Update: The store is now back up and there are no noticeable changes.
Apple’s Online Store is down early Friday (late Thursday Pacific Time), possibly indicating that Apple is set to quietly release updated products. While the store has gone down many times in the past for maintenance reasons, publications with connections to Apple, such as AllThingsD, have taken the unusual step of covering the story.
If Apple is indeed ready to release updated products, the decision to do so on a Friday is unusual for the company. Apple often releases flagship products on Fridays that have been announced in advance, such as iPhones and iPads, but quiet product launches via the online store often come earlier in the week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Any update this morning would likely be a modest spec bump on Apple’s desktop Mac line, similar to the Ivy Bridge updates received by the MacBook Pro and Air at WWDC in June, and nothing as dramatic as the unveiling of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, or the launch of a new product like the “iPad mini.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook has already indicated that a significantly updated Mac Pro is on schedule for a launch in 2013, so any update will likely target the iMac and Mac mini lines. Both models are overdue to receive Intel’s Ivy Bridge chipset and updated processors, and recent rumors have indicated that updates are “imminent.”
Accordingly, we predict that new Macs will feature mid-level quad-core Ivy Bridge CPUs, possibly Kepler-based nVidia GPUs (a departure from the AMD GPUs found in current models), and USB 3.0 support. High performance CPUs will also likely be available as a custom option, likely up to the i7 3770, which matches rumored benchmarks. However, we do not expect any drastic changes to the product lines this year.
We will be watching the store closely and report any changes as they occur. Judging by Apple’s history of product releases, however, we cannot fully shake the feeling that this is simply a maintenance update. Then again, on the one-year anniversary of the death of Steve Jobs, we are reminded that Apple is very much Tim Cook’s company now, and a quiet product launch on Friday would not be the first time he has surprised us.