New iMacs, Mac Minis Tomorrow? In Three Weeks?

Updated. (Tuesday morning.) As rumoured, Apple has refreshed its desktop lineup. Details here.

Earlier: (Monday afternoon.) Apple needs a boost for its desktop computer business. Will that happen in three weeks? Or tomorrow?

MacRumors chases down two reports that Apple will announce new iMacs and Mac minis tomorrow.

Earlier: World of Apple reports that Apple (AAPL) will hold an event on March 24 to “unveil new desktop hardware.” We assume this means Apple will announce new iMacs — and perhaps new Mac minis, Mac Pros, or external monitors.

We don’t have any inside information, but this sounds plausible. Meanwhile, a Japanese site, via MacRumors, says the new iMac will be released tomorrow, March 3. That would come via press release, we assume, as no word has leaked out about an Apple event for this week.

Either way, the updates are long overdue. According to the MacRumors buyer’s guide, it’s been 308 days since Apple last updated the iMac, about 50% more than the average 211 days between updates. It’s also been 573 days since Apple updated the Mac mini, or more than triple the average 188 days between updates.

What would new iMacs and Mac minis mean for Apple’s March quarter? Depending on when they’re announced and shipped, they could have some effect on unit shipments. But they’re more likely to help out Apple’s June quarter shipments.

Wall Street expects Apple’s Mac shipments to drop 4% year-over-year this quarter, a sharp decline from the 51% year-over-year growth it experienced a year ago. Weak desktop sales are responsible for most of the drop.

Research firm Gartner expects desktop PC sales to drop 32% this year while laptop sales increase 9%, fuelled by super-cheap “netbooks” — a market where Apple doesn’t (yet) participate.

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