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There’s a glimmer of good news for fans of Apple’s tiniest MacBook, as reports suggest the company hasn’t completely ruled out the idea of reintroducing the 12-inch model.
While it’s far from a certainty, a post on the Korean blog Naver dug up by MacRumors is bringing back the idea that the 12-inch MacBook design could indeed be making a comeback. The post comes from a known source, ”yeux1122”, which has a mixed track record regarding Apple rumours but has still occasionally been correct in the past.
The post cites sources within Apple’s supply chain who indicate that at least some pre-production activities are underway for the new device; however, Apple apparently hasn’t yet decided whether it will see the light of day.
If Apple’s management gives the 12-inch MacBook the green light, it could move into mass production as soon as the second half of this year, which would result in a release in late 2023 or early 2024.
This latest rumour differs from the more solid reports we’ve heard of the impending release of a 15-inch MacBook Air and almost certainly refers to an entirely different class of device, although it’s unclear whether Apple would bring it back under the plain “MacBook” name.
The awkward history of the 12-inch MacBook
The original 12-inch MacBook was introduced in early 2015 as an ultra-compact laptop that, somewhat ironically, filled the same place in Apple’s lineup as the original 2008 MacBook Air — the one that Steve Jobs famously pulled out of a manila envelope during that’s year’s Macworld keynote.
At that time, the MacBook Air was the thinnest and lightest laptop that had ever been made, while the standard MacBook was the clunkier and all-plastic little brother to Apple’s more powerful MacBook Pro.
By 2015, those roles had been reversed, as the original MacBook had ridden off into the sunset years earlier, supplanted by the MacBook Air as Apple’s broad entry-level model. So, when it came time for Apple to show off another super-thin and light design, it resurrected the name “MacBook” for a new 12-inch model that shed every ounce possible.
The 12-inch MacBook was Apple’s first fanless laptop, built with an Intel chip years before Apple’s M1 allowed the much more powerful MacBook Air to follow suit. It also embraced the USB-C port and became the model to introduce Apple’s infamous butterfly keyboard — a problematic design that would eventually come to most of Apple’s MacBooks and spawn multiple class-action lawsuits.
However, that wasn’t the biggest problem with the 12-inch MacBook, at least not back then. Instead, like the original ultra-thin MacBook Air that had come seven years earlier, it was a product that only appealed to a relatively small audience: folks who prized extreme portability over power. After all, the 13-inch MacBook Air wasn’t that much bigger, yet it offered more options and better performance — a gap that quickly widened to the point where the 12-inch MacBook became even more of a niche product.
It also didn’t help that Apple’s customers had quite a few more options than they did in 2008. The original MacBook Air launched two years before the first iPad, while the 12-inch MacBook came out only months before the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and a year before the first 9.7-inch iPad Pro. While a Mac was a much more versatile device than an iPad back then, many folks looking for the ultimate in portability didn’t need everything macOS had to offer.
Apple only released two annual updates to the 12-inch MacBook in 2016 and 2017. These were little more than spec bumps to bring it up to the current-gen Intel chips for each of those years. Following two more years of neglect — and some more impressive updates to the MacBook Air — the 12-inch MacBook was quietly discontinued in the summer of 2019.
Could the 12-inch MacBook Return?
Although this latest rumour has yet to be corroborated, it’s not without some merit. Rumours have been circulating for the past couple of years that Apple is working on an even thinner and lighter MacBook, and while some have assumed that would be the MacBook Air, that part is mostly speculation.
Last June, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman shared predictions for Apple’s Mac lineup, suggesting that a 12-inch MacBook was on the horizon. However, Gurman more recently said that this device no longer appeared on the roadmap, but he also didn’t rule out the possibility that Apple might still be working on it. This would line up with the more recent claims that Apple is at least seriously toying with the idea, although the timeline for a release may be a bit optimistic; it seems the 12-inch MacBook is more likely to land later in 2024 than anytime this year.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]