When it comes to the Mac, at least since the 2008 advent of the MacBook Air, Apple takes design cues from its trendsetting ultraportable and rolls them across the entire product line. As the current design is less than two years and not every Mac yet shares its cutting edge design elements, don’t look for any big changes to the MacBook Air’s physical design.

However, under the hood a lot of things will be changing with the biggest improvement on the underside of the bonnet itself — lift the lid of a 2012 MacBook Air and expect to see a Retina display.

this is the year of the retina display will spread to almost every member of the Mac product line — crisper, more beautiful images and ultra HD video playback

Yes, your old MBA will look like a janky piece of shhhhmaltcy old legacy technology once the 2012 models ship. According to 9 to 5 Mac, Retina displays (i.e. 4096 pixel density) will grace both the 11 and 13 inch MacBook Airs.

Further, the chips powering the new, ultra-crisp display will be low-power versions of Intel’s Ivy Bridge chip family. Yes, that means faster CPU performance, USB 3 and improved integrated graphics performance all with lower energy consumption.

Although pretty much everyone would like to see Apple build additional ports into the MacBook Air, expect to see the same 2 x USB, 1 x Thunderbolt design we all know, love and have been buying by the metric butt tonne.

Will the more efficient chips be enough to maintain useable battery life given the 4K pixel display? Perhaps, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the 13-inch arrived with a Retina display and the 11-inch with a better though not Retina-grade display all due to battery vs. internal space considerations.

If the world + dog are to be believed, then this goodness will be introduced at WWDC, probably during the June 11 keynote, and could ship anytime thereafter.

Responding to the competition

And, what about the rumored $799 Apple ultraportable? The logic behind this rumor says that Apple must respond to the competition and offer a low-cost model or otherwise die.

That sounds an awful lot like the “Apple will build a netbook ‘cuz” rumors circa 2009 — don’t hold your breath waiting for a $799 MacBook Air, unless you’re thinking about refurbished gear at the online Apple Store and that’s a value point all its own.

Got the inside dish on Apple’s next-generation pizza cutting ultraportable? Share it in the comments below…