The Once and Future Mac desktop: sorting fact from rumor post-WWDC

Did we officially get new Mac Pros this week, or is that next year? And did someone mention an updated iMac?

James Martin/CNET

Amid much back-and-forth this week on the future of Apple's Mac Pro, iMac, and Mac Mini desktops, it seems worth recapping what we know for sure, as well as what we don't.

Fact: Apple updated the Mac Pro on Monday, albeit with a minor CPU tweak.

Shortly after the end of Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference keynote speech, Apple added its new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops to its online store. Above each laptop's picture, you will still find a little "new" icon, indicating the updated systems. Surprisingly, the Mac Pro also had a "new" icon above it as well, despite no mention of a new model from Apple during the keynote.

What was so "new" about Apple's workstation? Simple. In the $2,499 Mac Pro, Apple updated the 2.8GHz Intel Xeon W3530 chip with the 3.2GHz Xeon W3565, a chip with the same "Bloomfield" CPU technology as the original. Anticipated updates like Ivy Bridge, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt all went unaccounted for. Instead, Apple gave its Mac Pros just a minor CPU speed bump.

The "new" tag has since come down from the Mac Pro Apple store listing.

Fact: Apple has confirmed that a full Mac Pro update/redesign is due in 2013.
On Monday, June 11, The New York Times' David Pogue wrote the following from WWDC:

Many Apple observers also wonder if Apple thinks that desktop computers are dead, since not a word was said about the iMac and Mac Pro. An executive did assure me, however, that new models and new designs are under way, probably for release in 2013.

The last sentence of that paragraph was later amended:

An executive did assure me, however, that new MacPro designs are under way, probably for release in 2013.

Later, Apple CEO Tim Cook himself then confirmed the 2013 Mac Pro update via an e-mail to a customer, saying:

Although we didn't have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today's event, don't worry as we're working on something really great for later next year.

Forbes later confirmed the authenticity of Pogue's claim with Apple PR. Macworld verified the Cook e-mail.

Official status unknown: Updated iMac, Mac Mini
In the revised Pogue quote, the Times or Pogue himself clarified the final sentence, making it explicit that Apple is only going on the record about an updated Mac Pro. Forbes, which took the first version of Pogue's article and ran with the headline "Apple Confirms New Mac Pros and iMacs in 2013," has since updated to "Apple Says New Models, Designs for Mac Pro In Works, Due in 2013 (Update)."

Forbes also ran a correction: "Apple corrects to say desktop updates for 2013 applies only to Mac Pro and not iMac."

With that clarification, we have no concrete information about a new iMac. I've seen no rumors about a new Mac Mini.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Prediction: Ivy Bridge iMacs in a month or two
Apple has updated the iMac line with Intel's latest CPU every year since it switched over from the Power PC G5 chip in 2006. The release dates have not been consistent the last few years: October 20, 2009; July 27, 2010; May 3, 2011; but given that Intel's Ivy Bridge CPUs use the same motherboard sockets as the iMac's current Sandy Bridge CPUs (LGA 1155 on desktops, Socket G2 for mobile chips), the barriers to updating are slim.

Further, with Windows 8 and a whole assortment of Windows all-in-ones due this fall, skipping Ivy Bridge when it can switch so easily simply wouldn't make good competitive sense.

In other words, I'd expect to see new iMacs later this summer or early fall with identical designs to the current models, Ivy Bridge CPUs, and USB 3.0 ports. Will it have a Retina display? Unknown. Apple had the only 27-inch all-in-one for two years before its Windows competition, suggesting an exclusive contract. Another such deal might be the only way it would see a return on an even higher-resolution iMac display. Apple can pull those strings if anyone can, but I'm more confident in an Ivy Bridge update.

What about the Mac Mini?
Apple hasn't been afraid to let the Mac Mini skip a CPU generation. I wouldn't expect much news on this front for a while.

 

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