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Apple to detail latest laptops on 14 October

But what'll Steve pull out of his envelope this time?

It's official: Apple is updating its MacBook laptop line next week - the Mac maker has mailed out invites to an event at which "the spotlight turns to notebooks".

And we turn to what's likely to be announced. Centrino 2-based - but not branded - MacBook Pros are the most likely, as Apple takes advantage of Intel's latest mobile-technology update. There's a consensus that the new models won't look radically different from the current ones, but they will sport black, lozenge-style keyboards of the kind already used on the MacBook Air.

Possible changes: the elimination of Firewire 400 ports in favour of 400-compatible - with an adaptor - Firewire 800. And a mini DVI port in place of a full-size DVI connector, primarily to help reduce the machine's thickness. We'd like to see an HDMI port too, or at least an adaptor in the box.

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Air updates are a distinct possibility as Apple leverages - again - new Intel chip technology and storage developments to offer more capacious HDD and SSD models. Hopefully, the HDD models will use SATA drives - the current Air's parallel ATA drive is a key weakness. So is a lack of Ethernet and more than one USB port - we'd like to see Apple address these points too.

The consumer-oriented MacBooks look set to go aluminium, just as their desktop equivalent, the iMac, has. Think a 13.3in MacBook Pro, and you've got as a good a mental picture as any of what the new machines are expected to be.

Pricing is a subject of much debate. Will the MacBook debut at under $800 (£474/€591), as some are saying? It's possible, but a difficult trick for Apple to pull off, and speculation about fancy new manufacturing techniques - the case will be cut from a solid block of aluminium, it's been said - doesn't sit well with the notion of budget hardware.

Still, at least one analyst has forecast a MacBook with “an aggressive entry-level price point".

How about a MacBook Nano? That's been suggested too - Apple's entry into the Small, Cheap Computer arena. Given Apple's insistence that the Air sports the ideal ultra-portable laptop form-factor and the way it pitches the iPod Touch as a de facto handheld web tablet, we're sceptical, but we'd quite like to see a skinny, compact Air-style SCC nonetheless.

Whatever happens, we'll find out for sure on the evening - or morning, Cupertino time - of 14 October.

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