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Apple's New iMac: Breaking Design Barriers

By ECT News Hardware Desk MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 3, 2004 5:39 PM PT

Apple today announced the new G5 iMac to a roaring 7,000-strong crowd attending the keynote address at the Apple Expo in Paris, delivered by Phillip Schiller, Apple senior vice president for Worldwide Product Marketing.

Apple's New iMac: Breaking Design Barriers

Proving the rumor mill true, Apple is again seeking to break design barriers and continue to distinguish itself from competitors in the PC market. In a form the company said is the thinnest desktop computer in the world, the new iMac reports in at a slim 2.2-inches thick.

"Just like the iPod redefined portable digital music players, the new iMac G5 redefines what users expect from a consumer desktop," Schiller told the audience. "...a lot of people will be wondering 'where did the computer go?'" he said.

The Specs

The new iMac comes in three flavors, with either a 17- or 20-inch flat panel display. Purported to operate with significantly less noise than other machines (25dB or less), all three models offer a slot-loading combo or super drive along with all I/O ports along the rear of the system. These include three USB 2.0 and two FireWire 400 ports.

A built-in antenna and card slot provides support for the optional wireless Airport card as well as for an optional internal Bluetooth module, which provides wireless connectivity to mice, keyboards and external devices such as PDA's and mobile phones.

The models, starting at $1,299 with a 1.6 GHz G5 processor, will begin shipping in mid-September with availability from Apple's online store, retail outlets and authorized Apple resellers. Additional models will retail for $1,499 (17-inch display) and $1,899 (20-inch display), both with 1.8 GHz G5 processors.

New to the iMac product line, the systems are capable of holding an up to 250 GB hard drive and 2 GB of RAM. A special education model is available without an optical drive, an alternative that academic customers had requested.

Catering to Flexibility

IDC senior analyst Roger Kay pointed out that the new iMacs include three USB 2.0 in addition to legacy USB and FireWire 400. This is a departure from previous efforts to focus on FireWire.

Considering the volume of USB 2.0 external devices used by those with Windows PC's, this could be an effort to attract "switchers" to the Macintosh platform.

However, Kay said he thinks the 256 MB of RAM was light in the specification. "A lot of people would want to double the RAM for numerous reasons," Kay said.

Deconstructing the Desktop

Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, said he believes the new iMac G5 could attract new Apple buyers in addition to traditional Mac loyalists.

"These new iMacs clearly blaze a new trail in personal computer design. And, linking it to the design concept of the iPod adds to its mystique. This is another winner from Apple," said Bajarin.

Illuminata senior analyst Gordon Haff suggested that this is a shift in design and perhaps a hint at the future.

"This is the LCD generation of iMac; it's a technology change that leads to a whole new form factor than before. And it's a form factor that has far more in common with their laptops than past designs," Haff said.

According to Kay this movement toward the notebook form factor is a clear Apple strategy.

"Apple's main thrust with students is to convert them to notebooks," he explained. "The iMac is in that line of products targeting consumers and students."

Supply and Demand

Rumblings continue with speculation on the availability of G5 PowerPC processors from IBM for a mid-September target iMac release.

For his part, Kay said he does not think Apple would want to revisit the inventory issues they have experienced in the past.

"I would assume there is sufficient supply available to handle projected iMac volume," Kay said.

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