What’s In Store for the iMac in 2012?

These days news articles about Apple are anything but scarce. Every day there is a fresh new crop of speculation, rumors and discussion regarding the future Apple’s product line and how it will continue to shape the way that we interact with technology.

However, the media hype is largely centered on the exciting and revolutionary products: iOS and its supporting devices. Google “iPad 3″ or “iPhone 5″ and you’ll find no shortage of juicy gossip. If the media gives attention to any Mac, it’s likely going to be the MacBook Air. But what about our favorite desktop machine? Where will the iMac go in 2012?

Our Old Friend The iMac

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The iMac is still a very cool machine

Once upon a time, this venerable product was the hallmark of Apple’s offering. Despite being usurped by smaller, fancier machines, the iMac has continued to evolve/improve and is still the key player in Apple’s desktop strategy.

For $1,199, you can snag yourself an awesome machine: a beautifully bright 21 inch screen, 2.5GHz quad-core processor, 4GB of memory and a 500GB drive being the highlights. And let’s not forget how truly amazing it is that all of that is packed into a machine with such a small footprint. In fact, the iMac is so good that it has significantly crept onto the radar of the customer base that once gravitated towards high end workstations like the G5 and Mac Pro, leaving an uncertain future for that line.

The goal of the iMac’s evolution in recent years has been simple: slim down the outside, beef up the inside. Like many of Apple’s products, the design has become so wonderfully minimal that it’s hard to picture a major physical redesign any time soon. When your product is virtually all screen, where do you go from there?

Aside from hopes of getting ever thinner iMacs with more powerful cores (the smoking fast i7 will no doubt soon be the default), where does this leave us for future updates? What else do we have to look forward to in the next-gen Mac?

Looking Around

Everyone’s favorite way to speculate about the future of one Apple product is to look around at their other products and choose features that are likely to begin making their way across the line.

Though it’s an unimaginative approach that completely discounts Apple’s taste for innovation, it’s still a decent way to venture some logical guesses about the future. Let’s try this ourselves to see what we come up with.

Retina Displays

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Will we see a high resolution Mac display any time soon?

One technology that we all love is the iPhone’s gorgeous retina display. It’s only a matter of time before a high resolution screen makes the jump to the iPad, and from there the next logical step is the Mac. This notion is reinforced by the discovery that deep in OS X are a few hints at higher resolution displays.

Obviously though, this involves some pretty overzealous reasoning. Manufacturing a 3.5-inch retina display is a far cry from manufacturing a 21-inch one. Technical hurdles and inevitable cost increases make this seem like a fairly remote possibility for 2012.

The most logical path is that the retina display will first jump to the iPad and then to Apple’s new favorite Mac: the MacBook Air. The small size of this product makes a high resolution display more feasible and the Air is the major point where Apple is channeling Mac innovation at the moment.

Will we see a retina Mac in 2012? Perhaps, but will it be the iMac? Don’t hold your breath.

Cheaper Solid State Storage

It’s no secret that Apple is betting on solid state drives for the future. Once again, we can look to the MacBook Air as a great source for speculation about the future of the iMac.

If you’ve ever used a MacBook Air, then you can instantly see the benefits of an SSD. These things are fast. Hit the power button and less than 15 seconds later you’re ready to check Facebook. Beyond speed, solid state drives require less power and aren’t as prone to mechanical failure (they don’t spin like traditional drives).

Once again though, we see some major technical hurdles to this technology making the jump to the default configuration on the iMac. At the same price point as an iMac, you can get a MacBook Air with 128GB of storage. That might be justifiable for a notebook, but that’s downright laughable for a powerful desktop. Bumping that up to 256GB costs you an extra $300. This is the largest SSD that Apple offers, matching the 500GB default iMac drive won’t be easy without a significant price bump.

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Jumping from a 1TB SATA to a 256GB SSD costs you $500

So does this mean we won’t see an SSD iMac any time soon? It turns out, they already exist. For an extra $500, you can in fact get a 256GB SDD in your iMac. This is currently only available in the 2.7GHz and up models, where a 1TB drive is default. So you go from 1TB to 256GB and pay $500 to do it! That means your cheapest route to an SSD iMac is $1,999.

Obviously, this isn’t an ideal situation. Apple is pushing this technology enough that I don’t think it’s a stretch to see a $1,199 SSD 256GB iMac in the future, possibly as the default configuration on the bottom tier.

Recent shortages in the supply chain due to natural disasters in Thailand are working against this idea with hard disks, causing prices to increase. However, Apple did just buy an Israeli SSD company so the older drive shortages may be a separate issue.

Wild Speculation

A distant future with a high resolution display and a near future with a more affordable SSD, is that the best we can hope for with the iMac? Obviously, it’s evident that Apple is spending much of their R&D money on other products, leaving the outlook fairly run of the mill for the future of the iMac.

That being said, the crazy ideas are out there. Obviously touchscreen Mac rumors won’t die anytime soon. However, we’re not there yet. It may happen one day, but it’s not on Apple’s immediate radar so don’t make this the thing that keeps you from buying a new iMac because you could be waiting a long time.

The topic that’s been receiving more focus lately is whether or not the upcoming iTV will in fact be an entirely new piece of hardware or simply an upgraded iMac with TV functionality. Forbes started this rumor and its being picked up by every Mac speculation site around.

Call me crazy, but I simply don’t see Apple trying to convince everyone to take their iMacs off the desk and place them on the entertainment center. A new standalone product seems much more likely.

When Will We See a New iMac?

Whether or not you would’ve preferred that I tell you that a touchscreen iMac is on the way, you have to admit that a Quad-Core i7 iMac with a 256GB SSD for under $1,500 would be a more than desirable near future. Perhaps I’m being too conservative with my estimates, or maybe I’m taking them too far? What do you think? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts about the 2012 iMac.

Once thing is for certain, the iMac is in fact nearing the end of its lifecycle. The last two iMac upgrades came exactly 280 days after their predecessors, the average gap is even less at 273 days. We’re less than two months away from this mark. The shiny new iMacs will be here soon, what will it take for you to buy one?


  • http://drperil.com Dr. Peril

    Predictions?.. nope, but I know what I’d like to see:
    BlueRay
    The return of the side mounted remote magnet
    And most of all, a desktop version of Siri

    • Michael

      i predict you will see none of those things in the next iMac.
      Siri, probably someday. But blu-ray and the remote magnet, never.
      (the predictions in the article, however, seem remarkably likely).

    • brandidomus

      Imac will keep its drive. There’s no rush to make it super thin, it’s not portable. Reduction to the housing a modest 25-30%, retina display option likely to provide the market/test for apple tv.

  • fractalfrog

    I think that the iMac will follow the Air and the Mini by losing the optical drive. This could result in a thinner and more compact machine or the space could be used for a second hard drive.
    Why not a smaller SSD dedicated to OSX and applications while a regular hard drive handles all our documents, photos, music, videos etc.? It might not be as fast as a “pure” SSD setup but it would have many of the speed benefits at a fraction of the cost.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Now that you mention it I think I’ve read that Apple was experimenting with this idea. It definitely sounds like an interesting avenue to pursue until SSD cost comes down.

    • Matthew Abbott

      That’s already an option, at least on the higher-end iMacs (it’s $600 above the default drive size). SSDs don’t take up a lot of space on their own–they’re just chips. There’s a slot for them in the current iMac chassis.

      I’d say, use the optical drive’s space for a proper desktop-class video card. That’s really the one area (well, besides general upgradeability) where I have a hard time choosing an iMac over a Mac Pro. I need a workstation that can also be my gaming desktop. The iMac has caught up to the Pro in virtually any way necessary for programming and light media editing, but the laptop-class graphics (and, to a lesser extent, hostility towards third-party drive upgrades) really keep me from pulling the trigger on a much cheaper iMac. Instead, I’ve been waiting for a Pro refresh, and saving my money. Of course, for the price of a Mac Pro, I could probably buy an iMac and a boutiqe gaming rig, but I’m not convinced I want two machines cluttering things up either.

  • Brennan

    I’ve been thinking a touch screen on the obvious advancement

    • Matthew Abbott

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see it eventually, but it won’t be happening in 2012–even if Apple finds a way to get around the problem of arms getting tired, no part of OS X or any of its apps is built for imprecise finger controls yet. You could make a case that Apple could sneak in inactive touchscreens starting this year, and announce at WWDC that 10.8 will have a touchscreen mode of one kind or another and roll out APIs, classes, and guides for converting classic Cocoa apps to new touch apps, but it’s going to take some time for everybody to spin up to that, and there’s no way Apple is going to even implicitly encourage using the current Cocoa UIs with touchscreens.

      • Paul Dunahoo

        Apple could merge iOS and OS X though, as a way to get around that.

    • Joel Bryant

      Steve Jobs addressed this in one of his keynote speeches. He said that in the many tests they ran with touchscreen, it was unnatural, clunky, causing people to tire very easily. Their answer to the touchscreen was to create the Magic Trackpad.

    • Cliff

      Who in the world wants a touchscreen desktop? I want to sit back in my chair and work; I don’t want to sit up with my chest against the desk, elbows on the table, tapping selections on a massive screen, 8-inches in front of my face. It could not be more impracticable.

      • Patti

        What’s the matter with having touch and a mouse? In my job I use a touch screen and a mouse and it is a pleasant experience. I’d buy an iMac with a touch screen and the magic trackpad. Having more options makes a better product.

    • Jason

      I’

    • Jason

      Personally id hate to see touch screen imac. I dont think apple will push that because computer monitors are a lot more sensitive and they give us better result especially when you look at image and videos. as a photographer I dont want people touching screens with their greasy fingers I think having trackpad for imac was the best thing apple did for people who want touchscreen desktops.

  • Michael

    I was seriously thinking of upgrading my current 2008 24″ iMac to a 27″ after the first of the year. In fact, I was just on the Apple Store site pricing out configurations. Now I’m wondering if I should wait a couple months.

    • Matthew Abbott

      Macrumors Buyers’ Guide to the rescue! http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/#iMac

      It looks like we could reasonably expect a March or April release, based on the past two years (and perhaps even as early as February!). Probably best to hold out for a bit longer if your current machine is still functioning. When in doubt on any Apple product, definitely check the Guide!

    • Dl

      Probably, all one has to do is look at what I just bought and it will go on sale or a newer version will follow shortly, sad but true and yes it is aggravating!

  • Jeremy

    My old 24″ just isn’t able to export videos fast enough for my YouTube channel. I’ll get a new 27″ no matter what, but i’m going it will have the newest Intel i7′s coming out, 256 SSD as standard, with an option to add a 1 TB drive, maybe 12 GB RAM standard (not as important, as i can get RAM cheaper), 1-2 more USB ports, and maybe a new design.

  • Clark

    The natural disasters you referred to were in Thailand not Taiwan. And any shortages due to the flooding are not expected to affect the supply chain for some time.

  • to

    Apple will cancel all of its computers except the MacBookAir and will only make toys in the future – Phones, Tablets, TVs, iPods and MBAs.
    And the MBA will be called iOSBook – OSX will be gone, everything “pro” will be gone.

    • http://www.installhdtv.com David

      I doubt it. Maybe in 30-40 years. good luck trying to development, or design a website using only toys.

      • David

        develop*

    • Bob

      IKR? It’s HORRIBLE!! They are turning their company into a stupid consumers’ nest! I HATE it! Everything “Pro” about Apple is going away. I like how they are now very popular, but they are not recognized for their computers as much as they are by their stupid touch-screen devices. They are in the wrong direction. :(

  • prediction

    Apple has always been about timeless design and that’s never been more accurate about the approach to Apple industrial design. This explains why we have seen little change in the design of Apple products over the last few years from the iPhone right through to the Mac Pro. It’s often been said that Apple uses the the 10 principles of design by Dieter Rams to guide its product development. The most obvious ones being that good design is: long lasting design, is as little design as possible and is environmentally friendly. So in line with that thinking, very few of Apple’s products need to change and I think the iMac can be included in that for some time to come and helps explain why the iPhone 4S looks the same as the 4S.

  • Dl

    Isn’t speculating akin to a rumor? WHY would they make a touch screen Imac that would be stupid, and yes we have our Ipads, lets give them a 120gb size and we’re all happy. We love the Imac just how it is although faster is always nicer, or OS improvements are always welcome.
    Boring day for rumors or topics eh?

  • Gregg

    I’d love them to utilise the stand by possibly building more of the power unit, hard drive or something else into it. Sure it might be thicker, but we don’t look at the stand anyway. That way hopefully they could really slim up the screen.

  • Adriaan

    I’ll wait a couple of months. My iMac G5 is already outdated by far, a couple of months more to get the latest stuff is nothing to worry about…

  • http://www.aeronaves.org Aeronaves

    The speed benefits at a fraction of the cost. It’s often been said that Apple uses the the 10 principles of design by Dieter Rams to guide its product development.Thanks !

  • Mark

    I have an OLD mac, and I need a boost in speed, This new IMAC comes at a great time, just when I was thinking of getting a new one. I can easily wait another 2-3 months to do just that.

  • RG

    BluRay (probably not going to happen), speedier i7 cpu, next-gen chipset, 32GB+ memory capability, 30″ screen, much much better graphics card, and, my great great dream, gouge out all the iOS5 contamination from OSX. Forcing iOS thinking/features into OSX is like putting drum brakes on a semi.

  • Bring back the iLamp

    The 2002 iMac G4 has surprised billions of viewers, and the audience are cheering like Bruce Springsteen at the Super Bowl (“I’M GOING TO DISNEYLAND!!!”)

    That design was definitely worth everything I never expected, with the base and the display connected together, in a much more flexible way, and I loved it so much.

    I hope Apple would finally pull off the iLamp this 2012.

    • Steve

      Gotta love the G3.

  • joseph

    Wondering if Apple will put USB 3.0 into their new range of imacs, as Thunderbolt is a fast connection, but there is almost no Thunderbolt optional extras on the marked, eg external HDD’s, card readers etc, only the raid HDD on the apple store which cost’s an arm and a leg!

  • charles Orrico

    Hope and wondering if Apple will come out with a 30″ I mac Pro model. Thunderbolt, usb3, high retina display, ssd hard drive. and top notch graphics card. This would be a great alternative to the tower. Clean, lean, and powerful. I am ready if it arrives, soon I hope.

  • Jason

    my old macbook is pretty much broken and im waiting for 2012 imac.
    I think apple will continue to push for smarter user friendly interface. I’m hoping that Siri will be added to imacs because it is not a hard thing to do. I dont think design will change much kinda like how apple came up with iphone 4s but i think they will continue designing new accessories such as trackpad and apple’s wireless mouse.

  • Bob

    UGH, no! I hate how all of Apple’s stupid hand-held gadgets are taking over the desktops! A touch-screen iMac is stupid, and I hope the iMac doesn’t come to an end. They’re scarring the iMac name with their stupid iPads and iPhones, etc. I love how Apple is very popular because of the iPhone, etc., but I wish that stuff didn’t have to interfere with desktops.

  • Marc

    We’re pushing 309 days, the previous maximum for upgrade cycle. In fact 309 would coincide with the iPad event next week. Perhaps we get a “quiet” upgrade just before or just after the iPad3 is presented.

  • Robert

    We need to replace a couple of aging Mac Pros with iMacs for our graphic design workstations. We’re ready to pull the trigger, but don’t want to buy last year’s news.

  • Shawn

    I was just telling my wife that I’ll be switching my Windows based machines out for iMacs, checked out the web store, then this site. I wasn’t all that impressed with the configurations. I was hoping to see an SSD hard drive, if for anything else to hold the OS and an i7 chip. Like others have said, I can’t see spending top dollar for last years model. Guess I’ll wait until the first part of April and see if the 2012 models are out yet.

  • Zenith

    I don’t have any predictions, but if Apple could do it, why not put in a higher-res display. Maybe not exactly a Retina Display, but a display with 1.5-2x the pixel density. I think that Apple should develop a new mouse, because IMHO the Mighty and the Magic mouse are quite unwieldy. Why not add a swivel stand to the iMac? Come on Apple, design something that Steve Jobs would be proud of. Seriously “The New iPad” ? Why not the iPad HD? Come on, think Apple, think!

    • Sander

      Maybe because it is not HD?? And “HD” sounds cheap. Since ALL vendors used and abused it. look, listen, and think….

  • http://www.payandgopr.com PR

    I agree with Cliff. Who cares about a touch screen for a desktop? Too uncomforrtable to be reaching right across your desk. It’ll probably come but it’s definitely not for me. Who cares about Blu Ray either? That technology was dead before it even got started. Very rare that I go anywhere near any kind of disc for any reason these days.

    The top end imac is already pretty sick with 16gb of RAM, 2 gb graphics, etc. etc., but the SSD should accompany a traditional hard drive as standard and there should be an option for a more powerful processor (with more cores). That would really mark the end for the Mac Pro.

  • Homey the Clown

    The iMac 5 years from now will come as a transparent touchscreen sheet of glass with an aluminium stand where the ‘guts’ reside. It will be two sided touch and also be vocally interactive responding to your gestures.

    • I am the cheese

      I heard they were developing the glass with corning. Might be here sooner than you think.

  • I am the cheese
  • Michael

    From all the recent press, I would guess that Apple is finally going to correct a glaring deficiency of the Imac by offering a matte display. I guess Apple got tired of denying the glare problem, even as they would obviously attempt to hide the glare off the displays being filmed in commercials. Also, I can’t understand why Apple would consider a touch screen capability. Why would anyone want to lift up their arm and touch the screen, except for special circumstances, when a click of a mouse accomplishes the same thing. The touch screen just seems like a gimmick, that for the most part is not practical.

  • Jon

    It’s mid-May 2012 and STILL no new iMacs! Tired of waiting, miss Steve not kicking butt at Apple. They must realize that a bunch of their faithful followers have iPads now, but we need an updated home base. My mini Mac is so old I can’t use it for synching, it has a Motorola CPU! But it’s hooked up to a beautiful big apple cinema display which I am loath to toss out. What to do? Hook up a new Mini Mac to the big TV or wait for the new iMac?

  • Steve

    Blu-Ray will not likely come to iMac. The reason is the same for the return to vinyl: CDs and disks altogether will die out except as a hard storage alternative. Streaming is faster and faster every year. Using my new Apple TV (connected via new AirPort Extreme on Xfinity high speed internet) content with as high a resolution as 1080p loads faster than YouTube on my iPhone 4S, and the file does not need to be downloaded, it loads fast (30 seconds tops) without jittery picture or stops to reload for an entire tv show or movie on my account. From a computer or from my iPhone, it’s still slow, but eventually that will change. I love not having to waste 25 GB on my devices for a full-length 1080p movie, just loading anything instantly from my account. Blu-Ray will be available via BD-drives sold separately, so if you need it, it’s there. Blu-Ray is still the best option until iTunes is updated within the next 2 years to include bonus content (like deleted scenes and cast/crew commentary) with any purchase, making discs completely obsolete for the purpose of media.

  • Steve

    Btw, in 5 years it will not be all that double sided touch voice mumbo jumbo because if they put in a billion features all of a sudden, it will be too difficult to top the next year at which point they will lose business and other companies will discover new innovations, whereas taking it slow gives them the advantage, that’s why changes to iOS that people want only come out after two years of complaints. People in general are satisfied, but just enough is left to be desired such that the company is still driven forward economically. That’s the reason why Apple won’t just fucking improve iOS significantly.

  • BADDFROGG

    They need a futuristic design. So when you gaze upon it, there is no question. They have the great iphone, ipad, and now. They need a superior desktop. With all the items mentioned before. Superior CPU, SSD, HDMI, Retina screen. An Icon that when you see it, you just have to have it. At various price points. No skipping on a good graphics chip either. For students elementary/High schools, Universities,musicians, and artistic people as a whole. To have true brand power world wide. No boundaries.
    An item you will use all the time and always being happy with the investment. For years…Then in 2013 they lay out the PowerMac. Unfathomable power and design…and at a reasonable price. Apple has the creative staff and the revenue to back it up. Win Apple…Win. Cheers.

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