Apple paves the way for an all-new ‘MacBook’

No-one expected Apple to release a netbook or ‘media pad’ (think of it as a super-sized iPod Touch) at this morning’s WWDC. Well no-one apart from drooling fanboys and wanna-be pundits.

But there’s been a steady steam of indications that devices such as this are in the works ranging from contracts with Taiwan-based component suppliers and systems builders to tips from several industry commentators with a decent track record.

Could a touch-screen Internet pad (above) or an ebook-like ‘Kindle killer’ (below) be the shape of the next MacBook?

Now there’s one more clue of what’s to come. As of today the MacBook exists solely as the three year old white polycarbonate model (albeit with a series of internal updates across that time) with an entry-level $1599 price tag and a noticeably dated design.

The 13.3 inch aluminium unibody model has now been rebranded as the MacBook Pro to slot in below the revamped 15 inch and 17 inch laptops.

The move makes sense from a design perspective and the variance in specs and features – such as the enhanced graphics of the 15 and 17 and the ExpressCard slot which is now found on the 17 alone – can be reframed as key differences between each model in the MacBook Pro family.

And the reduced price of the 13.3 inch MacBook Pro which now starts at $1899 is certain to kill the appeal of the white MacBook for all those but the seriously budget constrained.

The white MacBook is showing its age and stacked up against the $300-dearer 13.3 inch MacBook Pro it’s no contest

Just $300 more gets you a notebook that’s totally modern and much better looking slimmer and lighter boasts a brighter screen a handy SD card slot and underlit keyboard plus better battery life (Apple is claiming seven hours on the new model). All that fora mere $300 extra? That’s a no-brainer.

So you can expect Apple to let the white MacBook die a natural death in the coming months perhaps even being retired before Christmas.

This provides the necessary break with the old before the MacBook brand can be re-introduced as something else and something very different than what it was before.

That could be a netbook which would allow Apple to reclaim the MacBook moniker for its budget entry-level line.

Or it could be the rumoured ‘media pad’ – a larger version of an iPod Touch running the same cut-down iPhone OS X but shaped to take on Amazon’s Kindle in the ebook stakes (hence the relevance of the MacBook name) as well as being a superb mobile companion for everything from movies and music to email Web browsing and running other iPhone apps.

Either way don’t think you’ve seen the last of the MacBook just yet…