Is Apple planning a desktop version of “Macbook Air”? A “Mac Air”?!

As long-time readers of Rumors know, we were among the first to break the initial rumor of a stripped-down, mid-range Macbook designed to target the “ultraportable” market and further raise the bar with stunning industrial design that couldn’t have come from anywhere but Cupertino.

We have also been among the first to reexamine long-standing rumors of a major overhaul to the Mac Mini…..some have even gone so far as to speculate that the Mini as we know it is coming to the end of its lifespan and will be replaced with something categorically similar — but with a different name and striking differences. At this time, however, Rumors is confindent that the Mini, more or less as we know it today, will be around for a while yet — instead of replacing the Mini, we believe we will see an all-new model designed to sit in between the Mini and iMac in the desktop product matrix.

This all-new desktop Mac, let’s just call it the Mac Air, for the sake of argument…..will take a lot of cues from the Macbook Air, sporting a smaller number of ports (though considerably more than the Macbook Air, due to different design constraints).

We expect it to retain at least one Firewire 400 port, perhaps even a Firewire 800 port, and there may also be more than one USB2 port.

However, there will be no internal optical drive (as with the Macbook Air, it will be an external option); internal storage will be similar to the Macbook Air: a micro-sized hard disk or a solid-state drive.

Originally, Rumors was given the rare opportunity to play with a prototype “Mac Nano” (this was before the “Air” moniker had been made public) about four months ago, and the resulting conclusions we took away from the titillating preview of sexy next-generation Macintosh hardware are only just now coming out from under intense embargoes, quite understandably put in place by cautious sources.

That prototype was based around 2.5-inch “laptop” sized hard drives and similarly mid-sized solid state storage; this is considerably larger, cheaper and faster than the 1-inch micro “ipod” sized drives in the Macbook Air and identical to what the current Mini uses for internal storage.

At that time, a massive overhaul of the Mini was said to move that machine up to full-sized “desktop” 3.5-inch hard drives, removing a major performance/value constraint on the machines while only increasing overall size by about 30% — most of that in vertical height, rather than horizontal width or depth. The overall appearance is still quite small, but a bit more reminiscent of the PowerMac G4 Cube than today’s Mini, with an all-over aluminum enclosure replacing the mostly plastic enclosure of today’s Mini.

We’ll be talking more about the new Mini soon; right now, it is primarily of interest only inasmuch as it affects the new midrange desktop “Mac Air.” The Air would be designed without internal wired ethernet, without an internal optical drive, and no active cooling system whatsoever — ergo, the solid state drive version would be completely silent and the hard disk based version very nearly so.

Energy usage compared to the Mac Mini or nearly any machine which performs nearly on the Mac Air’s level would be incredibly small.

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  • ray

    whats the use of a desktop mac _smaller_ than the current mac?
    make the macmini the size of cube (i.e. twice its current hight) and make it more expandable, for adding
    – a graphics card that would allow to hook up two monitors
    – bigger hard disk
    – more ram
    – and ideally with more connectors for usb and fw

    imho that would be a perfect machine (small desktop mac).

  • Rail Road Jim

    Ray… what you said makes perfect sense and most people would love to have that, I know I would…. which is why apple would never make it

  • Tycoon man

    Rumor is that the mac mini is supposed to be release any week now, lets see if this holds up

  • The lemon chicken

    Still waiting for that mac mini release, now it has been a while, making me start to google how to build a hackintosh with a legal copy of os system