Apple is rumored to be planning a complete overhaul for each of its product lineups, including the iPad, iMac, iPhone and MacBook Air, next year, according to sources within the company's supply chain.
Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes cited on Thursday "sources in the upstream supply chain" who claim Apple will revamp all of its product lines over the course of the next calendar year. But, given that the publication only went on to specifically mention the iPad, iMac, iPhone and MacBook Air lines, it's not clear whether a rumored overhaul will come to unmentioned products such as the MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, Mac Pro and iPod.
According to the report, an iPad upgrade will come early in 2012, while a next-generation iPhone and iMac are expected in the second half of next year.
Sources said Apple will finalize "order volumes for key parts and components" for the third-generation iPad in December. Manufacturers may produce as many as two million units by the end of the year, they added.
Apple has reportedly submitted two prototypes to suppliers, code-named J1 and J2, with different LED and flat panel requirements. That may fall in line with a recent report that suggested display makers are readying a 1,600 x 1,200 resolution "interim option" for the next-gen iPad display in case they have trouble ramping up production of a rumored double-resolution 2,046 x 1,536 screen.
A separate report from DigiTimes on Thursday suggested that Apple will release the new iPad in March 2012, but insiders claimed that the device would be viewed by the company only as an update to the current iPad 2. A "real iPad 3" would not arrive until the third quarter of 2012 at the earliest, upstream supply chain sources said.
Tipsters said the upgraded iPad 2 would be thinner and have longer battery life, with "small volume shipments" beginning in the fourth quarter of this year because of the Chinese New Year holiday in January.
Though DigiTimes has well-placed sources within Apple's supply chain, it has been inconsistent with its Apple product predictions in recent years. Given that Thursday's reports are highly speculative and provide few details, they should be taken with a dose of skepticism.
Rumors of a high-resolution iPad 3 have persisted for the better part of 2011. Production constraints and pricing issues have been cited as difficulties that could prevent Apple from adopting the displays, which approach Retina-like quality.
One product expected to see a drastic overhaul next year is the MacBook Pro. Apple quietly updated its high-end notebook lineup last week while it waits for Intel's Ivy Bridge processors to arrive in the first half of 2012. A significant redesign is rumored to accompany the Ivy Bridge chips, and could incorporate a number of MacBook Air features, such as instant-on, standard SSD drives, slimmer enclosures and the omission of optical drives.
The company is said to be testing an ultra-thin 15-inch MacBook that "seems to fill" the role of a next-generation MacBook Pro.
As for the Mac Pro, its fate remains unclear, as AppleInsider recently reported that Apple management may soon pull the plug on its full-sized workstation. As Mac sales have increasingly skewed toward portables and the iMac, profits from the Mac Pro have reportedly dried up at the company. The versatility of the Thunderbolt connector is also expected to reduce some of the Mac Pro's niche appeal.