Pictured above is Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) PC Client Group general manager, Kirk Skaugen. In his hand is the "mainboard" of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) highly successful MacBook Air. The board contains many of the components such as the processor and system memory that make up a notebook. This is, according to Skaugen, one of the smallest boards shipping in a notebook today.
The next MacBook Air should have a much smaller board
While the current MacBook Air is already known for being thin, light, and frugal with power, the next generation should be even better. During the same keynote, Skaugen showed an Intel-designed reference board based on the next generation Broadwell architecture which will be marketed as Core M; it's shown below:
If you'll notice, not only is the actual processor, and the package that it's bolted onto much smaller, but the board required to support that platform is significantly smaller than that of the MacBook Air. It doesn't take too vivid an imagination to see that this platform can be used to make very thin and light systems that do not require a fan to cool the chip. It also isn't much of a stretch to believe that Apple will make fantastic use of this platform in a future MacBook Air product.
Could Apple gain even more market share?
While this new Core M silicon is not exclusive to Apple -- in fact, it already looks as though ASUS will be one of the first out of the gate with a design based on it -- Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows 8.1 has still been pretty poorly received by customers. In contrast, Apple's Macs have been dramatically outperforming the broader PC industry in terms of year-over-year revenue growth, and have been steadily gaining share for several quarters.
Armed with Intel's new silicon, Apple is likely to bring a new industrial design with its next MacBook Air iteration. Further, with all of the enhancements that Apple is bringing to Mac OS with OS X Yosemite, the market share trend could continue, or even accelerate. The potential offset, however, is that with the Core M chip allowing for fanless, no-compromises detachable designs, Windows 8.1's value proposition could strengthen significantly.
All in all, though, as long as Apple can take this platform and really run with it, there's no reason why it shouldn't be able to build a new MacBook Air that, once again, revolutionizes the clamshell category, and drives a nice upgrade cycle.
Apple is one of the world's most innovative computer companies, and it's not difficul to imagine that its design teams are hard at work in trying to bring the "next big thing" to the Mac. Of course, Apple's bread-and-butter comes from the iPad and the iPhone, but one of the company's biggest strengths is that it has a vast ecosystem that it wants its customers to fully engage themselves in. Whether it's a big money maker or not, Apple will continue to advance the Mac and, later this year, we could end up seeing something pretty stellar built on this new Core M platform.