updated 03:10 pm EDT, Tue March 22, 2011
Thunderbolt support expected
Updated iMacs will be "en route by ocean" to the US by the end of April, or else the first week of May, according to sources in touch with CNET's Brian Tong. Few other details are mentioned in a series of Twitter posts, except that the new computers will be based on Intel's Sandy Bridge platform and Thunderbolt connection standard. "No major cosmetic changes" are forthcoming, says Tong.
The last iMac refresh came in July of last year, finally dropping Core 2 Duo processors from the model lineup in favor of Core i3 and i5 processors at the low end; higher-end systems included quad-core i5s and i7s. The first Sandy Bridge-equipped Apple computers came in February in the form of updated MacBook Pros, which were also the first MacBooks to incorporate quad-core processors.
More significant in the long run was the introduction of Thunderbolt, which offers speeds well beyond those of USB 2.0 or FireWire. Apple may need to roll out as many computers as it can with Thunderbolt to encourage development for the standard, as the company is expected to be the only PC maker with Thunderbolt ports until 2012. Relatively few Thunderbolt peripherals have been announced to date.