 13-inch MacBook Pro the same way since the redesign of its higher-end 14-inch and 16-inch siblings has made it stand out even more as the oddball in the lineup. It would be somewhat ironic for Apple to do this — it would be a reversal of what happened 13 years ago when the higher-end aluminum MacBook became the original entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro.
This wouldn’t preclude a 15-inch MacBook from sharing that name. Like the MacBook Pro lineup, Apple could presumably offer the “MacBook” in two sizes. It would give the MacBook family a lovely symmetry: a 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook lineup alongside a pair of 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]