12-inch Retina MacBook with no fan, new trackpad makes the rumor rounds

A forum post on Chinese language site Weiphone.com offers up tantalizing details on Apple's next round of MacBooks. The comments are attributed to an author with a credible track record of breaking leaks and photos for MacBook laptops in the past, according to MacRumors.com.

The poster reports that MacBook Air updates are coming soon, with MacBook Pro updates expected later this year. That's consistent with what happened last year: Apple updated the MacBook Air at WWDC, but waited until the fall to introduce updated MacBook Pros.

A new 12-inch MacBook is in the works, according to the poster. The computer eschews fans and comes with a new trackpad design that doesn't include a mechanical button, like the trackpad on current MacBook models. Such a design might enable Apple to built an even slimmer system than it does already, or perhaps use the extra space to cram even more battery capacity inside.

The question is whether this would be another MacBook model to augment the current line or a replacement for an existing product. Looking at Apple's MacBook line, the 13-inch segment is the most crowded - there's the $1099 13-inch MacBook Air, the $1199 13-inch MacBook Pro, and $1299 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

The 11-inch MacBook Air represents the low end of Apple's product line, and it certainly has its adherents, although its display sports a somewhat unconventional 16:9 aspect ratio that's wider than other models. Would a new 12-inch model with a more conventional screen design replace that?

Perhaps, but it's also worth noting that the standard 13-inch MacBook Pro (sans Retina) is getting quite long in the tooth - it wasn't refreshed in 2013, and is the only Mac in Apple's entire product line still saddled with a legacy SuperDrive as standard equipment (it also uses a conventional hard drive, the last Mac laptop to have one).

Months ago analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that Apple's going to build out the Retina MacBook Pro line with a 12-inch model, too. So it's really anyone's guess where this device might fit into the matrix.

The report also mentions an Apple wearable, with the claim that it's still in the prototype stage, not yet ready for production.

Are you interested in a 12-inch MacBook? What do you think the right price would have to be? Talk to me!

Peter Cohen