updated 03:45 pm EST, Tue November 11, 2008
MacBook Air Carbon Fiber
Not satisfied with the three-pound weight of the almost exclusively aluminum MacBook Air, Apple is investigating the possibility of building some of the ultraportable out of carbon fiber, a reported source of AppleInsider claims. The contact, which has allegedly proven reliable on MacBook updates in the past, notes that Apple would use the ultra lightweight but very strong material to replace the underside of the notebook, which is the second-heaviest component of the system. No changes would be made to the unibody aluminum top shell or the lid.
As the second-heaviest replaceable component of the Air's outer body, the bottom case adds substantially to the total weight of the system. A switch to carbon fiber would shed about 0.22 pounds from the total weight and bring the system to about 2.78 pounds with no other changes. Reducing the overall heft of the system would help separate the system from the regular 13-inch MacBook, which at 4.5 pounds is now much lighter than the plastic-housed system.
It's not specified how soon such research would translate to a finished revision if at all, though the Air was just updated and so is unlikely to receive the replacement until its next update sometime in 2009.
Cost is also a significant factor, as carbon fiber is historically significantly more expensive than most metal. Auto manufacturers are often the most high-profile users of carbon fiber but reserve it for race cars, supercars, and other vehicles where cost is less important than weight reduction. In computers, ystems such as the Sony VAIO TT and the VoodooPC Envy 133 use carbon fiber for some or all of their casing to lighten the system but also cost more as a result.