Originally Posted by Tailpipe
I think we'll see a new unibody MacBook Pro design when Intel's Ivy Bridge processor (the die shrink of Sandy Bridge) becomes available in early 2012. Around the same time, we'll also see a die shrink for SSD solid state hard drives and a price reduction per gigabyte that will at last make it economically viable as a mainstream option. Both form factor reductions and price reductions will enable Apple to create a much slimmer enclosure to offer a machine that sells for more or less the same price as current models
I would expect another MBP release before Ivy Bridge. The reasoning is pretty simple, it could be well over year until Ivy Bridge is ready. Now as to a new design that is an open question but I have to think that the current models are Apples rendition of playing it safe to get Thunderbolt established. So a fall update could bring on a new chassis or it could just be a bump.
The launch is likely to be dependent on Intel's timeline for Ivy Bridge. While early 2012 seems likely, it could slip to June 2012. This redesign will also mark the end of the integrated DVD drive on-board. When the new machines arrive, we should see a MacBook Pro that weighs little more than a MacBook Air, but that packs a much greater punch in terms of raw processing power. I suspect that all drives will become SSD with a minimum capacity of 256 Gb on low-end models and and possibly 1 Terabyte drives on high-end models. (Personally, I think 512 Gb is now a minimum.)
I have to agree with your position with respect to SSD size. My personal usage makes it tough to run on a 200GB drive and that is with Itunes on a separate 1TB drive.
Screen resolution will improve and possibly be accompanied by a move to 16:9 display sizes. The track pad will grow in size, with Apple adding an increased suite of gesture controls. By 2012, OSX 10.7 Lion will be out in the wild so the new hardware will be able to take advantage of its many touch enabled features.
Screen resolutions will only improve if Apple gets off its duff and finishes resolution independence. Frankly I'm really hoping for some sort of statement from Apple about this at the coming WWDC.
A few things remain uncertain. What will happen to USB? If Apple moves to Light Peak (Thunderbolt) entirely, then USB 3.0 may never see the light of day in a MacBook Pro. We may still need legacy ports to run existing peripherals, or Thunderbolt adaptors. Will FireWire also be junked? And will Apple offer a 3G / 4G card slot so we can surf without WiFi / Ethernet access?
I really don't think Apple has any intention of replacing USB entirely. USB is a perfectly good low speed port and frankly isn't even in the same class as Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt will lead to the dropping of Firewire, which I consider to be useless, and possibly other ports.
What surprised me with the release of Thunderbolt is that Apple really didn't debut systems or solutions built around it. That is the docking station or monitor that we were expecting. This could come with the next rev of the MBP or the AIRs. In any event there is little in the way of info on just what Apple intended to use Thunderbolt for.
It has also been rumoured that Apple is considering new materials, such as lightweight carbon fibre and new alloys. Even if it sticks with the current aluminium material, new smaller components and the lack of a DVD drive should allow worthwhile weight savings.
I don't really care what Apple builds the machines out of as long as it is durable! Aluminum seems to be a very good compromise here.
For me, the most significant new technology on the horizon is light reflective colour screens, i.e. displays that can be read in natural light without the need for backlighting. This is the same technology used by the Kindle, but it is advancing to produce radically new display designs that are akin to viewing an animated colour page from a glossy magazine. It has to be seen to be believed,
The R&D going into alternative solutions for screens is just mind boggling, it is really difficult to predict what Apple will be suing six months down the road much less a year or two. As to the reflective displays I don't think they have a a reason to go into an Apple laptop but the iPad would be another story.
In summary, the next generation of MacBook will merge the Pro line-up with the Air line-up. Beyond the next generation of of MacBook Pro, I believe we will see the convergence of the iPad and the MacBook Pro, with touch screen technology providing a fundamentally new computing experience than the one we're used to.
As to the Mac Book I'd rather see Apple offer up something that is significantly cheaper. Like in the $600 to $700 range. Something that leverages modern chip technology to produce a functional but low cost machine.
As to convergence I really don't like how that concept is pedaled. The use cases for tablets and laptops/desktops is so different that I don't ever expect complete convergence. Frankly Touch screens actually suck when it comes to many desktop productivity uses and would actually be a step backwards. Of course there are always those apps where touch might make sense on a laptop or desktop machine, it is just not the norm.