Hardware

MacBook Air 2018: 5 things the pros need

Apple is expected to announced a refreshed MacBook Air with a new name and more features for professionals sometime in October.

While the iPhone XS was the main event at Apple's September 12 event in Cupertino, CA, the tech giant is also expected to refresh the MacBook Air line—which has not received a significant update since its release in 2008—at a later event in October.

New MacBook Airs are rumored to look similar to the current version and remain at 13 inches, Bloomberg reported, but will have thinner bezels around the screen. But the internal performance upgrades will likely be what professionals have their eyes on.

"Folks who want something super light have always been challenged with: 'Do I take an iPad and stick a keyboard to it, or do I run with the MacBook Air?'" said Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research.

SEE: Hardware purchasing task list (Tech Pro Research)

The MacBook Air and iPad are in competition for mind share, Wang said. The biggest challenge for MacBook Air adoption in the enterprise is the price point, he added: The laptops range from $999 to $1,999, while iPad Pros start at $649.

"The question is: Can Apple come up with a sub-thousand dollar device that's more high quality, or would you end up picking up another iPad?" Wang said.

If they can, the MacBook Air may be an entry point for people who want to use a Mac, versus an iPad Pro, Wang said. The target audience may be a business person or executive who primarily need to access information, as opposed to create content, Wang said.

Rumor has it that the word "Air" will be dropped from the name for the new line, leaving it as just "MacBook," with a likely launch of another "Pro" model in the future, said David McQueen, research director of consumer devices and strategic technology at ABI Research. This would fit the device in with the names of Apple's other products, such as the iMac and iPad, which now both have standard and Pro versions, he added.

"A 'MacBook Pro' version could then open up to the addition of WWAN connectivity, more processing power, biometric inputs, and fingerprint on display, that would all contribute to a step to a higher price point in the category," McQueen said.

However, that doesn't mean that the new MacBook Air won't be useful for professionals, too. Here are five things that pros need in a new MacBook Air.

1. Processing power

An upgrade to processing power could make the machine more appealing to professionals, McQueen said. The current MacBook Air includes a fifth-generation Intel Core processor, which would likely be upgraded in the new version.

2. Retina Display

A Retina Display is basically a given for an updated MacBook Air line. "Everyone's reporting that they are going to do the Retina screen," Wang said. "I think part of the reason is because when you talk to the suppliers, they're ramping up Retina screen production."

3. Touch screen

A touch screen would give professionals the ability to interact with the device in a new way, similar to an iPad. "I see it all the time—people try to reach out and touch these screens, and realize 'Oh, we can't do that,'" Wang said.

4. Easier cord connectivity

"People want to make connectivity easier, whether it's the cords or the cables," Wang said. "Today, if you've got a MacBook Pro, you're running the big USB-C adaptor for every other USB device that you need." Ideally, a new Air would simplify how people use the devices, he added.

5. Dual cameras

Adding a dual camera setup and improving the camera quality will be key for video conferencing, Wang said. That way, you can have a camera facing you for individual calls, or facing the room for meetings, he added.

Also see

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Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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