Rumor Rant: It’s a Macbook – NOT a sub-notebook

Table of Contents

I’m not a psychic, and I don’t have any inside information. I can’t tell you for sure what’s going to happen at Macworld anymore than anyone else can…but I have a strong gut feeling that all these sub-notebook rumors are off.

Sure, it gets people going to the rumor sites. Sure, it gets people excited to think about a small, lightweight sub-notebook Mac. The problem is that I don’t think Apple is making a sub-notebook Mac.

See, a sub-notebook is typically much smaller than a traditional notebook. The screen size is usually around 10.4″ (diagonal) or less. The reports of the new LED screens Apple has been ordering are for 13.3″ screens.

That’s not a sub-notebook. That’s a regular sized notebook computer.

The term sub-notebook continues to be batted around, and every rumor coming out of Cupertino gets spun to somehow have something to do with it, even when what is being said logically doesn’t make sense.

For example (other than calling a 13.3″ sub) this latest one from AppleInsider talks about the “gunmetal colored notebook of slender proportions ” making its way around the Apple offices. Putting aside the fact that the post is written like they’re discussing the Chupacabra or Bigfoot, doesn’t it seem likely that this product is an updated Macbook? I mean, it’s the only Mac that doesn’t have a “gunmetal”-esq look to it at this point.

In fact – ALL OF THIS – points to a new Macbook.

It actually seems kind of insulting to call this thing a “sub-notebook”. If Apple produces an ultra-light, all metal, super-thin notebook with a 13.3″ screen at a price point of around $1,500 – that is a new Macbook.

It’s not a sub-notebook.

Could it compete with sub-notebooks on the market? Sure, but that doesn’t mean it is one. If it is as fully functional as a regular Macbook then this thing will be the next generation of the Macbook line – not something to be sold in addition to it.

Would not having an optical drive make it a sub-notebook? I don’t think so. As flash storage gets bigger the need for disks becomes less and less important – and Apple has already written the DVD off as old news (look at iDVD in iLife and Job’s comments on it for proof).

The new Macbook may be the first to drop the optical disk drive. It wouldn’t be the first time Apple did something like this (floppies, for example).

All in all, it seems really obvious to me that we’re talking about the next generation of the Macbook in ALL of these rumors. Am I crazy? What do you think?

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this article may be Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through those links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps support our website and allows us to continue providing informative content about Apple products. Thank you for your support!

37 thoughts on “Rumor Rant: It’s a Macbook – NOT a sub-notebook

  1. Yes, I too agree that this is the new MacBook. I can’t image Apple adding a middle man to their laptop lineup. If that was the case, they cannibalize their own sales.

    Why spend $1500 on a top-end, tricked-out MacBook, when you can buy this “new one” for (supposedly) $1500-1600? A little extra cash gets you so much more machine. Maybe $2000 is too much for a 15″ MacBook Pro. I had a 17″ MacBook Pro was about a year and it was just too much laptop to be portable. Even the 15″ was too big. And I couldn’t see myself spending $2000 on one. I sold it on eBay and bought a white 13″ MacBook. I beefed up the memory and the hard drive (3rd party) and it’s still way cheaper than a 15″ MacBook Pro. But, if there were a middle option, I can guarantee that I would have bought it.

    Also, if it is flash based, while cool for some, 32 or even 64 Gigs is just not enough drive space for most people. I just upgraded mine to 160G and I think I should have gone with a 250G one. While a new flash-based laptop sounds awesome, if it’s capped at 64G, that’s a deal-breaker for me. I’d be forced into buying a platter-based MacBook.

    Apple knows, if one version is a hit, the other will suffer. That’s why there can be only one. So, whatever this is, I think it will be replaing the MacBook, and not in addition too.

  2. Honestly though, how much thinner can a notebook get? You’re restricted by the size of the ports (ethernet, firewire & usb) on the side. I guess you could go to a usb pin connection, but that doesn’t really help the other two.

    I could see them shaving a tenth of an inch off the current model at most. I hope I’m wrong though. 🙂

  3. Agreed. We all desperately want to SEE a subnotebook, but in reality it will most likely be a revised MacBook (Thin?). If it does have a flash drive and low power LED screen that might be a good thing for longer battery life. Losing an optical drive and hard drive will definitely make it lighter and possibly smaller which is also a good thing. (I personally wouldn’t be happy with a notebook with less than 120 GB of storage since I also use BootCamp). I do think students would be satisfied with less but that’s just a guess.

    I think the rumors are wrong and there will be no subnotebook. However at some point in time there will be an iTablet with touch input, but not just yet. Apple has never said anything nor does the supply line indicate anything pointing to a subnotebook.

    The only major problem of these lies/rumors is that the media will have a field day claiming that Apple ran into problems and delays just to upset Apple shareholders and potential shareholders. Since a lot of these rumors came from anti-Apple pinhead media pundits, I tend to disregard them.

    I know the MacBook is selling like crazy, but Apple does not worry about modifying a good thing. Their market research probably tells them a lighter, longer battery-life MacBook will do even better. That’ll put other notebook manufacturers knickers in a twist and scrambling for their copiers.

  4. Well, Michael. I agree with you that the 13.3 would be an upgraded Macbook. May be with a metal case. No question about it.

    But, as a user of a 12” Acer subnotebook. That lacks an optical drive (though supplied externally – FW – with it). I can tell you that lacking a built-in optical drive sometimes really sucks. Of course you won’t need it all the time. But sometimes, you really miss having one. Think about situations when you need a driver for a printer while on the go and you lack internet connection and the only option is the installation CD. That’s when it sucks.

    Good article Michael. But I firmly do believe that sometimes next year. Apple will be introducing a real Sub-Notebook with multi-touch capabilities. You know why? Simply because Steve Wants it. But, only time will tell.

  5. … oh forgot to say why… I just don’t think they would raise a MB price to 1500! To much for consumer laptop.

  6. @Primoz:

    Yeah, they won’t raise the MacBook’s price to $1500. They can’t afford to not have a notebook for $999.


    “New MacBook with an iPod hard drive and no optical drive, plus flash drive for booting purposes. Maybe?”

    I assume, when you say iPod hard drive, you mean a Flash drive and that by flash drive you also mean flash drive. Well, first of all, they won’t release a notebook with an iPod hard drive—it just costs too much.

    As for the lack of optical drive, though I think it would be nice, they’d also need to sell an external optical drive. You can’t just swear of CDs just like that, especially when that’s the method we use to upgrade/repair/reinstall OSX. Sure, they could come up with a download service for installing OSX, but you can’t count on the internet like that.


    I will say though, an aluminum/black macbook (like the new imacs) would make them appear more “pro”, further blurring the lines between the two notebook lines.

  7. I just don’t get the appeal of a device almost full notebook size that lacks the capacity of a hard disk and the ability to rip CDs or watch movies. And for many people, this will be their only Apple CPU, meaning a flash drive won’t have enough space for iTunes and iPhoto, not to mention iDVD.

    For this to fly, Apple would need a serious iTunes Movie library, an as-yet-unmentioned automatic synchro to a (dot Mac?) docking station or a much more focused portability/purpose such as the iPod Touch enjoys.

    If it’s reeeeely a Macbook, why not squeeze in some tiny HD such as the iPod Classic’s 160 GB 1″ and ALSO give it a big flash boot disk or cache so you don’t worry much about slow spin-up? Cost you almost nothing in size, weight, up-front cost or battery life, but remove all the capacity issues. (For taht matter, if you’ve ever ripped open a modern laptop, you know that the HD is a pretty tiny part of it. A 2.5″ disk is hardly a problem.)

    Almost the same argument for a twiggy optical disk, although you COULD let the optical reside in a dock if you worked out clever DVD licensing / Handbrake. Flying home last nite, about a quarter of all passengers were on their laptops. Some working but many watching movies. People want that option. Plus there are still lots of situations where you need a CD reader — ripping disks for the 90% of iTunes most of us have, or installing TurboTax w/o their impossibly bad download system, to cite 2 examples.

    Apple usually thinks out major changes such as scrpping the floppy a bit more than this analysis. Walt says, “back to the drawing board!”

  8. And one more thing on the lack of an optical drive — how would one install new software?? Buy a new Mac? Come on — I need my optical drive for all sorts of stuff. I hate to say it, but IF that happened I may have to switch to the dark side.

  9. @Eric

    The optical drive won’t be completely gone from Macs until they stop selling software on disks.

    For now, if the super slim computer did happen to be optical drive free, you could still easily buy an external drive an connect it via USB

  10. Cool. That makes me feel better — I really wouldn’t want to give up the Mac — I have to use the “other system” at work — YUCK!!

  11. I agree that it wont be a sub-note book. But come on, dropping the optical drive? There’s no chance. Every piece of software thats sold currently comes on DVD including Leopard. They are not going to drop the DVD drive and either force all 3rd parties to either embrace a software sales through iTunes or some other application. No chance at this point in time.

  12. I’m not a psychic….I don’t have any inside information…I can’t tell you for sure…but I have a strong gut feeling…. The reports…are for 13.3″ screens…

    Buried for innaccurate title…

  13. Maybe it would be a Macbook Pro 13.3″. To build a Macbook less than 13.3″ it wouldn’t have an optical drive !!! would it?

  14. @Matt Radel:

    Try and check out the Samsung X1 or the Sony X-something. Both of them are thinner than either the MacBook or MacBook Pro. So, yes, you can still stick all sorts of ports to an ultra-thin notebook computer. In fact, the Samsung even has a top-loading DVD drive. Which makes rumours about a bottom-loading DVD drive on an “upcoming” Apple notebook kinda… last year’s news.

    Let’s hope Apple finally gets off the fixation on gadgets and update their computer line. After a good few years, they’re starting to look tired. Prior to this line, Apple used to introduce new form factors/designs every 8-16 months (depending on model). The existing designs were left untouched originally because the excuse was the move to Intel: Apple didn’t want people to have to have too much of a culture shock, supposedly.

    Well, it’s been 2 years since then and we’re still stuck with the same old designs. Either they think the current line-up is perfection itself, or they’ve run out of real innovative ideas. I think it’s the latter, cos some of the competition shows that new things are indeed possible. I think Apple is just too busy being gadget-makers these days.

  15. By the way, I agree with the original article: 13.3″ is most definitely NOT a sub-notebook, no matter how clever Apple’s marketing might be if they do decide to call it such. If it’s not 12-ins & 1-kgs and less, don’t even attempt to call it a sub-notebook.

  16. Whatever it is, it’ll be over-priced, over-hyped, under-powered with a limited/non-existence upgrade path

    …Apple bought the 1st run of the LED-illuminated displays. Big deal.

  17. I don’t think they’ll abandon optical drives yet. The difference between optical drives and floppies are that optical drives are still useful and people still use them all the time. They store more than 1.44 MB.

    They’ll need to have a cheap $999 MacBook and probably the tricker, half height, no optical, smaller flash, metal cover variety. It’ll cost more. I think it’s more analogous to the 12″ Powerbook, but it is semantic argument more than anything.

  18. Well…It’s a mac, so it’s more of a fashion accessory than a computer, which makes the whole “Sub-Notebook” thing at least partially correct.

    Huh huh huh! We French embrace your snooty American-type fashion computers! Viva la Mac!

  19. A 13″ mac book pro perhaps?

    Apple wouldn’t go changing their fast selling macbook would they . . . (ipod mini to ipod nano anyone?)

  20. I agree that if this machine exists at all it is just a next gen MacBook, and that there is no subnote in the works (and if there was, you’d hear the power users howl in outrage at the 10″ screen – “How am I supposed to get any work done on THAT thing???”) but I think the author’s got a few screws loose about the state of storage in this as-yet hypothetical new Mac.

    “The new Macbook may be the first to drop the optical disk drive. It wouldn’t be the first time Apple did something like this (floppies, for example).”

    Think about that for a moment. How much software is delivered on CD today? How many people burn CDs and DVDs? Dropping the floppy drive was an acceptable move because let’s face it, floppies are all but useless today. But you cannot have a computer without an optical drive.

    YES we can download software off the Internet, but what you’re then saying is that people would either have to store their installers on an external hard drive or delete them and re-download them if for some reason they needed to re-install a particular app. And what about system updates? Yes, 10.5.1 et al are downloadable, BUT what about 10.6? Do you think Apple’s going to make that a download for users of 10.5.10 (or whatever)?

    And yes, there’s always firewire and USB. But why should people be forced to lug around a separate piece of equipment just to enjoy a feature current MacBook owners do without any extras? That would defeat the purpose of making your laptop extra-portable.

    And flash-based disk drives aren’t affordable enough yet for anything other than a BTO road-warrior type option for customers with money to burn who think a few minutes’ more battery life is worth the cost. I can buy a 320gb 2.5″ drive for $209. Why would I want to spend three times that on one tenth the disk space?

  21. I have the 15″ MBP and I really like the 15″ screen size to work with, but the overall size is a little bit on the hefty side. The 13″ macbook is the right physical size, but my complaint is the screen resolution.

    My perfect solution is a 13″ Macbook (and yes, slimmer is good) with a NATIVE resolution of at least 1440×900 or even better 1680×1050, leveraging resolution independence to adjust font sizes to your liking. Just imagine the high PPI of the iPhone on a laptop.

    That is the product I would line up for.

  22. Isn’t this just going to be the small powerbook reborn, not that ‘just’ is appropriate, I killed my macbook and replaced it with a macbook pro 17″ and its great, but every now and then I see someone with a little Macbook and think, mm thats nice – the perfect size for a portable.

    A slightly thinner version with metal case, and a decent graphics card would be near perfect.

    My only concern is we need more resolution, 13″ with 1440 x 900 would be ideal, then the 15″ upped to 1600 or so and the 17″ with the 1900 X 1200 screen as standard would make a great range.

    No real need to loose the optical drive, but two variants of each, one with optical and std hdd and a super portable version of each with no optical and a nice big flash hard drive would fit the bill perfectly.

    The final icing, a simple restyle in the same vain as the new keyboards , which are the best ive used at any price and really anoying that its not on my Macbook Pro just now 🙁

    Just a few thoughts…

    Oh, sub notebook tablet ? not running std osx, it needs too much resolution to cope, think more a extra large iPhone and your nearer the mark,


  23. I agree with the aluminum MacBook theory as well. Personally it wouldnt break my heart to see one.
    However I think Apple could pull a sub notebook off very well. I could just see a campus full of multi colored MacBook Minis.
    In my opinion loosing the optical drive would not be that big of an issue if Apple did two things. Add an option for an external hard drive with an optical drive built in. That would help push Time Machine as well. And ship a read only USB drive that has OS X on it. May cost a few more bucks for making the USB drives but I’m sure they could figure the feasibility out eventually.

  24. Stephen finally hit it and no one else seems to remember. I am typing this on the best (imo) laptop Apple has made. It’s a 12″ Power Book G4. All the video and power advantages the powerbook line had over the ibook line, but still small and compact. When Apple came out with the Mac Book and Mac Book Pros, this was the model that was missing. a 13.3″ Mac Book Pro with aluminum casing for $1500.

    When I bought mine, btw, the price points were between 999 and 1399 for the various ibook models and $1500, $2000, and $2500 for the power book models.

    As much as the sub-notebook idea excites the geek in me, a 13″ Mac Book Pro would become my next computer. I really don’t want to have to buy a desktop and make this thing last another year or two.

  25. Hi, I heard alot of rumors about this

    what about if i told you there would two product released on Macworld, a new aliminum Macbook and an ultra-mobile “Macbook Lite” or “Macbook Nano”
    Would you belive me?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share the Post:

Related Posts