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Apple may introduce a radically different Mac product family by year's end

With consumers embracing a rapid shift away from traditional computers and towards a growing array of mobile devices, Apple may be preparing to introduce a distinct family of next-generation Mac designs unlike anything seen to date, a vague rumor suggests.

Citing an anonymous source within the Cupertino-based company's Asian supply chain, hit-or-miss macotakara.jp claims Apple with the help of its component suppliers is gearing up to introduce Macs that are "absolutely different from current products," possibly by the "end of this year."

The brief report goes on to state that although the source could provide no further details on the matter, the designs of the new Macs mark such a departure from Apple's existing offerings that they could be brought to market under a new brand or product name altogether.

As such, the latest rumor appears to be describing an initiative separate from Apple's reported efforts (1, 2) to transition its flagship line of MacBook Pro notebooks into slimmer enclosures akin to the MacBook Air, dropping traditional hard disk drives in favor of solid state drives and jettisoning optical disc drives completely.

For its part, macotakara.jp has a mixed track record in predicting Apple's future product directions. Though it accurately reported that Apple would introduce its second-gen iPad in March and push out the release of the iPhone 5 until much later in the year, other reports about new MacBook Airs featuring high-speed 400MBps flash memory and a flat-back iPad 2 did not pan out.

The Japanese publication has also issued a flurry of other claims over the past several months that remain pending, including rumors that Apple will return to an aluminum backside on the iPhone 5 and that the company is testing MacBook Airs powered by the same A5 chip found inside the iPad 2.