updated 11:13 pm EDT, Fri March 21, 2014
May also abandon 'clicker' trackpad in favor of gesture-only control
A source described by other sites as "normally reliable" has claimed that Apple is planning to revamp its MacBook Air line, potentially introducing a single 12-inch model that the source claims utilizes a "fanless" design (current MacBook Airs have one, very quiet, fan in them). The revamp also allegedly replaces the mechanical "clicker" in the trackpad with gesture-only and tap control, rather than any physical "clicks." As a result, the rumor says, the new design will be even thinner than it is presently.
The MacBook Air, despite being constantly derided by competitors, in fact changed the entire notebook industry, single-handedly popularizing the invented "ultrabook" category and effectively sounding the death-knell for low-cost, low-functionality "netbooks." The two models are said to be the best-selling "ultrabook" computers from any company by a wide margin, and last summer controlled more than 56 percent of the entire category.
Many Windows- or Android- or Chrome-based "ultrabooks" now bear an uncanny resemblance to the MacBook Air, which was first introduced in 2008 -- right down to the chiclet-style keyboards. The new rumors come from a report posted on the Chinese forum WeiPhone, AppleInsider reports, but agree with predictions made by unusually well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
Apple has been granted some patents in the area of replacing the now-standard notebook trackpad (which Apple popularized in the 90s), including a recent patent that would detect force or use optical sensors to indicate intent rather than a click-button assembly. It could also opt to simply make the trackpad tap-dependent instead of click-dependent, as many MacBook users already employ. The 12-inch display, if true, would represent only an incremental upgrade to the existing 11.6-inch MacBook Air, but could be of Retina display quality, which would be a significant step up for both the 11.6- and 13-inch current models.
The rumor indicates that the MacBook Air revamp would ship "soon" without specifying a timeframe. A similar MacBook Pro revamp, which is expected to drop the non-Retina 13-inch model as well as its optical disc drive in favor of a Retina display and thinner chassis, is thought be coming later in the year. The source also claims that Apple is in fact working on an "iWatch" project, but that it is far from ready for public release and is only in the "prototyping" stage.