itmWEB TechWeekly

August 8, 1998

The iMac: Apple Matters Again

Steve Jobs is about to work that old Apple magic.

Not since the introduction of the first Macintosh back in the early 1980's has the company created this level of anticipation and buzz. The folks at Apple are beaming, and so is the very loyal Apple customer base. The iMac is shaping up to be a hit with consumers, and it is breathing new life into the Cupertino, CA based company. The new machine is all set to be released on August 15th.

Impressive technology in a High-Tech Package

Jobs gave the product designers a mandate to innovate, and they delivered an all-in-one product with a George Jettson futuristic flavor. This is a Year 2000 product, brought to us one full year ahead of schedule courtesy of Apple Computer. The company has reached back to the original Mac concept - but with a late 1990's twist.

My first impression? This is one good looking machine. The case is translucent aqua in color, and the technology inside is moderately visible though the clear outer shell. The unit only has three parts: the computer, the keyboard, and the mouse. The lines are smooth and flowing, not ridiculous and obvious like Compaq's current Presario line. The computer is an easy nominee for this year's product design awards.

The hardware inside is equally head turning. To start, it has a 233MHz PowerPC G3 processor (with 512K of level 2 backside cache for an added boost). Don't let the 233MHz clock speed fool you - these chips easily challenge Pentium II processors rated at 400MHz for speed and performance. The bus runs at 66MHz, and the built-in components include a 56k modem and a 10/100 BaseT ethernet card.

The display is 15 inches with resolution up to 1024x768. Standard memory is 32MB expandable to 128MB. A 4Mbps infrared port is included as well as built-in stereo speakers. One interesting change is that the keyboard and mouse are connected using the new Universal Serial Bus (USB) port technology. Additional ports are available for connecting external peripherals such as high density storage devices. The internal hard drive is 4 gigabytes.

Some Obvious Omissions

Apple deliberately left out the disk drive. The company now feels that most programs will be loaded from the 24x CD-ROM drive or via the internet. The ethernet card, modem, or infrared port can be used for data transfers. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen a device such as a zip drive included, but this can be attached though an external port.

CompUSA is Expecting an iMac Stampede!

CompUSA has been taking iMac orders since July 26th. The suggested retail price is $ 1,299. Larry Mondry, EVP of CompUSA's Merchandising, stated in a recent Bloomberg News interview that "We believe the iMac has the potential to become one of CompUSA's best-selling desktop computers of all time." The company is planning a huge marketing campaign. Apple products now account for 14 % of CompUSA's sales.

Apple is gearing up for a media blitz as well. Believe me, the iMac launch will put the image of the computer everywhere you look. Apple will also drive home the message that the company really matters again. A welcome message to Mac loyalists.

Built for Business?

Will we see iMac computers replacing Wintel machines for business applications anytime soon? No way. Not within the committed Wintel companies at least. Apple computers will continue to be niche purpose machines in my opinion. Macs still remain the first choice of the multitude of graphics designers and media layout professionals, and this is not likely to change anytime soon.

At the many educational institutions across the world which have large Apple investments and infrastructure, the CIOs must be breathing heavy sighs of relief. This is a product which will support those environments nicely, and the iMac will probably enjoy widespread acceptance at these institutions.

The iMac's Future

The iMac does three important things for Apple:

  • It creates badly needed positive buzz for the company. It shows that Apple still matters in the PC world
  • If analysts are correct, it puts growth back into the company. Apple's market share could jump from 3% to 4.5% in one year.
  • It regains the attention of the software development community. The iMac is built for multi-media applications and as an Internet browsing appliance. Apple badly needs new software offerings to exploit the power of its new creation. This product can bring developers back into the fold.

I for one am happy to see that Apple still has the ability to innovate and deliver bold new product ideas to the marketplace. Let's hope they can capitalize on this new positive momentum.