How should Apple redesign the MacBook Air?

With rumors picking up steam about a new MacBook Air, it's a good time to speculate on what Apple may want to achieve with an overhaul of the venerable ultraportable.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

With fresh rumors circulating about a new MacBook Air, and a makeover long overdue, what would constitute a great redesign?

What kind of a feature set should a next-generation MacBook Air have?
What kind of a feature set should a next-generation MacBook Air have? Apple

The story line seems to be that Apple wants to insert the new portable in between the current 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 9.7-inch iPad, thus the rumors about an 11.6-inch device.

Assuming Apple actually has something like this in the works, I can't help speculating on the design goals for a new Air. Should it be a hybrid tablet-laptop? Should it be just a smaller, more powerful, more battery-efficient version of the current Air and pack features like a killer display?

But before I go any further, let me say that a recent write-up about the Air is spot-on. In short, unless you use the Air day in and day out (which I do), it's easy to mistake it for just another pricey ultraportable laptop. What makes it so different? Above all, the finely tuned distribution of weight makes it feel lighter than it actually is (three pounds). And I could go on and on with seemingly fulsome praise. The keyboard (the best I've ever used in an ultraportable), the razor-thin but stunning display, and the snappy performance, despite its ultrathin design.

My point? The current Air is a tough act to follow. Possibly one of the reasons (the iPad and the updated 13-inch MacBook Pros being others) that Apple has taken so long (two-and-a-half years) to offer a next-generation Air (or that it may not even bother).

Getting back to what a next-generation Air should be. Beyond the updated processor (Intel ultralow power Core i7?), what would be a good choice for the graphics technology? The Nvidia GeForce 320M in the 13-inch Pro? A step up from this?

And the display? What new, stunning display technology could Apple use? Something analogous to the retina display in the iPhone 4? Or something along the lines of the dual-screen Toshiba Libretto?

And what about wireless tech? 3G? 4G? And/or something akin to Intel's Wireless Display technology?

Then there's the design dark horse: a product based on the Apple A4 processor, or a variant thereof. But this would likely make it more tablet and less laptop--and as a result it would fall outside of the MacBook brand. So that's a very remote possibility.

What would readers like to see in a redesigned MacBook Air?