Apple will refresh its popular MacBook Air line of ultra-thin notebooks in June or July, a Taiwanese publication said today, citing unnamed Asian supplier sources.
According to DigiTimes, the MacBook Airs will feature processors from Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture, and boast Thunderbolt connectivity, two moves Apple made in February when it launched new MacBook Pro models.
The current MacBook Air line relies on Intel's Core 2 Duo processors, making it one of the last two Apple systems to use that aged CPU: So far this year, Apple has transitioned both the MacBook Pro and iMac to the dual- and quad-core Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors with the Sandy Bridge architecture.
Moving the MacBook Air to the same CPUs -- likely to a dual-core to match the entry-level 13-in. MacBook Pro -- would be a natural step for Apple, which typically rolls out processor upgrades in successive lines.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, expects Apple to refresh the MacBook Air soon.
"It's been a very successful product line since last year," said Gottheil, who referred to the October 2010 relaunch of the Air when Apple dropped prices, debuted a smaller 11-in. model and ditched traditional hard drives throughout the line.
Although the MacBook Air -- which starts at $999 -- doesn't seem to have lowered Apple's notebook average sales price (ASP), Gottheil saw the ultra-thin as evidence that Apple means to push market share. "They're continuing to play with packing entry level products, like the MacBook Air, with attractive features without increasing prices," said Gottheil. "This is where Apple wants new Mac buyers to enter."
Analysts have attributed some of Apple's success in maintaining high sales growth rates to a "halo" effect from its surging smartphone and tablet businesses. Gottheil agreed.
"Apple very much wants to grow their share of the PC business," said Gottheil. "In some cases, they're after more market share than profit."
DigiTimes also said its sources had confirmed that the upcoming MacBook Airs would feature the new I/O (input/output) Thunderbolt technology developed by Intel, and aggressively marketed by Apple.
Both the MacBook Pro and iMac refreshes of 2011 have added one or more Thunderbolt ports to the machines.
While DigiTimes did not specify a launch window for the MacBook Air refresh, it could come as early as the first week of June if Apple hews to previous practice.
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