Chip obstacles, Snow Leopard holding up next-gen iMac

The debut of Apple's next generation of iMacs is being held up because Apple is trying to decide whether to power the machines with Intel quad-core processors or more high-powered dual-core processors with larger caches, according to one analyst via AppleInsider.Kaufman Bros.

The debut of Apple's next generation of iMacs is being held up because Apple is trying to decide whether to power the machines with Intel quad-core processors or more high-powered dual-core processors with larger caches, according to one analyst via AppleInsider.

The current generation of the Apple iMac

Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu wrote in a report to clients today that the "new iMac appears to be almost ready for primetime, what is holding it up appears to be business reasons and a potential small technical hurdle."

Wu said his sources indicate that external casing changes will likely be modest, in addition to news about the minor chip snafu.

DigiTimes claimed in November that Apple was waiting for new quad-core chips from Intel so it could implement the new processors.  Intel rolled out the new processors just last week.

Wu said he was surprised Apple didn't debut new iMacs at Macworld and believes that "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."

(The low-end Mac Pro is actually an eight-core system featuring two 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon "Harpertown" processors, for a total of eight cores.)

On the other hand, acting CEO Tim Cook admitted last week that Mac Pro sales are sluggish given the "current economic climate," and that Apple's desktop business is "primarily iMac."

Finally, Wu suggested that one more hurdle to the release of new iMacs may be the eventual debut of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, which offers better support for multi-core/multi-processors and OpenCL.

So when should we expect the new iMacs? Perhaps a refresh in March or June at the latest, Wu said.

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