Apple fansites have started reporting that both the Mac Pro and 27in iMac are showing up as unavailable from some US stores. Historically this has meant that Apple has product refreshes on the way, something that the Mac Pro in particular is long overdue for.
This seems to line up with recent news that ASUS spinoff Pegatron had received OEM orders for new Apple desktops. It also fits into the Apple product cycle. During our testing for the Mac vs PC feature in issue 153 of PC Authority it became clear that the Mac Pro was getting long in the tooth. The once powerful hardware under the hood was pitifully slow compared to a similarly priced PC.
This was down to the fact that the Mac Pro was launched in March 2009 with 'Nehalem' based Quad Core Xeon CPUs and an already aging GeForce GT 120 graphics card. In the meantime Intel has begun releasing hexa-core CPUs at the top end of its lineup, and NVIDIA is now two generations of hardware beyond the GT 120.
While the Mac Pro can be considered long in the tooth, the current generation of iMac is still fairly up to date. It lacks serious graphical grunt, but has a variety of processors available, including Core 2 Duo, Core i5 and Core i7.
Rumours currently have this next generation of product sporting both USB 3.0 and a new generation of FireWire. USB 3.0 in particular doesn't seem likely. Intel has no timeline for introducing USB 3.0 in its chipsets, and third party controller chips currently only support two USB 3.0 ports.
It will be fascinating to see just what hardware these new Macs will use. Intel is due to launch its new 'Sandy Bridge' platform by the end of the year, which includes both new CPUs and a new chipset. Apple launching with this platform isn't out of the question - the Macbook Pro launched alongside the Intel Core CPUs back in 2006 - but it seems doubtful that this will be the case.
This reduction in product availability seems to gel with earlier rumours that a new Mac Pro would turn up at the end of the US 'Summer' period. As usual we don't expect any official word on when new products will appear until the day of the announcement.