Apple prepping Air-like 15-inch MacBook, report says

Apple is readying a MacBook that would extend the ultrathin Air design beyond the 13-inch market segment, according to reports.

Japanese-language site Macotakara says a new 15-inch model has entered the test phase.

It’s not clear at this point whether this will be an addition to the MacBook Air series–currently offered in 11- and 13-inch sizes–or a new MacBook Pro.

The MacBook Air is Apple’s bestselling laptop line. Will Apple extend the design to 15-inch form factors and beyond?

One tech site claimed back in July that a 15-inch model would be part of the MacBook Pro line. Macrumors, which also supports the MacBook Pro theory, had originally reported about an ultrathin MacBook back in July.

Presumably, a Mac laptop as thin as the Air will not have an optical drive. That would be in line with the handful of Air-like Ultrabooks now hitting the market.

And it would be interesting if Apple extended Air-like designs all the way to 17 inches. While there are a number of 11- and 13-inch Windows Ultrabook designs on the market, there have been few with 15-inch or 17-inch screens, though Dell tried this once with its Latitude Z. That 0.8-inch thick laptop had a 16-inch screen.

Of course, one of the most intriguing questions is timing. Would Apple bring out a spanking-new model based on current Intel Sandy Bridge processors or wait for the more appealing Ivy Bridge chips due by late in the first quarter or early second quarter of 2012?

Ivy Bridge will support USB 3.0 and its built-in graphics processor is also expected to be compliant with OpenCL, a technology that accelerates gaming and multimedia operations.

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