As the only Mac update on the horizon, Apple's pending iMac revision continues to capture most of the attention from sources familiar with plans inside Cupertino.

The latest word is that the brand new iMac will make its debut on Tuesday, Aug. 7, just in time for production to ramp up to meet back-to-school needs.

Published reports indicate Apple will include a new keyboard with the iMac, a sensible decision given the iMac's fresh aluminum enclosure.

Despite its penchant for cutting-edge design, Apple has typically neglected revising its keyboard design, bundling the same Pro Keyboard with white key caps with the Power Mac G5 and Mac Pro towers, for instance, even as the systems lack any white plastics.

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The new iMac will sport similar internals to Apple's recently upgraded MacBook Pro laptops, including Intel's Santa Rosa architecture.

While by no means confirmed, there have been some suggestions that the iMac may even one-up the MacBook Pro by including Intel's just-announced Core 2 Duo Extreme mobile processor, which tops out at 2.6GHz compared to 2.4GHz for the standard Core 2 Duo chips.

For a company that buys in volume and seeks to minimize costs, however, including the faster processor would go against convention.

Is Updated iLife Ready?

Think Secret sources have also cautiously suggested that Apple's next iLife suite may find its way onto the new iMacs as well.

iLife, which in recent years has been revised on an annual basis in January, has sat out any announcements so far this year.

Sources have long said that iLife's release will arrive in tandem with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, as the upgraded suite is said to leverage technologies found only in Apple's forthcoming operating system.

With Leopard's release date pushed back from June to October, however, it seems Apple may have made some adjustments to the final iLife package and could bundle it with the new iMacs next month in an effort to further the appeal of Apple's new system.

Sources say Apple has already started making preparations for an iLife roll-out, a move that would appear premature if the release was not due until October.

Unlike the next version of Apple's iWork productivity suite, which will include a ground-breaking new spreadsheet component, Apple has kept details of the next iLife suite close to its chest and out of range of sources' ears.

iWeb, Apple's Web site creation software, and Garage Band, Apple's music composition and podcast production software, are said to be receiving the most significant upgrades, although few specifics have been disclosed.

Like iWork, there has also been word that Apple may be deploying a new iLife component this year, possibly centered around media-asset management.

Surely more by coincidence than anything else, Aug. 7 will also mark one decade since Bill Gates, then Microsoft's CEO, took the stage at Macworld Expo Boston to announce Microsoft's renewed commitment to the Mac.

That event, which many Apple watchers likened to a scene out of 1984 with the giant projection of Bill Gates appearing behind Apple CEO Steve Jobs onstage, had been attributed to reviving confidence in Apple at the time, which many had left for dead following several consecutive struggling quarters.

Gates at the time also announced a $500 million investment in Apple; the stock has since appreciated roughly 20-fold.

Microsoft's Mac Business Unit, which was launched in the wake of Gates' announcement, has also enjoyed considerable success in the last 10 years, and the company plans to deliver its fourth major Office upgrade for the Mac some time in the fall.

FileMaker 9 Unwrapped

Meanwhile, Apple's wholly-owned FileMaker subsidiary took the wraps off version 9 of its flagship database software last week.

The upgrade, which Think Secret sources had been tracking since late last year, arrived on time and with the full suite of expected new features, including completely scalable objects and integration with SQL databases, a critical feature for many customers.

Despite its ties to Apple, FileMaker has operated largely autonomously since Apple spun off the division in early 1998.

Since then, the company, which rose from the ashes of Apple's once powerful Claris software division, has consistently enjoyed strong financial results, with annual revenues topping $100 million in 2000.

Apple has refrained from disclosing specifics of the company's performance in recent years.

Rumors of Apple's desire to shop FileMaker around have consistently surfaced, as the company's mission is seen as a poor fit for Apple, but to date no substantial development in that realm has emerged.

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