Apple's annual developer conference hasn't been a venue for product launches in four years, but it might produce a bumper crop of laptops this time around. Bloomberg sources hear that Apple is planning to upgrade at least the 12-inch MacBook and MacBook Pro line when WWDC kicks off in June. The Pros would get improved 7th-generation Core (aka Kaby Lake) processors with little to no external changes, while the 12-inch system is only said to be getting a "faster Intel chip" (our money's on Y-series Core i5 and i7 CPUs). However, the biggest deal may be an update to a system many thought Apple had left for dead: the MacBook Air.
One of the insiders claims that Apple has "considered" updating the 13-inch Air with a new processor in response to sales of the aging machine, which are "surprisingly strong." Just what that entails isn't clear, but you'd most likely find U-series Core i5 and i7 processors. There's no mention of a Retina Display or other more dramatic upgrades, so don't get too excited. This would be a maintenance update, not an overhaul.
The overall refresh would serve as a response to rumors alleging that Apple has put Mac development on the back burner. Even if it's just a speed bump, it would show an ongoing commitment. If there's an Air update, however, it would also acknowledge complaints that the 12-inch MacBook doesn't fit people's needs as well as its ancestor. It's not really a shock that the 13-inch Air would sell well -- it's $300 less expensive than the 12-inch MacBook, it packs a faster processor and it carries more ports. Until the newer system is as fast or as versatile, its older sibling is likely to still see plenty of demand.
Microsoft's Surface Laptop is built to beat Apple's MacBooks
When it comes to PC hardware, Microsoft has always tried to do something different. The Surface and Surface Pro helped popularize the idea of hybrid laptops that could also be used as tablets. The Surface Book took that idea a step further with a bigger screen, a unique hinge and more powerful hardware. But with the Surface Laptop, which was leaked last night and officially announced this morning, it's almost as if Microsoft is going back to basics. It's basically a straightforward notebook, albeit one with the Microsoft's slick Surface aesthetic.
Most importantly, it's the flagship device for Windows 10 S, Microsoft's new streamlined OS targeted at the education market. Similar to ChromeOS, it's meant mainly for web apps and software from the Microsoft Store, with an emphasis on security and battery life. You can also upgrade the Surface Laptop to Windows 10 Pro from the Windows Store. That'll be free for the rest of the year, but Microsoft will start charging $49 for the upgrade afterwards. That's a bit clunky, but it makes Windows 10 S much more flexible than the ill-fated Windows RT operating system that debuted on the original Surface.
The Surface Laptop includes a 13.5-inch PixelSense touchscreen (Microsoft's branding for its unique display technology) and a keyboard draped in Alcantara, a smooth cloth-like material. It's powered by Intel's most recent Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, and it can pack in an SSD up to 1TB (that's notably integrated directly onto the motherboard).
Microsoft's Surface head, Panos Panay, claims the Core i5 Surface Laptop is 50 percent faster than the Core i7 MacBook Air, while also being lighter. You can also expect up to 14.5 hours of battery life, thanks to Windows 10 S's battery savings and more efficient hardware. One thing you won't see on the Surface Laptop: Speaker holes or grills. Microsoft managed to fit the speakers behind the keys, which Panay claims delivers a more enveloping sound.
The Surface Laptop will be available on June 15th starting at $999 for the Core i5 model.