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Monday, June 18, 2007, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Apple's iMac overhaul tracking for mid-to-late summer

Apple Inc.'s hotly anticipated iPhone device will have a few weeks to bask in the limelight before the electronics maker returns focus to its Mac business with a pair of redesigned iMacs positioned to catch the tail end of the educational buying season.

People familiar with plans for the next-generation consumer desktops say Apple hopes to unveil the new systems sometime between the latter half of July and mid-August — a timeframe well suited to garner sales from higher-education individuals and back-to-school shoppers in general. Those same people add that the Cupertino-based Mac maker may also have a few smaller surprises in store for fans of its Mac line around the same time.

As was reported exclusively by AppleInsider in March, Apple engineers have been toiling long-hour days on a pair of radically redesigned 20- and 24-inch iMacs that will be both slimmer and sleeker than today's offerings. When the project manifests later this summer, it will represent the first major industrial design overhaul to hit the flagship all-in-one consumer Apple desktops in nearly three years.

Omitted from the makeover will be Apple's 17-inch iMac model, people familiar with the project have said. The entry-level offering will reportedly become the subject of considerable neglect, and may eventually meet the same fate as the firm's now defunct 12-inch PowerBook and soon-to-be sacrificed Mac mini.

Earlier this month, the Internet was rife with unsubstantiated rumors that Apple would use its developer conference (last week) to introduce new iMacs clad in "brushed metal" enclosures. AppleInsider, however, advised against those claims, explaining that the company would instead use the annual gathering to focus on Mac OS X Leopard, third-party iPhone development, and its software strategy in general.

While Apple's current iMac line remains in relatively good availability, supplies should begin to constrain in the weeks ahead, especially through high-level dealers. The company continues to fill new orders for existing models, but checks within the supply chain indicate that it is doing so through smaller volume shipments.

Apple last updated its iMac line in September, when it upgraded each model with Core 2 Duo mobile processors and introduced a 24-inch model to the family.