Thunderbolt Makes New iMacs an Electrifying Possibility

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Rumor has it that we’ll see refreshed Apple iMacs as soon as Tuesday, May 3, including new Intel Sandy Bridge processors and the Thunderbolt ports that made their debut on the latest MacBook Pro revisions. Even if the iMac isn’t something you’re terribly interested in, this is a release all Apple-watchers should be excited about.

The refresh seems to be an evolutionary update, as reports only assert that second-gen Core i (aka Sandy Bridge) chips are on their way to the all-in-one, along with the high-speed Thunderbolt port that handles both DisplayPort duties and low-latency simultaneous dual-channel data transfer. Big changes to the looks or other components haven’t been mentioned, and AppleInsider couldn’t get any info regarding earlier rumors that iMac screen sizes would change, or that the 6000-series AMD Radeon HD graphics chips would be making their way into the Macs.

But even if Apple’s next iMac isn’t a show-stopper, it should have all the ingredients it needs to spark another leap forward in desktop computing. That’s thanks mostly to Thunderbolt, which so far holds a lot of promise but hasn’t really yet begun to make its presence felt. But it’s a technology that makes the most sense when thought of in the context of stationary workspaces, and that’s why the introduction of Thunderbolt to the iMac line (Apple’s strongest desktop holdout in a market that’s moving further toward mobile and portable paradigms) should result in much wider uptake and use of the tech by third-party device and accessory makers.

Daisy-chained storage, display/storage/USB combo devices, and HD video and photo capture devices all make much more sense combined with a stationary desktop workflow than they do with a mobile workstation. And with iMacs populating creative agencies and development studios worldwide, Thunderbolt will have a much wider reach with an ideal target audience once it gets baked into the iMac. The MacBook Pro is a strong seller, but most accessory makers will be shy about using the spec until it has a wider potential audience. Thunderbolt on more machines should help bring the cost of accessories that use the spec down, too, as manufacturers can count on higher sales volume of those devices.

I may or may not actually end up purchasing a new iMac (my current desktop workhorse is about three years old and starting to show its age) but I’m still excited for them to arrive, if only because of it what it will mean for Apple’s biggest little tech introduction this year: Thunderbolt.

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