Apple to make next MacBooks with space-age process?

— 6:00 AM on October 6, 2008

Shortly after the iPhone 3G launch, Apple said a looming product transition would cut into its bottom line but deliver "technologies and features that others can't match." Everyone assumed that transition would involve MacBooks, but Mac bloggers have been scratching their heads over the specifics for a while. Now, 9 to 5 Mac claims to have an answer.

Quoting anonymous sources (as Mac blogs tend to do), the site says Apple will make its next-gen laptops itself using a revolutionary manufacturing process. Rather than getting Taiwanese hardware makers to do the dirty work with conventional techniques, Apple will carve MacBook shells out of "high-quality, aircraft grade aluminum [blocks]" using a mix of lasers and water jets. The process will supposedly offer several key advantages:

  • Carving out of aluminum eliminates the need to bend the metal and create weak spots or microfolds and rifts.
  • There are no seams in the final product, so it is smooth.
  • Screws aren't needed to tie the products together.
  • The shell is one piece of metal so it is super light, super strong and super cheap.
  • You can be a whole lot more creative with the design if you don't have to machine it.
  • Dubious? Definitely. But as 9 to 5 Mac points out, Steve Jobs has already experimented with space-age PC manufacturing techniques. Back in the 1990s during his exile from Apple, Jobs set up a factory in California to manufacture NeXT workstations. CNN then commented that the factory had "just about everything: lasers, robots, speed, and remarkably few defects." Jobs would be dealing with far greater volumes this time, though.

    Crazy rumor or not, we may get confirmation next week. This report and many previous ones all point to October 14 as the day Apple will unveil its new MacBooks.

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