What's in store for the 2012 MacBooks?
What's in store for the 2012 MacBooks?

With “new” iPad furor subsiding, it’s time to turn our latte-fueled attention to the upcoming Macs. Come June, possibly May, Apple will release its updated range of MacBooks for 2012. I might suspect that the prospects of a thinner, and lighter MacBook Pro would be a slam dunk. But there’s the 3rd gen iPad. Wowza display, yes, but a bit of a porker that one – especially when compared to the likes of the Android-powered Asus Transformer Prime and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

I’ve been a Mac convert since mid-2010. Then I configured a modest MBP 13 via the Apple web site, and had it drop shipped to a hotel in Wall Walla where I was attending a wine conference (WBC10).

My biggest fear was letting go of the trusty trackpoint- that little red stick found between the “G” and “H” keys on ThinkPads. Friends on Facebook and Twitter told me to “totally take the leap” and to “not look back.”

They were right.

While I still believe Lenovo makes the best keyboards in the business (with Apple a close #2), just about everything else about the 2010 MacBook Pro is aces: the best-in-class screen contrast, the build quality featuring that stunning aluminum casing (same as previous generation), the backlit keyboard, the whisper quiet operation, and the large, gesture-happy trackpad. As a whole, it’s impressive stuff. I use it daily, and have taken it on trips across the world, including to the brutally hot desert of the Baja. Not once has it failed me.

And yet, there’s always room for improvement, or, in the case of Apple, innovation.

I should point out that I’m not an OS X groupie. There’s just too many little quirks- like resizing windows, or installing apps, or trying to get an SD card recognized after three attempts, or the fact that files I’ve deleted sometimes still remain (unmovable) on the desktop until rebooting. Overall I’m far more efficient and comfortable with Windows 7. It might look plain, but it’s Microsoft’s best ever OS, and every ounce of their knowledge is reflected in its highly functional design (I dread a world of Metro).

With that, here’s 10 things- in no particular order- the new 2012 MacBook Pro needs:

1. Thinner design

Even though the iPad gret slightly larger, I expect the new MBP to go on a dramatic diet. In fact, as many suggest, Apple may very well unify the brand under the “Air” moniker. Perhaps we will see “Air Pros”? Regardless of naming conventions, at 4.5 pounds both the 2011 and 2010 models look less Tony Stark, more Tony Soprano. With the rise of the ultrabook that needs to change.

2. USB 3.0

Because it’s faster (and only 1% of my peripherals are FireWire enabled).

 3. NO optical drive

Okay, so classify this as something the new model doesn’t need. Absolutely doesn’t need. OS drives are akin to 3 1/2″ floppy drives when the original iMacs launched. Jobs boldly scoffed at including floppy drives, and against tremendous backlash, only shipped a CD ROM. How on earth would we install our software? Somehow we survived. I will miss, however, that robotic grunt (the last hurrah) the never used (haven’t we all long ago ripped our Robbie Williams’ DVDs?) slot on my MBP makes every time I power it up.

4. Bluetooth 4.0

Because it’s better.

5. 18 hour battery life

Let’s call it a stretch goal. Two years ago, battery life on Macs was remarkable. Today it’s still more than respectable, but Apple’s about pushing the envelope. So let’s push for 100%+ improvement here. Currently I’m getting about 6-8 hours. Pretty good. But this is 2012 and that little upstart Asus Transformer Prime can do it (granted, in Android it’s running a mobile OS), so let’s push here for about 18 hours battery life.

6. Retina display

Word is Apple will launch the new Macs (or at least the top end models) with a Retina-like 2880×1800 resolution. Given the manufacturing difficulties we read about with the new iPad and its Retina display, I wonder how it will pull this off. When it comes to precision panels capably of delivering ultra-res it seems like Samsung is the only game in town. Will there be quick stock outs with the 2012 run, while suppliers scramble to keep assembly lines moving?

7. Intel Ivy Bridge Processors

Sandy Bridge, good on you, but it’s already time to move on. The odds are strong that the 2012 MBP range will feature the new Ivy Bridge chips from Intel. If history is any indication we’ll likely see the 15-inch models get the speed treatment, followed soon after by the 13-inchers.

David Lynch alert: this is where we get all fuzzy and add a dolop of Mulholland Drive to our prognostication… not to dream is not to live, no?

8 iPad Hybrid

Hey Apple, want to impress me (but not your shareholders)? Release an iPad Air. I’ve written about this since… well, forever (Why Apple should make an iPad Air). It’s a dream rig. Take a MacBook Air and in the place of the standard panel, put an iPad. Yes, it’s an Asus Transformer Prime for the rest of us. Except, this would be a full-blown OS X experience in laptop mode, and the super smooth iOS experience we all know and love when in tablet mode. So you know I’m not completely crazy, the odds of this (ever) happening are extremely low imho, for one simple reason: cannibalization. Such a hybrid would combine two product sales into one. Why buy both an iPad and a MacBook Pro when you could just buy a would-be iPad Air and be done with it? I dunno. Ask Cowboy.

9. Bezel controls

Let’s take advantage of that dark border around the display, the photo frame that doesn’t do much – anything – other than reflect the world back at us. I’d like to see capacitive controls here for  volume, brightness, app control, etc. The imagination runs wild with the possibility.

10. Dolby SRS Surround (or better)

How? Put pulverizing speakers everywhere on the thing. Yes, it would likely impact #1 and #5 above, but this is an alternate reality, and Apple is good a making dreams come true.