Signs building toward March iMac launch

Apple appears to be getting ready to launch new iMacs in March, a move the Apple community has expected for quite some time.

It's as clear as it gets in the Apple rumor business that if you're in the market for one of the company's iMacs, it's probably worth waiting a few weeks.

March came in like a lion, and could go out with an iMac. CNET

Several rumors flew across the Internet over the weekend and Monday, hurled by World of Apple and others, that Apple is finally gearing up for the long-awaited refresh of its all-in-one iMac desktop sometime later this month. Such an overhaul is long overdue in the minds of many Apple watchers, who have been hearing about a potential iMac refresh since last November .

Surprisingly, few details are available about what changes Apple is planning to make to the iMac, which could suggest that the changes will be under the hood rather than design-related. The Nvidia integrated graphics chipsets used in last October's MacBook refresh are a decent bet, perhaps combined with the 9600M discrete graphics card as Apple did with the MacBook Pro.

Maynard Um of UBS put out a research note Monday saying that one sure bet for the new systems are Intel's Nehalem processors. The server version of those chips is scheduled to be out relatively soon, which means Apple will probably also have a new high-end Mac Pro soon, as OSX86 contributor Netkas (via Ars Technica) has uncovered.

The Mac Mini managed to skate through this latest round of rumors unscathed, but there has been plenty of musing over the last few months about the fate of the smallest and cheapest Mac desktop system. The number of USB ports might be up in the air, but it seems likely that Apple would refresh this model around the same time it took care of the rest of the desktop lineup.

So when will Apple launch these systems? The most common rumor is at an event scheduled for March 24, as reported by World of Apple and My Apple Guide. On the other hand, MacRumors points to a Japanese publication, Kodawarisan, that's reporting Apple will launch the iMacs Tuesday without one of its trademark events.

UBS's Um said he was unable to confirm any notion of an event, believing that Apple might just issue a press release for the new systems and be done with it. It would be interesting to see how Apple would go about holding one of its trademark events with CEO Steve Jobs on medical leave, as that could be interpreted as a signal for how Apple plans to handle such events when Jobs eventually decides to retire.

But given that few people expect wholesale design changes to the new systems--as were unveiled last October for the MacBooks--an event to highlight new chips might be overkill. In any case, iMac supply is dwindling, according to AppleInsider, so hold tight if you are one of the few people in the world thinking about buying a new computer this year.

Update 12:40pm - A few tidbits have surfaced since this went live. CNET TV's Brian Tong was able to confirm that Best Buy has received new part numbers from Apple for new systems that fall in line with the historical way those systems have been entered into Best Buy's database. Still unclear on the timing, though.

Also, a photo of a Mac Mini box is making the rounds that features the five USB port design shown in the earlier rumors.

About the author

    Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.

     

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