There are two pieces of technology that Apple would need to get there: USB Type-C and a processor that runs cool enough to help achieve a thin design without a fan. The most important is probably USB Type-C, the smaller, faster, and reversible cable that will help make gadgets thinner in the future. Importantly, it can also serve as the power cable and display for devices, so you only need a single small port to do nearly everything you would want on a laptop. 9to5Mac’s report claims the future MacBook will be thinner and lighter than existing MacBook Airs, and that it will eliminate all ports except for USB Type-C.
Some of the engineers also work on interoperability inside Apple, which could suggest Apple may seek to use USB Type-C across its product lines in the future. It could raise questions for the future of both the Thunderbolt and Lightning: USB Type-C is similar in shape and size to Apple’s existing Lightning connector, and has similar capabilities to Thunderbolt. The idea of Apple dropping either sounds far-fetched right now, but the company confidently scrapped FireWire from fifth-generation iPods with video, and started to kill it from MacBooks in 2008 to much dismay at the time. If the rumored 12-inch MacBook Air arrives this year, Lightning will be celebrating its third birthday, and possibly awaiting its fate at the same time. For all we know, the same situation might apply to Thunderbolt, Apple’s current version of the one port to rule them all.
It’s not unusual for Apple to be heavily involved in forming hardware specifications — the company fought against Nokia to finalize the nano-SIM standard just in time for the release of the iPhone 5 — but the employees assigned from the company suggest Apple may well be planning to use USB Type-C on a future Mac. At least two employees work inside Apple’s Mac hardware group and Mac systems architecture group, and the rest are a mix of cable experts, product designers, and pure software / hardware engineers.
It’s not crazy to imagine Apple trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of the MacBook Air with a model that’s more reasonably priced. Apple shipped faster and cheaper versions of the MacBook Air in April, and even created a new ad celebrating "the countless ways people love the MacBook Air" in July. Microsoft is clearly alarmed at the popularity of the MacBook Air as the software maker has compared its Surface Pro 3 tablet to Apple’s laptop non-stop since its launch. A cheaper MacBook could put huge pressure on laptop makers like Lenovo, HP, and Dell.