MacBook: What's coming next

MacBook kicked off the future of Apple laptops — but what's the future of the 12-inch MacBook?

In March of 2015, Apple introduced the all-new 12-inch MacBook. Not Air. Not Pro. And certainly not at the old, white, plastic MacBook's pricepoint. This was tomorrow's laptop today... As long as tomorrow you was willing to sacrifice power in the name of ultra-mobility.

More shocking was its ports. More precisely, it's lack thereof. Gone was MagSafe, Apple's convenient, tumble-preventing, dent-saving connector. Gone was old-school USB-A. Nowhere was Thunderbolt. Instead, Apple introduced USB-C to Mac. And just one.

That's the past future, though. What could Apple have in store for the 2017 MacBook?

When will Apple update the MacBook?

Here's the previous update schedule:

  • March 2015: MacBook with Intel Broadwell CoreM
  • March 2016: MacBook with Intel Skylake CoreM and rose gold color option

March 2017 has come and gone without a new MacBook. No Intel Kaby Lake CoreM update so far this spring.

Apple could drop a new MacBook at any time. If the updates are iterative, we could wake up to a press release and an updated web page any morning this spring. If there's anything that requires stage time at an Apple Keynote, though, we're looking at June 5 and WWDC at the earliest and September after that.

Will the next MacBook get Touch Bar and Touch ID?

Touch Bar has proven to be divisive. Apple seems to have anticipated really high attraction levels for Touch Bar. While some people like it, many others do not. So, will Apple stick with Touch Bar the way the company did all-USB-C, and push it out across the line? Or will Apple retrench and rethink its approach to touch?

Touch ID, on the other hand, is pure win. It's such a convenience on MacBook Pro that not having it on the next MacBook would be a letdown. The only reason it might not be a lock is price point — it's essentially an embedded Apple Watch so it adds the cost of an Apple Watch, or about $300, to the bill.

It's possible Apple could do what it did with MacBook Pro and offer MacBook (Escape) and MacBook (Touch Bar) options, the former with traditional function keys, the latter with OLED. Otherwise, fingers crossed Apple can figure out how to save a few dollars elsewhere and get Touch ID in and under budget.

And a Force Touch Bar, right?

Love the way you think! Touch Bar is begging for Force Touch, but it's unclear that would debut with a new MacBook rather than the next generation, Kaby Lake MacBook Pro.

What about biometric different? Face or iris scan?

Apple would have to figure out how to fit a much better camera in that razor-thin lid first, but year. Once iPhone gets a smart camera, there's no reason MacBooks shouldn't get it either. Windows alread does facial recognition to unlock and it'd be great on a Mac.

That way, Apple Watch Auto Unlock, Touch ID, and Face Unlock could be in a three-way race!

More USB-C? Like — gasp! — two?

Apple was adamant that MacBook was the future of laptops. The company wanted to create a MacBook that was entirely wireless. Since wireless charging wasn't an option, though, Apple had to include at least one wire. So, it made that wire a multi-tasker. USB-C can both charge and carry data.

Since one was infinitely more than none, that was enough, right?

Wrong. Not only isn't wireless charging a thing yet, MacBooks still don't have LTE, and Bluetooth still isn't good enough to support real, diverse peripherals. The future, as always, is a beautiful lie.

There are no doubt power and design constraints that may make two USB-C ports more challenging than one in a MacBook, especially when it comes to where they can be mounted on that tiny motherboard.

I'd love them on both sides, like on the higher end MacBook Pro, so I can charge from either side. I'd settle for them both on one side. It would show Apple can still bring us the future but in a way that mitigates the real pain points of the present.

And they'd be USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, right? RIGHT?

Did I mention how much I love the way you think?

Look, no blogger should ever substitute their fantasies for engineering realities. But if Thunderbolt 3 is possible on MacBook Pro, it'd be outstanding to have it on MacBook. Consistency is absolutely a customer-facing feature.

You mentioned LTE, any chance...?

I've always suspected getting LTE in a MacBook was more about the extortion-level licensing fees Qualcomm charges than any real philosophical or technical hurdles within Apple. The current round of lawsuits only deepens those suspicions.

I very much hope we get LTE-equipped MacBooks and soon. We may just have to let the lawsuit dust settle first.

Any chance it could run iOS, have a full multitouch display, and support Apple Pencil?

Been snooping in the product labs again?

That's more of a strategic decision for Apple than a technical one. Both MacBook and iPad Pro tackle the problem of ultra-light computing from different directions. Currently, macOS lacks a touch-first interface and that would take time and resources to build out (see Windows 8). Arguably that time and those resources would be better invested in making iOS a better primary computing platform on iPad and larger screens in general.

iOS also lacks a pointer system, though adding selection (like on Apple TV) and cursor (like in text editing mode), seems like far less work. (Again, not an engineer, so everything seems both easy and impossible to me!)

A MacBook that's essentially an iPad Pro with a proper keyboard, SurfaceBook-style, would be incredibly interesting to me. Apple prototypes everything, so we'll have to see what's interesting to them.

But it'd be killer at coffee shops and on planes. I'm just saying...

Jet black? (Product) RED?

Ha! I knew that was what all this was coming to!

MacBook is currently the only laptop from Apple that comes in color. (Sorry, MacBook Pro, silver and space gray aren't colors). Gold debuted with the original and rose gold came last year.

I'm not sure if the Jet Black process scales or holds up to MacBook. I'd love to see it, microabrasions, and all. (Product Red) at that size would be a lot of red. Maybe too much red?

Apple treats color finishes like features because that's how we treat them. We get as excited for new colors — more excited even — than we do for new configurations.

Personally, I'd like to see how Apple would handle Space Blue or Space Purple.

What do you want to see from the next MacBook?

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is a bold new machine that pushes the future of displays, ports, and input, but it's also one that risks leaving many traditional Mac users behind. Whether that's ultimately good or bad, we'll have to wait in see. For now, it's your turn. What do you want to see in Apple's next Mac laptop?