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Should Apple kill the 17-inch MacBook Pro?

There are good reasons to think the 17-inch MacBook Pro would be the first product to go in an Apple line pruning.

Apple (the modern version of the company, anyway) is known for its product lineup minimalism, producing only a handful of versions in key categories.

Several days ago, an analyst note led to widespread speculation that the company was going to discontinue the 17-inch version of the MacBook Pro. The comments from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (reported by MacRumors and others), indicated that hybrid products combining the slim design of the MacBook Air with the power of the Pro line were the way forward for Apple, and the 17-inch Pro was a possible casualty of that shift.

There are certainly good reasons to think the 17-inch MacBook Pro would be the first product to go in a line pruning. It's not the most popular model, reportedly selling only 50,000 units in the first quarter of 2012 (versus 1.5 million for the 13-inch Pro). Starting at $2,499 from Apple, the 17-inch Pro is painfully expensive, even without any optional upgrades.

Further, Apple has little sentimentality for its laptops, quietly killing the original MacBook brand last year, leaving only the Pro and Air. Other companies do the same thing -- Dell's formerly hot Alienware M11x is being discontinued.

At the same time, some PC makers have recently told me that 17-inch desktop-replacement laptops are a surprise bright spot right now, and some models are selling better than expected. I've been especially interested in that type of product for the past week or two, as the first quad-core Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs are turning up initially in high-powered 17-inch rigs such as the Origin EON17-S.

Apple certainly hasn't made the 17-inch MacBook Pro a priority. Its presence on the Apple Web site or in Apple stores is minimal, and the last time the company sent us a new 17-inch Pro to review was 2009.

Does the 17-inch MacBook Pro deserve to die? Should Apple replace it with a thinner Air-like big-screen model, or are smaller screens the only thing we'll see from the MacBook brand in the future? Vote in our poll here, or voice your thoughts in the comments section below.