Chip complex delaying Apple's new iMac line, says analyst

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's next-generation iMacs are being held up for business reasons and a minor technical obstacle, according to one Wall Street analyst.



"We wanted to give an update on the Mac business from what we are picking up from our latest supply chain checks," Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu wrote in a report to clients Monday. "While new the iMac appears to be almost ready for primetime, what is holding it up appears to be business reasons and a potential small technical hurdle."



Specifically, Wu said his sources indicate that external casing changes will likely be modest and that "Apple is in the midst of figuring out whether to power the new iMac with Intel quad-core processors or more high-powered dual-core processors with larger caches."



Back in November, Taiwanese rumor site DigiTimes claimed Apple was waiting for new quad-core chips from Intel so it could "launch products based on" the new processors, but did not specify in which systems Apple would use the parts.Â* Intel subsequently rolled outÂ*the new processors just last week.



Wu said he was surprised Macworld didn't bring new iMacs and believes Apple may be hesitating on quad-core processors for the iMac on fears that the decision could cut into Mac Pro sales.



"While quad-core would provide a material improvement in performance and potentially jumpstart sales, it could cannibalize the Mac Pro, its high-end tower, whose low-end configuration is currently a quad-core," he wrote. "Apple could choose to stick with dual-core on the iMac or make 8-core the new low-end for Mac Pro."



Wu's concern may be misplaced given acting chief executive Tim Cook's comments during Apple's fiscal first quarter earnings call last week. Asked about Apple's Pro segment, Cook admitted that Mac Pro sales are sluggish given the "current economic climate", and that Apple's desktop business is "primarily iMac."



In addition, Wu said he's also picked up on chatter that the iMac's vents and cooling systems may see a redesign to deal with higher heat dissipation.



A report from last December noted that the cooling module for the next-gen iMacs would be manufactured jointly by Foxconn and Auras Technology. Given that the report, which provided no further details, singled out the cooling system, it led to speculation that the new iMacs may employ a different cooling system than current models. Whether that's actually the case remains unclear.



In his report to clients Monday, Wu suggested that one final variable delaying the release of new iMacs could be the timing of Snow Leopard.



"While Leopard would take advantage of multiple cores, Snow Leopard takes it to the next level with better support for multi-core, multi-processors, and OpenCL, with enhanced graphics capability," Wu wrote.



The Kaufman Brothers analyst now predicts an iMac refresh in the March quarter or, given additional delays, the June quarter at the latest. Those claims conflict with earlier predictions from the Chinese-language Economic Daily News, which cited supply chain sources as saying new iMacs were due to arrive in January.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 154
    "new iMac with Intel quad-core processors or more high-powered dual-core processors with larger caches"



    I don't even know what'd I'd want.
  • Reply 2 of 154
    What about the itanium chips?
  • Reply 3 of 154
    e1618978e1618978 Posts: 6,075member
    The Mac Pro is such a small sales number, I just don't buy the cannibalization idea. Make the iMac as good as possible, because it sells in much larger numbers, and then release the i7 mac pro.



    And release a displayPort card for the mac pro, and a displayPort 30" monitor.
  • Reply 4 of 154
    fluffyfluffy Posts: 361member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    [Editor's note: Wu's claim that the current Mac Pro is available as a quad-core system is incorrect. The low-end model is an 8-core system featuring two 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon ?Harpertown? processors for a total of 8 cores.]



    The Editor's claim that Wu's claim is incorrect is incorrect. The low end model is indeed a single Quad-core system.
  • Reply 5 of 154
    The Mac Pro is still available in a quad-core configuration. After selecting the Mac Pro in the online store you can downgrade it to a single Xeon for a $500 savings, thus making it roughly equivalent to a quad-core iMac.
  • Reply 6 of 154
    kasperkasper Posts: 941member, administrator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Fluffy View Post


    The Editor's claim that Wu's claim is incorrect is incorrect. The low end model is indeed a single Quad-core system.



    You have to custom configure it that way. But I'll remove the note given that it is an option. The default retail config is an 8-core.
  • Reply 7 of 154
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by e1618978 View Post


    The Mac Pro is such a small sales number, I just don't buy the cannibalization idea. Make the iMac as good as possible, because it sells in much larger numbers, and then release the i7 mac pro.



    And release a displayPort card for the mac pro, and a displayPort 30" monitor.



    Yeah. As a Mac Pro owner myself I'd sure like to see some kind of upgrade path show up this time. Too often the Mac Pro has been sold as the "upgradeable" computer, only to have a single expensive RAID card be the only realistic upgrade option.



    The previous towers (G3's, 4's), all had various upgrade options, processor upgrades, video card upgrades etc. and a lot of them are still in use today. I can't remember seeing a single Mac Pro that had it's CPU upgraded and only one ever that had a new video card installed (out of hundreds that I have personally seen and worked on).



    Some of this has to do with the age of the machines of course, but excuse me for assuming the $3,000 super computer I bought should be able to be upgraded with new processors or a new video card once in a while.
  • Reply 8 of 154
    As a general rule, I find the granularity of Shaw Wu's analysis kind of ridiculous. How does this knowledge (garnered in a vague and clandestine manner) benefit his clients. Simultaneously, it harms Apple and (its shareholders, his clients) by spreading rumors about unannounced products that might affect overall sales. The best thing he could do is shut the ____ up.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by e1618978 View Post


    The Mac Pro is such a small sales number, I just don't buy the cannibalization idea. Make the iMac as good as possible, because it sells in much larger numbers, and then release the i7 mac pro.



    And release a displayPort card for the mac pro, and a displayPort 30" monitor.



  • Reply 9 of 154
    Gee, the iMac line seems so different from the MacPro line, I don't see how large an impact it would have. Besides, nobody seems to be buying the MacPro anyway. The MacPro is a fantastic design, but it's price is a tad high for most people. I think Apple should go with the four-core iMac and they should be able to sell a huge number that would easily make up for the MacPro sales loss. It would be nice for offices to have such a powerful and slim machine on the desks, rather than have all that bulk of a MacPro. Staying with a dual-core iMac seems like a bad move for Apple and the consumer what with Snow Leopard on the way.
  • Reply 10 of 154
    eaieai Posts: 417member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rpm16601 View Post


    What about the itanium chips?



    I assume that's a joke... Itanium isn't compatible with x86 code, except through a software interpreter (which is comparatively slow)... Hardly anyone uses Itanium for this reason...
  • Reply 11 of 154
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,835member
    I don't understand how Apple is said to be "hesitating" on this.

    This isn't like deciding what flavour of ice cream cone to buy at Baskin Robbins.



    Apple had months of notice on whether to use 4 or 8 cores in the iMac, and the fact that a slight case redesign occurred would suggest that the decision was made. Either way, this isn't something that can be just left to the last minute.



    Perhaps a delay in the next Mac Pro would mean that the order of the upgrades would be problematic.

    But again, it's been known for months that the new Pros would be available in March/April.
  • Reply 12 of 154
    hattighattig Posts: 858member
    Surely one of the draws of the Mac Pro is the upgrade path - 4 drive bays, more memory slots, PCIe slots, etc? Even the ability to attach an awesome display without having another display built into the computer... never mind having 8 cores.



    If you don't need this, then an iMac is fine. Apple need to accept this, instead of crippling the mass-market computer.



    On the other hand, most consumers will be fine with a dual-core processor, as most software is only optimised for that. I'm sure grand central will change things, but it will take time for software to appear that uses it well. Personally I think a quad-core iMac should be left as a high-end option, or a build-to-order item, so that Apple can say they offer the choice of fast or wide.
  • Reply 13 of 154
    The iMac already cuts into the sales of the overly expensive Mac Pro. Having 8 cores is useless, and the editor should have obviously noted that the Mac Pro is available as a 4-core system. Maybe Apple would have better sales if they went back to their standard 3 system (Good, Better, Best) marketing routine. Maybe then most users would realize the Mac Pro is available for $2,299, instead of seeing only $2,799 on the web page. Of course they should try and drop the Mac Pro to $1,999, since that was the average starting price of the Power Macs.



    Even though the "default" config is an 8-core, you cannot buy it like that without clicking on Configure, in which you will immediately see the option for the lower cost 4-core.
  • Reply 14 of 154
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,175member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by eAi View Post


    I assume that's a joke... Itanium isn't compatible with x86 code, except through a software interpreter (which is comparatively slow)... Hardly anyone uses Itanium for this reason...



    Maybe he meant the Core i7 chip?



    I also can't see why Apple would think a quad-core iMac would hurt MacPro sales. There are far more reasons to get a MacPro than just a quad-core processor. Too many to go into details.



    I think it would be silly of Apple not to include a quad-core CPU, especially with all of this grand central technology thats going into Leopard. Basically this means they're doing all of this primarily for the multi-core MacPros then? I mean will grand central make that much of a difference with just a dual core setup?
  • Reply 15 of 154
    I have a 2.0 GHz 20" iMac G5 and a 1.86 GHz MacBook (first generation combo drive).



    The iMac is getting quite long in the tooth; I need an Intel machine for decent performance of software (Office '08, Adobe CS3) as well as for running Parallels. I also want a 24" display.



    I was planning on replacing the G5 iMac with whatever new 24" iMac they came out with at MacWorld, and was thrown for a loop when they didn't do so. Now I'm in a holding pattern. My options include:



    1. Upgrade current MacBook w/larger 3rd-party hard drive & DVD burner, get a 24" LCD, and sell the G5 iMac on eBay.



    COST: appx. $300 for upgrades, $300 for LCD, minus $500 for the iMac sale = appx. $100, but with a lot of nervousness about ripping apart the MacBook. Dirt cheap but the system would still be very low-end by MacIntel-era standards.



    2. Replace current MacBook with the new $1,000 model + LCD; sell off *both* the iMac and current MacBook.



    COST: appx. $1,000 MacBook, $250 AppleCare, $100 for HD upgrade, $300 for LCD = $1,650, minus perhaps $500 each for the two systems = around $650.



    3. Say "screw it" and buy the *current* 24" iMac, sell the G5 iMac and keep the current MacBook.



    COST: appx. $1,550 (refurb) + $250 AppleCare = $1,800 - $500 for selling off the G5 iMac = around $1,300.



    The third option has the ever-present risk that they'll release the iMac upgrade after all a couple of weeks after I buy it, of course.
  • Reply 16 of 154
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,175member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hillstones View Post


    The iMac already cuts into the sales of the overly expensive Mac Pro. Having 8 cores is useless, and the editor should have obviously noted that the Mac Pro is available as a 4-core system. Maybe Apple would have better sales if they went back to their standard 3 system (Good, Better, Best) marketing routine. Maybe then most users would realize the Mac Pro is available for $2,299, instead of seeing only $2,799 on the web page. Of course they should try and drop the Mac Pro to $1,999, since that was the average starting price of the Power Macs.



    Even though the "default" config is an 8-core, you cannot buy it like that without clicking on Configure, in which you will immediately see the option for the lower cost 4-core.



    Or they could just make the standard configuration the $2299 model and upgrade from there. Seems weird they don't already do that.
  • Reply 17 of 154
    The fact that Apple doesn't already realize that the iMac is cutting into Mac Pro sales is kind of disturbing, but at the same time this is Apple's own doing.



    When I update from my PowerMac G5 I am seriously looking at the 24" iMac. The Mac Pro has nothing really special to it except for the extra HDD bays and the ability to have more than 2 displays hooked up to it. Most of the software out there won't take advantage of 4 cores let alone 8.



    A Quad Core iMac makes the most sense for a computer that Apple appears to only want to sell. The mini and pro were left out to pasture a long time ago.
  • Reply 18 of 154
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post


    The previous towers (G3's, 4's), all had various upgrade options, processor upgrades, video card upgrades etc. and a lot of them are still in use today. I can't remember seeing a single Mac Pro that had it's CPU upgraded and only one ever that had a new video card installed (out of hundreds that I have personally seen and worked on).



    Some of this has to do with the age of the machines of course, but excuse me for assuming the $3,000 super computer I bought should be able to be upgraded with new processors or a new video card once in a while.



    The reason the G3 and G4's were upgradable was because there were faster processors readily available, and priced right for upgrades. The G5's were not upgradable because the processors were too expensive and the cooling systems were too advanced. Who would want to mess around with the liquid cooling system if they upgraded their G5? Also, the G5 only topped out at 2.7 GHz, so it wasn't that much faster than the lower end G5.



    The G3 and G4 market was much different. There were many upgrade options available for a wide variety of Power Macs. The upgrade process was much easier too.



    The Mac Pro hasn't seen that much of a difference in processor speeds, so there is no upgrade value. I am also assuming the Intel chips used in the Mac Pro are quite expensive too.
  • Reply 19 of 154
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hillstones View Post


    The iMac already cuts into the sales of the overly expensive Mac Pro. Having 8 cores is useless, ...



    It is not useless. It is a Pro desktop machine. Those of us that actually need a Pro system use software that uses the extra cores. Any developer using Xcode for instance takes full advantage of every core the system offers. 8 cores cuts compile times almost in half compared to a 4 core system. This adds up to significant time savings.



    The Mac Pro is easily the best desktop Mac Apple has ever produced (and I've used Macs since the Mac 128K). I'm about to add 1TB drive to the system for example. Because I have 4 HD bays I can simply order an internal drive and not have to add an external like someone with an iMac will.. (saving $50-$100 right there). and taking advantage of the SATA interface.
  • Reply 20 of 154
    sabonsabon Posts: 133member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by KindredMac View Post


    The fact that Apple doesn't already realize that the iMac is cutting into Mac Pro sales is kind of disturbing, but at the same time this is Apple's own doing.



    Just because the person that wrote the article is clueless does NOT mean that Apple is. Apple is VERY aware of everything that is happening including how we feel about different choices they make for their computers.



    Steve Jobs is also very aware of these and he already knows exactly what he wants up to a year or more ahead. It's a matter of whether the hardware or software is ready and what he has to settle for.
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