The MacBook Air is Apple’s line of slim and compact notebooks that still manage to have nearly the full specifications of a standard notebook. It’s now clear, according to Digitimes, that we’ll see an upgrade soon, with production beginning in May and shipments starting in June or July, according to suppliers.

11-inch MacBook Air

While Apple PR, along with its various suppliers, has refused to comment on the matter, due to Apple’s strict policies on revealing future announcements (or essentially not doing so), but we already know a few details: the new models will boast Sandy Bridge, Intel’s new processor architecture, as well as a Thunderbolt port, which allows super-fast file and video transfers. Both of those enhancements were found on the MacBook Pro refresh that was unveiled earlier this year, therefore it was expected such improvements would eventually trickle down to Apple’s other lines. The upcoming model is expected to look the same as the current one: 11” and 13” versions, both .68” thick at their thickest point and .11” thin at their thinnest point.

These models are marketed as "the future of the MacBook", and despite the huge marketing flare, that’s essentially what they are: super-thin, super-light notebooks. As the world becomes lighter and more portable, Apple needs to stay aggressive in this market. While keeping a strong line of MacBook Pros for its professional and most demanding customers, the MacBook Air serves the needs of its consumer base. With such a diverse notebook offering, I think it’s fair to say the white MacBook will be phased out over the next few years. The main reason Apple kept it around was its popularity, and that trend seems to be shifting.

Apple has a steadily growing market share in the laptop space, with 2.7 million shipments in the first quarter of 2011. Shipments are expected to keep rising, to about 3 million in the second quarter. Retailers need to be restocked once the refresh comes out, which could explain the large spike in shipments next quarter.

Will the new MacBook Airs include anything other than enhanced specifications? Will the MacBook line indeed be phased out? Only time will tell.

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