A new Macbook Pro refresh is on the horizon, hopefully sooner rather than later. The shortest historical refresh time is not until June, but I am hoping it’ll come sooner, especially since the last release was only the barest of speed bumps (0.2GHz CPU bump, a slightly better graphics card, 256 MB more graphics memory–nothing else changed in the 15“ model), meaning that is was hardly a ”refresh“ at all. It’s also why I did not replace my seriously aging MBP, long without an optical drive anyway (it broke a year and a half ago) and struggling to keep up with current software demands.
So here I am, straining at the bit to buy a new machine, but I have to wait. I have a lot to look forward to: the new Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs have come out, and the new MBPs are bound to have them.
What worries me is talk about a new, slimmer form factor. It sounds nice, but I’m worried that they might make the Macbook Pro into little more than a 15” Macbook Air. Granted, the Air is nice, but I really need the capacity and ports that a Pro gives.
It’s expected that the new Pro will come without an optical drive; Apple was the first to abandon the floppy, so this makes sense. Sure, a Blu-ray drive would be fantastic, but that’s an extreme long shot. Apple will more likely continue with their direction towards wireless and the cloud. If there’s no optical drive, Apple could save a lot of space.
Ports are another probable cut–but they are also what have made the Pro a “Pro”; cutting FireWire would be a big disappointment for many people, like myself, who still have FireWire peripherals. Apple has a tendency to not give a crap about that, unfortunately.
A bigger potential problem would be if they went with SSD, and chintzed and went with a 256 GB storage solution. I have long been looking forward to increasing my drive space, which is currently 250 GB. A pro model should have more than that (current models have 500 and 750 GB), and I fear that Apple would make 256 GB standard and charge hundreds of dollars to upgrade to 512 GB. Look at the Air–you get 128 GB for the base 13“ model, and pay $300 to get 256 GB. I can easily imagine Apple giving us 256 GB on the 15” and then asking $500 for an upgrade to 512 GB. Even worse, they might make 128 GB standard on the low-end 15“ model, and ask $250 to upgrade to 256 GB, which would really tick me off.
Now, if a 512 GB SSD came standard, that would be sweet. But somehow I doubt it; Apple has been known to disappoint on stuff like this (look at the iPad and how they have refused to bump the SSD memory on those for the 2nd and 3rd generations). As with the no-Blu-ray and early FDD and now probably DVD retirements, they can be dictatorial about what you need and what you will get, as it suits their esthetic sense. SSD will be a big, fat target to chintz on.
What alternatives are there? If Apple keeps 2.5” HDDs, they could keep the rear end of the Pro a similar thickness and start tapering to the front only, which seems unlikely if they really want a slimmer enclosure. Or, if they wanted to improve performance without switching to SSDs, they could try a 2- or even 3-disk RAID array with 1.8“ drives (maybe 2 250 GB drives in a striped array and a third as a built-in ”Time Machine“ backup to address higher failure risks in the striped array).
This seems unlikely, however; HDD and RAID are moving backwards, and Apple likes shiny, futuristic stuff. SSDs look far more likely, meaning my primary hope is that Apple’s huge consumption of flash memory (not to mention their recent acquisition of an SSD manufacturer) allows them to give the best capacity solution for a reasonable price.
But if Apple goes down the ”oh, the Cloud is here, you really don’t need all that storage“ road, I will be ever so pissed.
Late Edit: One other possibility I forgot to consider: if Apple stays with the 2.5” HDD storage solution, they could go for an SSD cache. Given that they don’t go for an ultra-slim model, this actually might be the most likely compromise, allowing for both capacity (perhaps continuing the 500 and 750 GB drives) and speed (with perhaps a 64 GB SSD), with the missing optical drive and a redesigned battery shape allowing them to slim down enough to make a difference in aesthetics.