Sandy Bridge sold so well for Intel--and offered gamers such a great bang-for-the-buck ratio with the i5 2500K--that it's hard to be surprised 2012's follow-up, Ivy Bridge, will be launching later than expected. As previously annonced, Ivy Bridge will be available in early April, but only in limited quantities. Intel pushed the full release back to June or later, supposedly to allow PC makers to use up their existing processor inventory.
With Windows 8 expected in the fourth quarter of 2012--quite possibly in October--processors released in June or July will fall into a release cycle gap and held for a new wave of PCs launching as soon as Windows 8 is ready. Summer will be a drought for new hardware releases as notebooks wait on Ivy Bridge's new GPUs and Windows 8, but the timing is perfect for Apple. Why wouldn't they snap up every chip Intel can roll off the assembly lines and get a jump on the Q4 PC releases?
The timing lines up perfectly: 2011's MBA launched alongside OS X update Lion, and this year's model could easily launch in early summer with Mountain Lion.
The Sandy Bridge MacBook Air launched in July 2011 and is overall a fantastic ultraportable laptop. Its only weakness: the mediocre integrated GPU in Intel's HD 3000 graphics solution. Ivy Bridge promises to improve on GPU performance by up to 60 percent and 3D transistors should improve processor performance and power usage.
The timing lines up perfectly: 2011's MBA launched alongside OS X update Lion, and this year's model could easily launch in early summer with Mountain Lion. The same goes for the rest of Apple's MacBook line, of course--the company has an opportunity to release the only exciting new computer hardware in the months preceding Windows 8.
Ultrabooks will see a short lull in releases as they move from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge. If all you care about is building your own PC, parts should be available this summer.