Some Predictions on 2016 MacBooks

Hey, why not?

Take my lame predictions here with big grains of salt. Ready? Let’s go.

MacBook

The original MacBook Air — the grandfather of all slim notebooks — started out with a single USB port in 2008. Then in 2010 it was redesigned to include a second USB port. I think that the 2016 MacBook will also gain another USB port and that we don’t have to wait 2 years for it. The space on the enclosure is there.

I suspect that they couldn’t bring the display connectivity to the second port, and that it would have been too confusing for users. But they could have solved that problem by now.

Also it could be possible that they will switch to Thunderbolt/3 for both ports. Thunderbolt/3 would bring a lot more versatility to these ports. It could bring compatibility with existing Thunderbolt devices and provide the MacBook with a real standard for connecting third party external docks.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if they would stick to USB/3 on the consumer side with MacBooks and use Thunderbolt/3 for the Pro market with a new MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro and MacBook Air ranges are performance wise pretty close currently. The differences are minimal.

There are currently rumors of new MacBook Airs in 2016, including a 15 inch model, but I think that this is really a new MacBook Pro. I think the MBA and MBP will converge into a new MacBook Pro design this year with 13 and 15 inch models, while the MBA is spiritually succeeded by the new MacBook, which offers nearly the same screen space in a more portable device.

The new MacBook Pro could feature a slimmer design, similar to the “wedge” shape of the current MacBook Air and 2015 MacBook. Apple seems to prefer this kind of shape for notebooks, because they used it in the new design of the 2015 MacBook. I think this shape could be made possible by using only USB Type C ports, letting go of HDMI, Mini-DisplayPort and maybe the SD card reader too (I think these are an abomination on the current MBP).

By using these ports and Thunderbolt/3 (which also is designed for USB Type C) Apple is able to offer the same connectivity which the current MBP offers, with compatibility to existing Thunderbolt devices, while making a slimmer enclosure possible.

Thunderbolt/3 ports have another benefit: they can be used as regular USB/3 ports. This would solve the problem of the MBP’s Thunderbolt ports taking up precious space, but being mostly unused by many people.

This also relates to another question on my mind: Why would Intel bother to develop something like Thunderbolt/3, if it wasn’t for Apple, it’s current single biggest customer for Thunderbolt controllers?

I’m currently undecided if they would keep or scrap the MagSafe port. On one hand it’s the most distinctive feature of MacBook Pros and really a smart thing. On the other hand, they decided to use USB-C for charging on the 2015 MacBook. Thunderbolt/3 would support charging up to 100W, which would be enough to charge the 15 inch MBP, which has a 85W charger, so technically it would be possible. It would get rid of another port, and they could go with a largely symmetric design with two USB Type C ports on either side of the enclosure, plus the headphone jack.

Finally there’s processors. The MacBook Pro skipped a generation of Intel CPUs due to problems with yield on Intel’s side, but I think in 2016 the MacBooks will skip right to Skylake, which was launched in late 2015. This would offer significant improvements in power efficiency, which would also play a big role in pairing a slimmer enclosure with the processing power of the MacBook Pro and roughly the same runtime of about 10 hours.


I’m pretty excited about what 2016 could bring to the MacBooks. Let’s see what happens. Like all predictions, they are made of nothing but my assumptions and they likely won’t come true. But I like these kind of mind games, playing with the imagination about what could happen.

Happy 2016!