It didn't take long for Apple to get the memo. Shortly after the close of WWDC, reports that circulated the Web said Apple intended to launch major updates to the Mac Pro and iMac later this year and next year. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook mentioned new iMacs in an email response to a fan:
"Our pro customers are really important to us," Cook wrote to the distressed Apple fan. "Don't worry, as we're working on something really great for later next year."
Now, a report from DigiTimes released Tuesday claims Apple's foreign supply chains are in fact prepping to furnish components for an updated iMac, which is reportedly aiming for an October 2012 release date.
"The sources also noted that Apple plans to expand Retina Display into all the product lines, meaning that the new iMac will have a high chance of featuring Retina Display; however, the rumors are not confirmed by Apple," Digitimes reported. "The sources pointed out that Apple is pushing Retina Display for its products in hoping to surpass its competitors in terms of screen resolution since most other notebook and tablet PC vendors are still adopting Full HD display for their products; however, since there are only limited contents that are capable of supporting Retina Display, while Retina Display is a lot expensive than a Full HD panel, most PC vendors currently still have no plan to follow suit and launch product with high resolution panel."
iMac With Retina Display: Is It Even Possible?
It would make a great deal of sense to implant a Retina Display into the new iMac, but how plausible is it to build a massive display with such a high-density resolution?
Marco Arment, one of the key developers behind Instapaper, published his own theories of when he believes Apple will release the newly-designed iMacs. His blog post was based off "multiple sources" and Cook's e-mail response to the fan, but his "core theory" is centered around the idea that Apple will build Retina Displays into all of its devices, now that it has successfully ported the ultra-high resolution displays from the iPhones to the iPads, and now the laptop (MacBook Pro).
Arment quickly discovered the issues with such a massive, stand-alone Retina Display. Yes, it's extremely expensive to make and mass produce, but it's implausible for so many more reasons. Remember: Whether you're talking about an iMac or a Mac Pro, the screen you're working with is either 21.5 inches or 27 inches.
Making a Retina-quality display out of a 27-inch Cinema (a.k.a. "Thunderbolt") Display is a tall order. But second of all, who needs all those pixels? A 5120 x 2880 panel is a bit ridiculous; even using the full 2880 x 1800 resolution on the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display makes everything look incredibly tiny. But thirdly, and most importantly, a large Retina Display screen would require more bandwidth than what today's Thunderbolt ports can handle. (A 5120 x 2880 screen would need more than 21 Gbps; Thunderbolt can only provide up to two channels of 10 Gbps.)
That last issue -- today's capabilities -- is likely why our dreams of a big, beautiful iMac with Retina Display will have to wait. At least for a few more months, according to sources.
New iMacs in 2012: Can We Believe The Rumors?
It's important to take rumors at face value -- they're rumors, after all -- but rumors like these, which are being reported in greater frequency and variety as of late, should be taken into consideration.
While Tim Cook's original e-mail would have you think that new iMacs would release later next year, MacRumors believes this may Apple being sneaky again. The rumors site believes new iMacs could be hitting shelves "sooner rather than later."
After tearing apart the new MacBook Pro laptops, Geekbench makers Primate Labs discovered that Apple's previously leaked details about the non-Retina Display 15-inch MacBook Pro matched up exactly with the real specifications, which all but confirms the legitimacy of the original leaked story.
With that under consideration, it makes sense to revisit another benchmark that appeared around the same time -- this one for the iMac. The leaked benchmark for a new iMac described a model called "iMac 13,2," which runs on a 3.4 GHz Core i7-3770 quad-core processor with 4GB of 1600 MHz RAM, and operates on OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion," which is the next-gen Mac operating system that won't be released until July. Primate Labs believes this entry is indeed legitimate.
While one rumor coming true doesn't guarantee the other one will, there is a higher-than-normal likelihood that this is the case.
Apple: One Major Release At A Time
Apple completely redesigned the MacBook Pro to create a 15-inch professional laptop with a Retina Display, but that computer was likely the sole focus for WWDC 2012. Apple updated its other computers with new chips and processors, but that's all the attention they received. By funneling all of Apple's energies into one product, the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display is an incredible machine. Apple's veteran lead designer Jony Ive said the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display is "the best computer we've ever made."
Apple is never a company to steal its own thunder. WWDC had too many major releases and announcements planned -- updated hardware, a completely new computer, and forthcoming releases of two major operating systems for Mac and iOS -- that it would have been foolish for Apple to squeeze in another major product release. Google learned this valuable lesson from its more recent I/O conference, where the company stole its own show with a simple pair of glasses.
Regardless of what Apple did, it didn't matter to pro users. They were very upset their beloved desktop computers didn't get a more powerful recharge.
Andy Hertzfeld, a former Apple employee and a current engineer at Google, released his thoughts on Apple's WWDC via Google+.
"The specs for the 'new' Mac Pro had hardly changed, except for a tiny, inconsequential processor clock bump ... It seems like it's stuck in time in 2010," Hertzfeld wrote. "The only thing that's still high-end about it is the bloated price. Even though I'm well aware that Apple's future lies increasingly with mobile iOS-based devices, it still makes no sense to drop the ball on your high-end desktop Mac so thoroughly, and to utterly disappoint your most loyal customers like yours truly. Why do an update at all if you hardly change anything? What's going on here?"
"What's going on here" is that Apple doesn't want to step on its own feet. It has a product timeline, and it wants to keep to it.
Considering what was just released and the dizzying amount of rumors about a new phone and new "mini" tablet, there's a great chance that this fall, which will definitely see the release of iOS 6, will get a few new devices to house the new mobile operating system. Most people believe this is when Apple will release its new iPhone, dubbed by many "the iPhone 5," and possibly even a new iMac. Adding Retina capabilities to a desktop is incredible, but not so incredible as to steal the show from the new iPhone and iOS.
So bottom line to Pro users: Don't worry about it. New iMacs and Mac Pros will come, but Apple must find a legitimate reason to build it and release it first. Everything Apple does has a purpose to it, and Cook likely feels that updating mobile computers (laptops) were more important to Apple's prime demographic than trying to build up the already-high-quality desktop lineup. Once they all get to an equal status, it'll be easy for Apple to raise the entire family together.
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