Apple executives discuss the process behind the 15-inch MacBook Air's development

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2023

Apple executives reveal the very many engineering challenges that had to be overcome in order to create the new 15-inch MacBook Air.

Apple executives discuss the new MacBook Air
Apple executives discuss the new MacBook Air



During the WWDC keynote, Apple showcased the highly anticipated 15-inch MacBook Air that has received praise from reviewers. It has the same functionality as the 13-inch MacBook Air, including the powerful M2 chip, but distinguishes itself with its significantly larger screen.

Tom's Guide recently interviewed Kate Bergeron, Apple's vice president of hardware engineering, and Laura Metz of Apple's Mac product marketing team, to discuss how the company achieved the device's thinness and why it released a MacBook Air in a larger size.

Design



Metz began by highlighting Apple's observation of the considerable presence of PCs featuring 15-inch screens in the market. Recognizing that there might be customers who want a more prominent display but don't necessarily require the performance of a MacBook Pro, Apple believed that these customers would value the expanded screen size of a MacBook Air.

"The Air is known for having this amazing feature set and awesome combination of performance and portability," she said. "It's not just about being thin and light but also having amazing battery life so that you can use the device wherever you want to go throughout the day."

To develop a 15-inch MacBook Air with the same slim profile as the 13-inch model, Apple prioritized the aspects of reliability, performance, and durability.

"The display where the LCD needs to be structurally really sound," Bergeron explained. "And so we use a structural adhesive to attach the panel to the chassis piece that we call the display housing."

When it comes to laptop materials, certain companies have explored the use of magnesium alloy to reduce weight. However, according to Bergeron, while Apple continuously explores alternative options to aluminum, she emphasized that aluminum alloy offers superior thermal conductivity and durability.




"Aluminum alloy is not massively better, but it's better enough in order to achieve what we want to in these products," she explained. "We work with the alloys team to design higher strength alloys, and we can take advantage of that, which supports going to these 11.5 millimeter-type enclosures."

Speakers & battery



Bergeron noted that one advantage of the 15-inch MacBook Air compared to its 13-inch counterpart lies in its speaker system.

"We were able to add two more woofers to the 15-inch versus the 13-inch and we are using that larger screen size to afford us that ability," she said. "We offset the force-canceling drivers in the width of the product because we have to take advantage of that larger footprint."

To accommodate the increased power demand of the larger display on the new MacBook Air, the team also made a necessary adjustment by increasing the battery size.

"So we're able to use the bigger product to grow the battery a little bit and take advantage of the space," Bergeron continued. "We can also grow the trackpad and we can still have great MacBook Air battery life."

Engineers implemented thermal control loops and used software optimizations to achieve Apple's stated claim of the 15-inch MacBook Air's impressive 18-hour battery life.




"The workloads for a typical MacBook Air owner are fairly bursty, meaning they may do something for a few minutes and then walk away from their computer and either have a background process running that's pretty light or just doing nothing at all," she continued. "And so we can go in and tweak the levers in the silicon and software to be able to take advantage of these gaps in time and really take the power down to the most minimal level."

In general, Bergeron expresses that the development of the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize. However, she emphasizes that Apple doesn't want customers to focus on those technical details.

"We don't even want people to consider that," she said. "We want to do everything that we can to make this experience great."

The larger size MacBook Air means that for many people, it's going to make for a difficult choice between this and the MacBook Pro.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 1,028member
    In general, Bergeron expresses that the development of the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize. However, she emphasizes that Apple doesn't want customers to focus on those technical details.
    "We don't even want people to consider that," she said. "We want to do everything that we can to make this experience great."

    LOL LOL LOL   Every time Apple does some relatively little thing, we have to read about what it big deal it was.  Yeah, there were so many amazing challenges we had to overcome to make the screen 2 inches bigger.  It took a whole re-imagining of what 15 inches is.  All the engineering and other struggles.  The late nights.  The channeling Steve Jobs.  The ordering of bigger screens and consequent adjustments to a computer case.  I can't even imagine.  It's like sending people to Mars or building the pyramids.  We can't even comprehend how Apple's highly skilled and paid engineers were able to rise this challenge of doing a thing that Apple has done for years.  It's not just 2 inches, it's slightly more than 5cm, and that required careful study of the metric system.  .  We don't even want people to consider all this mundane work we are bragging about, just enjoy.

    edited June 2023 muthuk_vanalingamnubusGraeme000chutzpahwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 10
    williamh said:
    In general, Bergeron expresses that the development of the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize. However, she emphasizes that Apple doesn't want customers to focus on those technical details.
    "We don't even want people to consider that," she said. "We want to do everything that we can to make this experience great."

    LOL LOL LOL   Every time Apple does some relatively little thing, we have to read about what it big deal it was.  Yeah, there were so many amazing challenges we had to overcome to make the screen 2 inches bigger.  It took a whole re-imagining of what 15 inches is.  All the engineering and other struggles.  The late nights.  The channeling Steve Jobs.  The ordering of bigger screens and consequent adjustments to a computer case.  I can't even imagine.  It's like sending people to Mars or building the pyramids.  We can't even comprehend how Apple's highly skilled and paid engineers were able to rise this challenge of doing a thing that Apple has done for years.  It's not just 2 inches, it's slightly more than 5cm, and that required careful study of the metric system.  .  We don't even want people to consider all this mundane work we are bragging about, just enjoy.

    Don’t forget that they also had to come up with a larger cardboard box to put it in.
    chasmFileMakerFellerwilliamhwilliamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 3 of 10
    AfarstarAfarstar Posts: 35member
    LOL LOL LOL   Every time Apple does some relatively little thing, we have to read about what it big deal it was.  Yeah, there were so many amazing challenges we had to overcome to make the screen 2 inches bigger.  It took a whole re-imagining of what 15 inches is.  All the engineering and other struggles.  The late nights.  The channeling Steve Jobs.  The ordering of bigger screens and consequent adjustments to a computer case.  I can't even imagine.  It's like sending people to Mars or building the pyramids.  We can't even comprehend how Apple's highly skilled and paid engineers were able to rise this challenge of doing a thing that Apple has done for years.  It's not just 2 inches, it's slightly more than 5cm, and that required careful study of the metric system.  .  We don't even want people to consider all this mundane work we are bragging about, just enjoy.

    Is sarcasm your middle name? Completely unnecessary comment. 
    StrangeDayswatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 10
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,410member
    The sum of little things is exactly what makes Apple products so much better than competition. 


    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 5 of 10
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,788member
    williamh said:
    In general, Bergeron expresses that the development of the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize. However, she emphasizes that Apple doesn't want customers to focus on those technical details.
    "We don't even want people to consider that," she said. "We want to do everything that we can to make this experience great."

    LOL LOL LOL   Every time Apple does some relatively little thing, we have to read about what it big deal it was.  Yeah, there were so many amazing challenges we had to overcome to make the screen 2 inches bigger.  It took a whole re-imagining of what 15 inches is.  All the engineering and other struggles.  The late nights.  The channeling Steve Jobs.  The ordering of bigger screens and consequent adjustments to a computer case.  I can't even imagine.  It's like sending people to Mars or building the pyramids.  We can't even comprehend how Apple's highly skilled and paid engineers were able to rise this challenge of doing a thing that Apple has done for years.  It's not just 2 inches, it's slightly more than 5cm, and that required careful study of the metric system.  .  We don't even want people to consider all this mundane work we are bragging about, just enjoy.

    Spoken like a true ignorant. Reread: "the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize."

    I love how non-engineers just think all this stuff is super easy, barely an inconvenience, it just steps out of a clamshell fully formed like Aphrodite. As a software engineer we see constraints and compromises every day in our work, and we're just typing. I'm not a laptop engineer but I wouldn't doubt for a second that increasing the surface area of an extremely thin device has structural ramifications that must be addressed.

    But you do you, it's all easy when you don't know what you don't know.
    edited June 2023 watto_cobramr. hwilliamlondonchiaAlex1N
  • Reply 6 of 10
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 1,028member
    williamh said:
    In general, Bergeron expresses that the development of the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize. However, she emphasizes that Apple doesn't want customers to focus on those technical details.
    "We don't even want people to consider that," she said. "We want to do everything that we can to make this experience great."

    LOL LOL LOL   Every time Apple does some relatively little thing, we have to read about what it big deal it was.  Yeah, there were so many amazing challenges we had to overcome to make the screen 2 inches bigger.  It took a whole re-imagining of what 15 inches is.  All the engineering and other struggles.  The late nights.  The channeling Steve Jobs.  The ordering of bigger screens and consequent adjustments to a computer case.  I can't even imagine.  It's like sending people to Mars or building the pyramids.  We can't even comprehend how Apple's highly skilled and paid engineers were able to rise this challenge of doing a thing that Apple has done for years.  It's not just 2 inches, it's slightly more than 5cm, and that required careful study of the metric system.  .  We don't even want people to consider all this mundane work we are bragging about, just enjoy.

    Spoken like a true ignorant. Reread: "the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize."

    I love how non-engineers just think all this stuff is super easy, barely an inconvenience, it just steps out of a clamshell fully formed like Aphrodite. As a software engineer we see constraints and compromises every day in our work, and we're just typing. I'm not a laptop engineer but I wouldn't doubt for a second that increasing the surface area of an extremely thin device has structural ramifications that must be addressed.

    But you do you, it's all easy when you don't know what you don't know.
    Yeah, I read that and I re-read that - thanks for the advice.  You are right - adding those two inches to a laptop was like designing and operating the Mars Rover.  I give Apple a lot of credit for lots of things - their stuff works great, the Vision Pro is going to be awesome to use - but not this.  I don't doubt for a second that there were issues that had to be addressed.  So what?  That's the job.  You are too easily impressed.
    edited June 2023 muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 7 of 10
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 1,028member
    netrox said:
    The sum of little things is exactly what makes Apple products so much better than competition. 


    While I take heat for my criticism of the Apple self-adulation for doing a new little thing, I agree with you completely.  It is the sum of a lot of little things that makes Apple products better than the competition and worth the premium that Apple can charge.
    williamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 8 of 10
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 1,028member
    LOL LOL LOL   Every time Apple does some relatively little thing, we have to read about what it big deal it was.  Yeah, there were so many amazing challenges we had 
    Is sarcasm your middle name?
    Afarstar said: Completely unnecessary comment. 

    Congratulations for correctly identifying my unnecessary comment and for advancing the discourse with a completely cogent and necessary comment.  Well done.  

    edited June 2023 williamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 9 of 10
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,277member
    williamh said:
    In general, Bergeron expresses that the development of the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize. However, she emphasizes that Apple doesn't want customers to focus on those technical details.
    "We don't even want people to consider that," she said. "We want to do everything that we can to make this experience great."

    LOL LOL LOL   Every time Apple does some relatively little thing, we have to read about what it big deal it was.  Yeah, there were so many amazing challenges we had to overcome to make the screen 2 inches bigger.  It took a whole re-imagining of what 15 inches is.  All the engineering and other struggles.  The late nights.  The channeling Steve Jobs.  The ordering of bigger screens and consequent adjustments to a computer case.  I can't even imagine.  It's like sending people to Mars or building the pyramids.  We can't even comprehend how Apple's highly skilled and paid engineers were able to rise this challenge of doing a thing that Apple has done for years.  It's not just 2 inches, it's slightly more than 5cm, and that required careful study of the metric system.  .  We don't even want people to consider all this mundane work we are bragging about, just enjoy.

    Spoken like a true ignorant. Reread: "the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize."

    I love how non-engineers just think all this stuff is super easy, barely an inconvenience, it just steps out of a clamshell fully formed like Aphrodite. As a software engineer we see constraints and compromises every day in our work, and we're just typing. I'm not a laptop engineer but I wouldn't doubt for a second that increasing the surface area of an extremely thin device has structural ramifications that must be addressed.

    But you do you, it's all easy when you don't know what you don't know.

    John Ternus head of Mac Hardware talked about the Air on the Talk show live pretty much first topic up. 
    He had that designers weary look several times that says "people just don't understand how much work goes in to effortless". 

    It's great to Apple putting the designer and engineers front and centre and letting them express what make them passionate about the products. 
    williamlondonchiaAlex1N
  • Reply 10 of 10
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 1,031member
    williamh said:
    In general, Bergeron expresses that the development of the new MacBook Air presented a significant engineering challenge, more than what many people might realize. However, she emphasizes that Apple doesn't want customers to focus on those technical details.
    "We don't even want people to consider that," she said. "We want to do everything that we can to make this experience great."

    LOL LOL LOL   Every time Apple does some relatively little thing, we have to read about what it big deal it was.  Yeah, there were so many amazing challenges we had to overcome to make the screen 2 inches bigger.  It took a whole re-imagining of what 15 inches is.  All the engineering and other struggles.  The late nights.  The channeling Steve Jobs.  The ordering of bigger screens and consequent adjustments to a computer case.  I can't even imagine.  It's like sending people to Mars or building the pyramids.  We can't even comprehend how Apple's highly skilled and paid engineers were able to rise this challenge of doing a thing that Apple has done for years.  It's not just 2 inches, it's slightly more than 5cm, and that required careful study of the metric system.  .  We don't even want people to consider all this mundane work we are bragging about, just enjoy.

    You ask the engineering and product development team about the complexities of development, they'll tell you. Why would you have problem with that? Expertise goes unnoticed, often. That's why so many people are under the illusion of their own superiority. 

    williamlondonAlex1N
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