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Apple Eyeing Retina MacBook Pro?

Availability of new processors and sharper screens, price drops on existing Mac models, point to an upcoming Apple product line revision.

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With Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference less than a month away, new Mac hardware is expected. Apple is believed to be finalizing an imminent update of its MacBook Pro laptop line, according to two Apple news websites.

One, 9-to-5-Mac, reports that "trusted sources in Apple's supply chain" claim that a new 15-inch MacBook Pro model with a Retina display, a new Intel Ivy Bridge series chip, and USB 3.0 support has entered production testing.

Apple made its high-resolution Retina Display the primary selling point of its third-generation iPad, launched earlier this year. A Retina Display on a MacBook Pro would certainly appeal to the graphics professionals and media creators who favor Apple's higher-end hardware.

Another Apple news site, MacRumors, reports finding references to an unreleased MacBook Pro model in data shared with Geek Bench, a computing performance benchmark testing service.

Apple does not comment on unannounced products, but it's widely believed that Apple had been waiting on the introduction of Intel's Ivy Bridge chips in late April to revise its hardware.

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A report published by Cult of Mac, another Apple news website, indicates that Best Buy has cut Mac prices. Computer retailers commonly do this to clear old inventory when new models are expected.

Apple's current MacBook Pro line, designated with the model identifier MacBookPro8, was introduced in February 2011 and then updated in October 2011. So a product update in the next month or two would be consistent with Apple's recent product release pattern.

The MacBook Pro revision is expected to do away with the internal optical drive, a move that would help accelerate the shift toward digital software distribution. As the owner of the highly successful iTunes Store, Apple stands benefit from this transition: more digital downloads mean more software sales fees for Apple.

Like the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro should support an optional external SuperDrive, since many users still need to be able to access DVDs and CDs on their computers.

Apple might also use its developer conference to launch a new Mac Pro model. Desktop workstations are increasingly regarded as dinosaurs in the mobile era: Most of Apple's sales in recent quarters have involved mobile iOS devices or portable OS X devices. The fact that Apple last updated its Mac Pro workstation in August 2010 has only heightened concern that the company has lost interest in the professional graphics market.

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