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Seeking the skinny on a MacBook mini

15-inch MacBook ProWith the 2008 Macworld Expo around the chronological corner and Apple finally in (and by the looks of initial success, for the long term) the cell phone and set-top categories, rumor-mongers are running out of easy targets. One of these is an Apple ultraportable or MacBook mini. It’s not an unreasonable one at all as Sony, for example, is already in the sub-12" market.

In general, ultraportable notebooks have been slow sellers in the U.S. That was before the invasion of the cheap Asus EEE (and coming competitors) but Apple isn’t generally known for swooping in at the low end of the market.. Also, Sony has the right idea in embedding WWAN connectivity in its ultaportables; Apple, on the other hand, has even put off 3G in its cell phones. Still, Apple’s notebook market share continues to grow, so the timing may be right.

As I’ve written, Apple can take a few different paths here. The company could do a great job of something integrated with Foleo-like physical dimensions (sorry, 7" is just too small for OS X (and arguably other desktop operating systems, too), bundling an iWork suite for more of a mobile productivity appliance for $599. If it went this route, the device might not even be called a MacBook. But if Apple’s notebook family grows by shrinking next month, it’s far more likely that it will be a premium-priced 12" MacBook Pro with an SSD.