updated 03:54 pm EDT, Mon September 10, 2012
Tech would make OS X, iOS Wi-Fi features more practical
Shortages of Apple's AirPort Extreme suggest that the company is about to refresh the peripheral, possibly with 802.11ac support, according to AppleInsider. Amazon and Best Buy's online outlets are in fact out of stock for the router, which may indicate that Apple has halted shipments of current-generation hardware. Like other companies, Apple lets channel inventories drain for a brief time before new hardware debuts.
802.11ac support could be the most logical addition for the Extreme. The technology is sometimes described as "Gigabit Wi-Fi;" while most Internet connections aren't able to run that fast, it could be very useful for devices communicating across the same LAN, so long as each link in the chain also supports 802.11ac. The standard has yet to be ratified, although other companies are already beginning to ship compatible routers.
If Apple were to upgrade Macs and iOS devices with 802.11ac as well, a new Extreme could improve the practicality of integrated features on both platforms. In particular it might enhance Wi-Fi sync for iPhones, iPods, and iPads; at the moment Wi-Fi sync with iTunes is much slower than over a USB cable, but increased bandwidth could make Wi-Fi just as practical if not better.
A new Extreme could be introduced at or around the same time as this Wednesday's Apple press event. There haven't, however, been any reports expressly stating that Apple will move to 802.11ac.