Apple introduced a new connection port called Thunderbolt with their Macbook Pros Last Month. Thunderbolt has replaced the Mini Display Port and will replace USB and Firewire over time. Apple will need to refresh their Macintosh product line-up to add this new port to keep the sales figures up.
The Mac Mini went through a major redesign this last summer. The new version uses Apple's unibody manufacturing process that was first used on the Macbook Air in 2008. Since the mini's redesign is less than a year old, Apple is unlikely to do another overhaul this year. When is the next Mac Mini refresh likely to happen? The table below shows previous release dates, introduction date, and length of time between between updates.
As the table shows, the Mac Mini gets updated every 8 months on average. The last update was in June of 2010, which would put the next update around February 2011. Since it is March already, the Mac Mini has passed the average update cycle due date. This refresh delay is probably due to the introduction of the Thunderbolt high-speed connection port for peripherals. Now that the new Macbook Pros and Thunderbolt have been released, the Mac Minis will be coming out sometime this month.
With this new update, Apple will bring the Mac Mini product up-to-date with the standards of the new Macbook Pro 13-inch. The new Thunderbolt port will replace the Mini Display Port that is currently on the device. Apple will also add the new Sandy Bridge processor and graphics chips, which are also in the new MacBook Pros. The 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 processor is currently the base chip for the Macbook Pro 13" and will also be the base model for the Mac Mini at $699. The 2.7 Ghz Intel Core i7 processor will be used on the Mac Mini Server. The Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU will replace the Nvidia Graphics Processor Unti (GPU) as Apple moves to the Intel's new Sandy Bridge chipset. The rest of the specs will remain the same. This will bring the Mac Mini up-to-date with the new MacBooks that were released last month.