The laptops space is heating up once again. At CES 2016 alone I saw the lightest Windows 10 tablet in the world, a gaming laptop you can control with your eyes, and thinner Ultrabooks, some even capable of transforming into hardcore gaming machines thanks to an external GPU enclosure.
While it doesn’t seem like the world of Windows 10 notebooks is slowing down at all, there hasn’t been much development as of late from Apple. Sure, we got a newly reinvented MacBook last April, but Cupertino’s Air and Pro series machines are long overdue for a makeover that goes beyond a simple internal refresh. The design and specs of both models are long in the tooth: the MacBook Air is sporting the same HD screen resolution it has for the last 6 years.
It’s for this reason that I believe Apple will rise from its long slumber and show the PC market how things are done once again.
Times have changed
It’s not an overstatement to say Apple’s past laptops have shaped the world of laptops. Ultrabooks were first created to compete with the MacBook Air, and production machines like the Dell XPS 15 are aimed squarely to take down the MacBook Pro 15.
However, what’s changed is that Apple has slipped behind the times while other laptop makers moved ahead. The MacBook was once lauded as the world’s thinnest notebook, but 8 months later, that’s no longer the case.
The HP EliteBook Folio G1 is leaner by two millimeters while packing in a higher-res touchscreen and a second USB-C port to boot. Lenovo has also devised the Yoga 900S as an even slimmer convertible notebook that doesn’t sacrifice its full-sized USB 3.0 port or traditional keyboard and touchpad to be even thinner.
It’s a similar story with Apple’s two most popular laptops, the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. These machines have more than a handful of worthy competitors between the affordable Asus ZenBook UX305 and the compact Dell XPS 13, both of which feature sharper screens and smaller frames.
Reinventing the notebook again
While Apple has fallen behind, I have no doubts the company will reveal some spectacular notebooks this year with the features users are begging for. Personally, I’m hoping Apple will announce a complete design refresh for its MacBook Air and Pro models following in the footsteps of the new MacBook.
To make its latest laptop as thin as it is, Apple introduced a series of new processes and hardware changes, including stacking batteries, new keyboard switches, haptic trackpad and a dramatically shrunken logic board.
Some of these design cues and engineering changes could help make the MacBook Air and Pro series dramatically thinner and lighter. Apple’s Force trackpad is proven to add an extra layer of interaction in OS X. With some slightly taller keys and deeper travel, the MacBook’s butterfly switches could really take off as one of the best typing experiences on a laptop.
More importantly, a smaller logic board and expanded batteries could make the next MacBooks the longest-lasting work and life machines around. Apple has always been on top of the hardware design game, and I’m predicting some bold machines on the MacBook front.
Displays you can see and feel
Touchscreens on Macs are also long overdue. Apple did take a step in this direction when it introduced a stylus…I mean, Pencil that should jibe perfectly with the creative users who are already invested in the Mac world.
With that in mind, I’m even hopeful for a hybrid device from Apple to compete directly with the Surface Book. Sure, there’s the iPad Pro, but it seems much more targeted to the Surface tablet user crowd. What’s more, it doesn’t run a full version of OS X El Capitan, so you can’t use any of the full versions of Adobe’s software suite or other desktop applications.
Apple has never produced a truly convertible notebook, but that was also true of Microsoft only a few months ago. The Surface Book could be just the thing that gets the iPad maker to produce a 2-in-1 machine. Perhaps Apple will take hybrid devices in a whole new direction, creating a device that works as a full-on notebook, but with a screen that converts into an iOS tablet when removed.
Taking OS X to the next level
Of course, introducing touch controls into the equation means OS X itself would have to go through a major revision. The Mac OS already utilizes a great deal of gestures to get around, including multi-touch drags to access everything from changing apps to the Mission Control. I could easily see these same touch controls being translated to on-screen taps and swipes.
What’s more, even some of Apple’s official apps like Mail have adopted two-finger swipes to delete messages. It wouldn’t take much for the company to program many of its apps to respond to touch controls as they do on the iPhone and iPad.
These are just a few ways I imagine MacBooks and OS X will evolve this year, but I want to hear what you, the readers, think. Given Apple’s track record, where do you see it taking MacBooks next, and what do you want to see? Leave a comment below.
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