I suspect we'll see new iMacs introduced in the September/October timeframe in time for the back-to-school shopping season). Here's what I expect to see -- as well as some things I hope to see.
The next iMac will probably include USB 3.0 and HDMI ports. Naturally, it will include speed boosts; I suspect we'll see a high-end six-core model running Intel's 3.2GHz Core i7-970 processor. Or perhaps even the 3.33GHz Core i7-980X Extreme Edition, Both feature Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost features and support 1066MHz DDR3 memory.
Or perhaps -- though less likely -- the next iMacs will sport "Sandy Bridge" processors. The difference between the Nehalem-based chips of today and Sandy Bridge is that the latter's architecture takes everything down to 32nm -- including the graphics processor and memory controller -- while keeping it all within the same enclosure. (Intel plans to eventually transition to a 22nm process.)
Intel claims that Sandy Bridge will increase performance in a balanced way across the CPU, graphics and video. Purportedly, it offers the same performance as computers using mid-range discrete graphics cards. However, I suspect we won't see Sandy Bridge chips in Macs until 2011.
We also may see a touchscreen Mac this year, although this is a long shot. If and when it arrives, it will need a version of Mac OS X that has at least some sort of "hooks" for iOS capabilities.
Still, I think Apple must be planning some sort of "gee whiz" new feature for the iMac -- and the entire Mac line is overdue for some love -- so why not an iMac with a built-in micro projector? After all, we're storing more and more of our digital video content on Macs and it would be cool to have the capability to project those videos for friends and family. And what about the ability to project films we've bought at the iTunes Store by using your Mac as a film projector?
Apple has filed a patent (number 20100079468) that involves a using an integrated projector output as a primary visual output, as opposed to the conventional display screens involved with desktop and laptop computers. The patent would seem to point to a computer without a monitor. However, the technology could just as easily be implemented into a computer with a display that uses the integrated projector as an optional visual output.
Also, Apple has filed another patent (number 20100079653) for a portable computing system with a secondary image output. In other words, an Apple laptop with a built-in pico projector. I think this could appear in both future iMacs and laptops.
Finally, I think we'll see the vaunted FaceTime feature of the iPhone 4 implemented into the next iMac.
As for Blu-ray, I'm not holding my breath, but I'm dying to see Blu-ray playback made possible on the Mac without external workarounds. So, Apple, if you don't want to offer Blu-ray drives in Macs, at least put the hooks into Mac OS X so that third parties can.
-- Dennis Sellers