Apple’s MacBook Air May Soon Get Even Thinner

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new macbook airNews of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent for a combination SD card/USB port has recently come to the attention of the Cupertino-based company’s rivals and their reaction has not been a happy one. According to supply chain sources via the DigiTimes, “Ultrabook vendors are concerned because they are worried that if Apple obtains the patent, it will gain the upper hand in competition for slim notebooks.”

So why is there so much fuss about such a seemingly innocuous invention? “The sources pointed out that Apple’s patents for MacBook Air’s wedge-shape industrial design in June 2012 already forced many brand vendors to now use the design, which can significantly reduce the size and weight of the system. With the hybrid USB/SD port patent, the sources are concerned that it could give Apple more advantages in design,” reports the Taipei-based DigiTimes.

When it comes to thin-and-light laptops, a few millimeters can give a device maker a crucial edge over the competition. One Taiwan-based connector maker estimates that Apple could save about “12-13mm of space on their notebooks’ exterior design, allowing them to add more functions.”

The Taiwan-based laptop makers may have good reason to be concerned. Apple’s MacBook Air is already a heavyweight in the thin-and-light laptop market. According to the latest statistics from market research firm NPD Group via CNET, the MacBook Air accounted for 56 percent of the thin-and-light laptop sales in the U.S. market during the first five months of 2013.

The remaining 44 percent of the market was split between various other laptop makers. Thanks to innovations like the combination SD card/USB port, Apple’s dominance of the thin-and-light laptop market is likely to continue.

It’s a good market for Apple to dominate. The respected market research firm Gartner notes that the worldwide device market is increasingly be driven by light and portable devices like tablets and other ultramobiles. “Consumers want anytime-anywhere computing that allows them to consume and create content with ease, but also share and access that content from a different portfolio of products. Mobility is paramount in both mature and emerging markets,” said Gartner research vice president Carolina Milanesi via MacDailyNews.

Although the patent doesn’t specifically mention Apple’s latest style of connector, Patently Apple notes that, “other variations of the USB plug may also be received within the input port.”  When the technology in this patent is finally incorporated into a product, it will likely feature the Lightning brand connector.

Here’s how Apple closed out the trading week on Friday.

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