updated 12:45 pm EDT, Fri April 22, 2011
Should also carry Thunderbolt ports
Apple should start mass production of new MacBook Air models in late May, Concord Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo tells AppleInsider. The information is said to come from checks with suppliers and system builders in Asia. The update should be particularly significant, upgrading the Air's processor options from Core 2 Duos to low- or ultra-low voltage models of the Core i5 and i7, based on Intel's Sandy Bridge platform. Sandy Bridge also includes advanced integrated graphics technology, which could mean that Apple will bypass using integrated NVIDIA chips.
The Air should also get access to Thunderbolt, Intel's 10Gbps connection standard. Thunderbolt support so far remains scarce; the only computer to support it is the MacBook Pro, and Thunderbolt-ready peripherals are only gradually being introduced. Upcoming iMacs should likewise be enhanced with Thunderbolt ports.
Kuo comments that new models should help to pick up Air sales, which dropped off 51 percent quarter-over-quarter in calendar Q1. On a month-to-month basis sales fell 40 percent in February, likely drawn away by the new Pros. The Air has done well overall but did extremely well in its first quarter of availability, with Apple building about 1 million units. Upgrading the notebook should boost the current quarter's MacBook shipments by 5 to 10 percent sequentially, according to Kuo.