updated 04:25 pm EDT, Fri October 15, 2010
11.6-inch MacBook Air may be cheap but use Core 2
Apple's 11.6-inch MacBook Air has already received a follow-up rumor that suggests the update may have only a modest update to the processor but compensate in nearly every other area. It would still use a Core 2 Duo, possibly like the S series in the existing Air, but would upgrade to the GeForce 320M (MCP89) for a boost to graphics. The lone source talking to CNET, however, mentioned that the price would be "significantly lower" than the $1,499 asking amount of the outgoing 13-inch system.
The tipster, allegedly aware of Apple's schedule for the October 20 gathering, also alluded to longer battery life but wouldn't say by how much. Current 13-inch MacBooks get up to 10 hours of battery life through batteries that is very likely larger, but the Air has usually run on a lower-power chip and wouldn't need as much to run for longer than its current five hours.
Other tips have pointed to an all-SSD storage range that would improve the overall responsiveness, even for the basic MacBook Air.
A decision to use an older processor would disappoint those that had wanted a Core i3, i5 or i7 in the design but might also be necessary given a legal fight between Intel and NVIDIA over chipset licenses. Intel has sued NVIDIA claiming that the latter's license for system chipsets doesn't include any processor with a built-in memory controller, which virtually rules out all Core iX processors and newer Atom designs. NVIDIA has countersued claiming that Intel has deliberately misinterpreted the contract to shut out a faster competitor.
The system may nonetheless be an important part of Apple's strategy, both to define the Mac's role in relation to the iPad as well as to boost already surging market share. Macs currently dominate the premium notebook market but have faced a widening gap between the cheapest, $999 model and dropping average prices for most others. Netbooks are now on the decline, but 11- to 13-inch ultraportables using Intel's CULV (Consumer Ultra Low Voltage) chips have helped bridge the gap by keeping a small profile while only costing a small amount more than a netbook or some basic full-size notebooks.