iMac and possibly Mini to be updated at March 24th Apple Event

The grapevine has been set on fire this weekend by a breaking rumor, strongly suggesting from multiple quarters/sources that the much awaited “Nehalem” Core i7 iMac, and perhaps also a revamped Mac Mini, will be announced at an Apple Event on the 24th of this month.

Although there is less certainty about whether or not the Mini, despite being quite long in the tooth, will be updated at the event….a consensus is rapidly forming across the entire Grapevine to the effect that this event is confirmed (though not yet officially announced; that will most likely take place later this week or early in the next) and that the new iMacs as we have envisioned them here on Rumors will indeed be introduced there.

As we have previously reported, these new iMacs will sport Intel’s next-generation “Nehalem” dual- and quad-core Core i7 desktop processors in a leap forward which will be nothing short of massive for the iMac which has predominantly used stripped-down, “mobile” versions of the Core 1 and Core 2 architectures since it was the first Apple computer to switch to Intel at the beginning of 2006.

“Nehalem” achieves this leap forward by integrating components (such as the memory controller and new “QuickPath” interconnects) onto the CPU chip and by employing numerous technologies — notably advanced power management and HyperThreading, which allows two threads to run on a single core for greater efficiency — which have been under intense development at Intel’s facilities in Israel since the first days of the “Core” architectural overhaul project at the company saved it from the inferior Pentium 4 “NetBurst” design that the PowerPC G4 and G5 had been crushing for years.

Core i7 is what the Intel Mac architecture was always meant to be….in fact, anticipation of its tremendous superiority was no small factor in the original decision by Apple to switch to Intel. Core 1 and Core 2 were evolutionary, though they contained much needed corrections to the disastrous “NetBurst” way of doing things.

Core i7 is, quite simply, the revolution upon which the entire “MacIntel” transition was based — and it is the fulfillment of the original vision for what the platform can become.

Along with many other benefits on the CPU itself, i7 also moves the iMac from two DDR2-800 SDRAM channels to *three* DDR3-1066 channels. This more than doubles memory bandwidth, which is the #1 bottleneck on modern systems other than storage (HDDs, Optical Drives, Flash Memory) which is in & of itself nothing short of a

If a quad-core Nehalem iMac with considerably more than three times the processing power and twice the memory throughput of the current high-end model (followed by several dual-core versions that can all easily dust that current high-end model at considerably lower price!) isn’t hot enough for you, then consider the graphics that we have recently confirmed are specified in the Nehalem iMac support code in Mac OS X 10.5.7 developer seed build 9J2x series: at least one model will have a GPU in AMD’s ATi X4000 family which is nothing to scoff at.

At this time, excepting any source information/interviews still under embargo, Rumors has had the chance to examine Nehalem iMac prototypes on several occasions which had varying GPUs or other changes, were built into enclosures of varying depths, and in at least one case included an outrageously over the top 30+ inch version with components that we’re far from certain would ever end up in a production iMac of any lesser dimension.

What we can discern from this access and from at least some of the information that is still under embargo to talk about directly or in specific, is that almost everything that we’ve been able to report so far is basically accurate.

The date could easily change, even if Apple has already internally decided upon it; until the moment they start printing the flyers and start sending out the e-mails to their handpicked members of the press, over 15 years in the rumor-mongering business tell us we can expect even the best “insider” information to be wide of what is actually presented on announcement and/or release day.

In particular, the further in advance a prototype, developmental build, or piece of “insider information” is of that release, that’s obviously time for Apple to change its mind or for third parties like hardware component/chipset providers to experience the all-too-common phenomena of reality setting in.

During the PowerPC era, which dominated about 80% of those 15 years of our history in publishing (our actual time rumor-mongering goes back quite a bit further than that, thanks to our founders growing up with friends that went on to work for Apple during the “dark days” of the mid-90’s), suppliers as critical as IBM and Motorola themselves frequently let Apple down…sometimes at the last minute, unless Apple remained extremely flexible up until that last minute to adapt to those let-downs which stretched the original roadmaps and hopes based on one-off prototypes (easily produced, even in most supply shortages) beyond all belief.

So, despite our due skepticism about some of the particulars…we are very optimistic that before this month is out, we will see at least one of the key Core i7 Macs — to many customers, the most important of them all even though it will be dwarfed by the stunning power of the new 16-core/32-thread Mac Pro which will soon follow it onto the store shelves — and that it will be quite a close match for the specifications we’ve outlined in the past.

We’ll revisit those specs, and hopefully bring some more details, benchmarks and so forth out from under embargo very soon; the official confirmation of the March 24th Event date would most likely cause the expiration of more than a few of those. Stay tuned — and as always don’t forget to sound off: // Follow @MacOSRumors on Twitter // Or submit a Comment below!

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  • Tallest Skil

    I’m sorry, MacOSRumors, I just can’t believe that Apple would use Beckton in the next Mac Pro. Beckton (the only 16 core setup in existence) would take the price of the Mac Pro FAR above that of the ability of any single user to purchase one, further alienating the professional market from buying one. Even using Gainestown, the most logical next chip, the price is expected to increase by $200, taking the standard configuration to $2,999. I’d love to see some pictures of the new design that you saw, as well as pictures of the insides (because Tylersburg doesn’t fit in the current case).

  • Tom

    I still hope your right about the iMac having a i7 Nehalem, but ya’ll are the only people on the planet who are promoting this idea that iMac will use nehalem in this update coming this month.

  • cc

    New iMacs just introduced and you or your sources were just plain wrong…!

  • admin

    You definitely have us on the timing, but i7 is definitely coming to the whole Mac family before long. The question is what chipsets will be used in what models, what sorts of enclosure changes will come with those updates if any, and, ultimately….when.

  • admin

    We’re still hoping to be the first to show off pictures of the new 16-core/redesigned-enclosure Mac Pro that could be here as soon as the summer…and we suspect that the enclosure will still be relatively similar to what we originally described. But it’s anyone’s game at the moment because so much is changing so rapidly at Apple — even as the fundamental fact that NeXT actually acquired Apple, rather than the other way around, is unchanging. That highly technologically innovative nature to back up the image and the software, the style with substance, isn’t what’s changing at all.

    You can believe that we are just itching to show you what the “bad-ass black & silver” Mac Pro full-tower looks like, and we’re even more frustrated that it isn’t already headed to the market. It would certainly be expensive to produce, and couldn’t be shipped in quantity for another 6-10 weeks but even just knowing that Infinite Loop’s ambitions are as stratospheric as they are has a value to Apple, we believe.

    Otherwise, we would probably sit on more rumors ourselves and be more conservative in our predictions….but from our early days as Steve Jobs aggressively plugged the company’s “leaks” in the late 90’s, we have tried to act as a motivator for Apple to correct that course, to seek a middle ground where they could truly embrace the “radical openness” of the so-called Social Era.

    As our founder once told Steve Jobs directly in an email (which Steve promptly made the butt of some internal jokes, we later found out…though should Ryan really have been surprised? Even he no longer thinks so), we’d be quite happy if Apple made us more or less obsolete by being more open, by engaging with “rumor sites” and the Mac Web with a mix of more access to the internal goings-on of the company and simply more effort to have an active hand in shaping such things.

    Instead, Ryan was met with ridicule and no direct response by Steve, which is more or less itself par for the course even several years before he had his surgery and became chronically ill. If we sent the same email today, we’d hardly expect a response in any case, and rightly so….but then, as now, we saw the topic as an important change of direction for the company.

    Nobody’s suggesting that Apple change its stripes; it presents a sleek image and doesn’t want to pull back the veneer too far. Again, rightly so. But, that image could gain a depth that it has lacked for some time, in the eyes of quite a lot of people.

    There’s a reason that the very first site fully dedicated to Apple rumors (all due credit to grandmasters such as the multiple incarnations of Mac the Knife, may he Rest in Peace until & unless someone can genuinely resurrect him — at which point we’d be honored to have him guest write for Rumors!) is still around today. That is more or less the same reason why there are so many others, whether or not they truly deserve the label of regurgitation “copycats.”

    The reason is simple…..Steve Jobs has had more important things to focus on over the past five years than getting on board with the social networking train, or the latest Internet groupthink in general. He is predisposed for many reasons — something we hardly begrudge — to shield his nearly life-long baby from damaging things like bad press, an inconsistent image, or the zig-zags of direction that the company took in his absence during the 80’s and early to mid 90’s. And now, in a transition period where regardless of his near-term “return” a lot of things will be evolving no matter what….there is an opportunity for Apple to embrace at least some element of showing off its developmental technologies in hardware as well as software sooner to counter the rest of the industry engaging on that very same level if not more so.

    This could easily be the key to cracking the remaining 85% of the market, in our opinion. Perhaps that’s inevitable given what we do, but we’ve been saying it for more than a decade and nothing we’ve seen in that time has caused us to waver from the belief….in fact, most recently as the “radically open” style of social-networking has helped so many small companies skyrocket into success despite the challenging times, that belief has only strengthened.

    That’s why we think that despite the recent stumbles on more than a few of the desktop update details (to say nothing of the predicted timing, which is of course always tied to what we’re really likely to get from the announcement), these more ambitious Macs & iDevices that we’ve been talking about — are continuing to talk about — are not far away in time nor space.

    Not everyone at Apple believes that loyalty to the ideals of a “NeXT Apple” with Steve Jobs as its omnipresent captain necessarily entails following every policy that he has dictated since his return to the company. In fact, if we should deign to quote a friend who is still in regular contact with Jobs in turn quoting the man himself: “Not everything I’ve ever said was right and if it was, it doesn’t always still apply.”

    If someone who has been put on a such pedestal and who has such relative faith in his own judgement as Steve can say that as recently as a few weeks ago, in reference to decisions made by executives at Infinite Loop during his day-to-day physical absence which might contradict calls he made not terribly long ago…then even among those at Apple that might want to cautiously follow his every style or standing policy can be expected to be open to embracing a shift that could unlock barriers to the company’s success virtually since its success was first ensured by Mac OS X, the iMac and iPod in the early days after NeXT became Apple became NeXT.

    And no, that was not a typo. 🙂