The new flagship model, which will based around a 17-inch widescreen display and feature at least a 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo processor, is expected to round-out Apple's MacBook Pro product line.
Despite optimism from some of Apple's current 12-inch PowerBook customers, a 12-inch MacBook Pro model has yet to surface on Apple's product roadmap, reliable sources have told AppleInsider.
These sources say the 17-inch MacBook Pro has been penciled-in for a release at or around Apple's annual World Wide Developers Conference, which has historically taken place around June.
Still, there remains the possibility that the high-end Apple notebook could be pushed out the door a bit earlier this Spring. Recent reports indicate that the developmental progress of 17-inch MacBook Pro is on par with that of Apple's Intel-based iBooks, which are widely rumored for a release by April.
One factor that may prohibit an earlier release of the 17-inch MacBook Pro is the lack of an 8x SuperDrive thin enough to fit in the notebook's enclosure, which is reportedly just as slim as the 15-inch model.
Due to its sleek industrial design, the MacBook Pro requires 9.5mm thick SuperDrives rather than the 12mm drives used in Apple's previous line of PowerBook G4 notebooks. Each of the company's 15-inch MacBook Pro models includes only a 4x SuperDrive because an 8x 9.5mm version of the drive is not yet available in production quantities.
According to AppleInsider's proprietary checks, a slot-loading version of the 8x SuperDrive suitable for the MacBook Pro is slated for customer shipments beginning in May. It's unclear if Apple will add an 8x SuperDrive option to the 15-inch MacBook Pro at this time or reserve the feature for a later revision of the notebook.
Nevertheless, expectations for Apple's Intel Macs -- and more specifically its Intel notebooks -- are running high in the Far East. Citing Taiwan PC manufacturers as a source, the Chinese-language Economic Daily News this week said Apple stands to ship as many as 10 million Intel Macs this year. The publication refined these predictions on Friday, citing sources who estimated that 6 million of those Macs will be notebook computers.