updated 02:26 am EST, Tue November 27, 2012
Supply expected to be constrained for weeks
Apple will apparently be shipping new, thinner 21.5-inch iMacs before the end of the month as planned -- barely. Reports from various sources indicate that Apple will make severely limited quantities of the new model available at select US Apple Stores, but that supplies will be very constrained for a prolonged period due to issues with the precision engineering that has gone into the ninth-generation Intel-based models. The issue is expected to also affect the 27-inch models scheduled for December.
The current design of the iMacs, widely imitated and considered by many to be the ultimate expression of the "home computer" concept, will get significantly thinner and make further changes in the forthcoming iteration. It dispenses with the optical drive, allowing the system to be as thin as five millimeters at the edge, though the thickness is not uniform throughout the body. The new version loses 40 percent of the current model's volume, yet offers faster processors, 60 percent faster graphics and the new Fusion Drive that improves drive performance substantially by blending elements of SSD and HD technology. The screen's reflectivity has also been reduced by 75 percent, and now features three-pass color calibration right out of the box.
Managers contacted at Apple Stores on the west coast say they have received briefings about the new iMacs, but the ones MacNN checked said they haven't received shipments yet, suggesting that only some select showcase stores will likely have them in the immediate future. Apple CEO Tim Cook had already told investment analysts in a conference call that supplies would be limited until after the new year.
Luckily, the iMac model alone is no longer a very large player in Apple's overall revenue, having long since been surpassed by iOS devices and portable computers like the MacBook Pro, which is now the best-selling Mac model (and followed closely by the MacBook Air, leaving the iMac in third place). That Apple will be struggling to meet demand for a while may deal some small blow to the company's overall potential for high numbers in the holiday quarter, but it is possible that quantity shipments of the 21.5 inch iMac -- the less-expensive more popular of the two models -- may begin to trickle out in December, with some time left for seasonal buyers.
The 27-inch iMac, promised for December, is unlikely to ship in significant quantities until early in the new year -- when, it is hoped, Apple will also make further announcements regarding the planned update to the Mac Pro line. The other member of the Mac family, the Mac mini, got a substantive refresh in October and seems in many ways to be a herald of the iMac, adding Fusion Drive options, up to quad-core Ivy Bridge processors, USB 3.0 and many other features expected in the forthcoming iMac.