iMac, mini drop before Showtime – why?

When it comes to meriting full-fledged keynote-style events, Apple’s Mac computer upgrades have been hit and miss. Each of Apple’s new Intel machines was the subject of a special event to announce its launch, but the company has rolled out processor speed bumps with low-key announcements: basically, the new Macs just show up on the Apple web site and people talk about them.

This morning, Apple unveiled its most powerful iMac and Mac mini lineup ever – iMacs received brand new Core2Duo processors and a new 24” model, while Mac minis became dual-core across the board. It all happened without a major announcement, and with the Showtime keynote-style event planned for less than a week from now. Given that much of the world’s technology media will be gathering in San Francisco shortly, the obvious question is this: why did these new computers drop onto the radar screen before the event, rather than at it?

In Larry Angell’s words, “they must surely have enough new stuff at the event to not need these there too.” That has to be part of it. But just imagine what is going to take place at a special event where the announcement of these computers isn’t important enough to share the stage.

Another interesting point is that every Mac computer shipping today is dual-core or better, from the lowest-end minis to the top-end, quad-core Mac Pro – a major potential selling point for the entire Mac lineup (think Mac versus PC commercials with one PC and twin Macs), and possibly a feature we’ll need for upcoming Apple video applications. As we’ve noted across many prior articles and reviews, encoding speeds for MPEG-4 and H.264 videos can be atrocious on older computers; some old machines have trouble even playing these formats. Having a guaranteed second processor to spare for video encoding or playback – perhaps streaming or some other application, such as, say, running Windows at full speed – could be a big deal going forward, and one that Apple will use to make the Mac lineup that much more ubiquitous.

Strong iPod sales, best Mac lineup in history, and promises of bigger things to come? Yup. We’ve said it before and will say it again: we think this event, and its ramifications, are going to be big. iPod fans, keep your fingers crossed and your wallets at the ready.

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