Next generation MacBook Airs (ARM?)
Just a theory/prediction. Wonder if anyone agrees or wants to tell me why I'm very wrong.
This year we saw both the 13" and 15" MacBook Pros get updated with a thinner/lighter design and gain Retina displays. Apple however continues to update the non-Retina 13" and 15" MacBook Pros at lower price points. The MacBook Airs got a minor spec bump with no other major changes. Clearly Apple is in a transitional period with the MacBook line. So where is this heading? Here's my guess.
Gets dramatically thinner and lighter by moving to an ARM based design. Greatly improved battery life. This will make the MacBook Air clearly the 'non-Pro' MacBook. Great for the basics like web browsing, e-mail, office apps, etc. No heavy lifting just a basic computer that gets incredible battery life. The current A6X chip in the 4th generation iPad is just about right to for this type of machine. Another reason for Apple to do this is to fill the void between the cheapest $329 iPad and the cheapest Mac at $999. Assuming an ARM MacBook Air is basically iPad parts in a different form factor they would be able to get similar margins. So you could see an 11.6" MacBook Air starting as low as $599. We would probably see models with built-in LTE as well. Apple has resisted this for a long time however carriers are now offering month-by-month and data plan sharing options so it's now a more realistic option for consumers.
The part I'm not sure about though is would this type of machine continue to run OSX or maybe something new? With a few changes iOS7 might be a more logical choice. It wouldn't be so hard for iOS developers to localize their iPad apps to a mouse/keyboard style usage model. You would still have the big multi-touch trackpad on the device for zooming, scrolling, etc but instead of touch you would simply continue to point and click. If you use the iOS simulator you can kind of see what this is like. Really not bad at all. Especially if you can continue to do things like multi-touch zoom and scrolling with the trackpad. I could definitely see this MacBook Air also having a touchscreen as well. You wouldn't have to use it exclusively as a touchscreen device. It would just be there for the times it makes sense to use it that way. Primarily it would still be a mouse/keyboard driven machine. Maybe we'll see the iBook name come back?
If they do stick with classic OSX, forgo the touchscreen, and make it simply a cheaper ARM MacBook I think we'll see Apple provide x86 compatibility provided through cloud computing. Your x86 apps get executed remotely and simply displayed on your computer in mostly seamless way. Part of this would probably involve keeping all your data in the cloud. Otherwise when you open an x86 app and try to modify a local 1GB file you're going to be in for a big wait. If this file was already synced to the cloud though the remotely executing app could access it must faster. The changes would later be synced down to your machine. It could be pulled off fairly seamlessly.
MacBook Pro (non-Retina)
Price cut. Replaces the MacBook Air in the product line at least at 13"
MacBook Pro Retina
No major changes just spec bumps for 2013