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Apple Ultra-Portable MacBook Rumor Roundup

As rumors start to build for Macworld San Francisco 2008, the most consistent rumor appears to be one of an ultra-portable Apple notebook computer.

These rumors started back in March 2006 by MacScoop who indicated that "very reliable" sources had indicated that Apple was planning on releasing an "ultra-thin 12 inch Mac Book Pro". More confirmation came from an analyst, Benjamin Reitzes in June, 2006 with expectations that an "ultra-portable" Mac could be delivered as early as Macworld San Francisco 2007. Reitzes also suggested that these new ultra-portables would use NAND flash memory, either in combination with a traditional hard drive or using NAND flash alone.

Indeed, earlier in 2006, Digitimes had first reported that Apple and Intel were researching the use of NAND flash in portables to improve boot time and battery life. MacScoop later detailed the thin-laptop to be a $1700-$1800 12" MacBook Pro with dual core processor and still retain an optical drive.

Macworld San Francisco 2007, of course, came and went with no new ultra-portable, but in February, more claims emerged from Appleinsider confirming that Apple was working on a mini-MacBook "lighter and more compact than any other Mac portable Apple has put forth in recent years". These specs claimed that the new laptop would exclude a built-in optical drive and would indeed use NAND flash memory.

9to5mac added a report in September that an aluminum MacBook prototype had been spotted that was "considerably slimmer" than the current MacBook Pros, with a thinner bezel around the screen and "something strange about the touchpad".

Finally, as we approach 2008's Macworld, some more confident reports have emerged with Appleinsider now believing that the new ultra-portable laptop will be released at Macworld as a 13" aluminum notebook with NAND flash, no optical drive, and LED backlit screens. Even CNBC now has their own sources claiming that a 12" sub-portable MacBook Pro with Flash memory only (no hard drive) would be introduced and retail for around $1500 at Macworld.

Based on the confidence and number of reports, it seem very likely that some sort of ultra-portable laptop will be arriving from Apple in January. To sum up claims:

MacScoop: 12", Ultra-Thin, Optical Drive, Dual Core, $1700-$1800
Appleinsider: 13", aluminum, 50% lighter, Slim, NAND Flash, LED backlit, No Optical Drive
CNBC: 12", 50% Thinner, NAND Flash only (no HDD). $1500
9to5mac: "something strange about the touchpad"

To be fair, MacScoop's reports were from a year ago, so details may have changed in the interim. It's also conceivable that Apple may have more than one product in the works that could explain some of the discrepancies.

To give some perspective on what might be possible, readers are reminded of a prototype Intel laptop (Metro) that was revealed in May of this year. The concept design was said to go into production near the end of 2007 and offered the following specs:

- 2.25 lbs
- 0.7 inches thick
- 14 hours battery life
- NAND Flash
- WiMax, Cellular, WiFi support

As a concept design with no regard to cost, all of these features may not be included in a theoretical Mac laptop, but it does provide an idea of what might be possible with current technology.