The computer maker unveiled the design--its third all-in-one iMac--on Tuesday at the Apple Expo in Paris and, in doing so, ended considerable speculation. Apple had kept the specs of the iMac G5 a secret, but that didn't stop a number offrom having a say about the possibilities.
Many Mac users Apple would go with a design that placed the computer's innards directly behind the display.
The unveiling also marks somewhat of a change in emphasis for the company, whose designs for desktop computers in recent months have been overshadowed by the look and feel of its iPod digital music player. On its Web site, Apple asserts that the iMac G5 is "as fun and useful" as the iPod. In fact, the iPod design team came up with the new iMac, which Apple describes as "enchanting."
Apple unveiled a new iMac that has all of its components tucked into a 2-inch-thick flat-screen display.
The original flat-panel iMac scored high for its quotient of "cool," but sales cooled off quickly. Can the new design do better?
"What would the creators of the iPod do for their next computer?" Phil Schiller, Apple's senior VP of worldwide product marketing, said at the Paris unveiling to describe the rationale behind the latest addition to the Mac family.
The iMac line could probably use some of the iPod's cachet. While sales of the music player have been scorching, sales of the previous version of the desktopover time.
The company would have liked to unveil the new machine earlier. Apple first confirmed that ain July. At that time, it said that it had stopped taking orders for iMac G4 models and that it had hoped to have an all-new model available before G4 stocks ran out. Instead, Apple was hampered by a shortage of G5 processors.
Although Apple began taking orders for the iMac G5 on its Web site Tuesday and plans to ship the systems in mid-September, the gap in timing has left the company without a consumer-oriented desktop to sell for a good portion of the 2004 back-to-school season.
Still, the new desktop's iPod-like profile and finish could serve to bring in some new blood from among the millions of iPod owners, one analyst said.
With the new iMac G5, Apple has once
again come up with a unique package
of design, power and ease of use.
But will it be enough?
The iMac G5 still faces some obstacles, including its starting price, which, at $1,299, is higher than the typical $500 to $700 consumer-oriented desktop PCs and $400 17-inch LCD displays. But Apple and others, such as Gateway, have shown that there is a market for all-in-ones despite their price and the fact that a display can outlive a desktop PC by years.
"To Apple, price isn't the most important thing," Baker said. "A car is a car, but a BMW is a BMW. The value in an iMac is not in the hard drive, it's in the design and the ease of use--at least that's what they'll tell you--so why would you sacrifice design to cram another 256MB of RAM in there?"
Timeline of the iMac
Steve Jobs touts the new iMac as a catalyst for Apple's comeback
Is the iMac over the hill at age 3?
Apple introduces first flat-panel iMac
Apple announces it has 150,000 preorders for new iMac
Blaming flat-panel and memory prices, Apple hikes price of all iMac models by $100
Apple introduces eMac, cheaper CRT-based alternative to the flat-panel iMac
Apple introduces 17-inch flat-panel iMac
Apple refreshes iMac line with new 15-inch and 17-inch models
Apple discontinues original gumdrop-style iMac, ending its five-year run
Apple speeds up 15-inch, 17-inch iMacs
Apple introduces 20-inch iMac
Apple announces new iMac on the way, though delayed; stops taking orders for current models
Aimed primarily at the education market, the eMac offers a 17-inch CRT, 1.25GHz PowerPC G4 processor and combination CD-burner/DVD-ROM for a starting price of $799.
What it packs
In spite of the new iMac's slim profile, Apple squeezed a fair amount of power into the machines. All three models include a G5 processor, otherwise known as IBM's PowerPC 970, and two come with Apple's SuperDrive DVD burner.
The most basic $1,299 model will include a 1.6GHz processor and a 17-inch screen, with a resolution of 1,440 by 900 pixels. It also comes with 256MB of RAM; an 80GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive; a combination CD-burner/DVD-ROM drive; Nvidia's GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics chip; and 64MB of dedicated graphics memory. Apple's Mac OS X version 10.3 operating system is also included.
The intermediate model, priced at $1,499, has the same screen but offers a faster 1.8GHz processor, whose data pipeline to and from memory also accelerates to 600MHz from 533MHz. It comes with the Apple SuperDrive, a combination DVD-burner/CD-burner.
The $1,899 model's 20-inch screen offers a resolution of 1,680 by 1,050 pixels. This iMac also includes the 1.8GHz chip, a 160GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive, and the SuperDrive.
Customers who purchase any of the machines directly from Apple can add more memory and a larger hard drive and can opt for add-ons such as an Apple AirPort Extreme wireless card. When fitted with 1GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive and an Airport card, the 20-inch model costs about $2,300, Apple's site shows.
As part of its efforts to keep the iMac G5 trim, Apple used design tricks such as incorporating the machine's power supply, making for a less bulky power cord arrangement; many other thin desktops use a brick-like external power supply. Apple also included a complement of audio- and video-out, USB, FireWire and Ethernet ports, and gives customers the option of adding Bluetooth, the short-range wireless networking technology for connecting peripherals.
The Bluetooth module alone adds $50, while the module plus a keyboard and mouse adds $99 to the price of an iMac purchased directly from Apple.
Specifications aside, it's the design that Apple hopes will sell the system.
"Everyone is going to be asking, 'Where did the computer go?' The entire computer (now) floats in the air," said Schiller. Apple, he said, is aiming for a machine that people will be "proud to have in their den, their living room or in the front of a small business."
Jo Best of Silicon.com in London contributed to this report.