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Faster iMacs on the way

Apple will release a faster version of its popular desktop in the near future, a product rollout that will help stem a growing shortage of some models.

Apple will release a faster version of its popular iMac desktop in the near future, a product rollout that will help stem a growing shortage of first-generation "fruit-flavored" systems at most retailers.

Apple Computer's newest iteration of the iMac is expected to include a 333-MHz PowerPC processor in place of the current 266-MHz chip, said industry sources, but otherwise will virtually be identical to the current iMacs. Even the suggested retail price, $1,199, will be the same.

While a release date has yet to be set, Apple is expected to officially introduce the systems after it reports quarterly results April 19, according to industry sources. Resellers, however, said they hope to be receiving and selling the updated iMacs as early as this week.

Apple declined to comment.

Apple released the fruit-flavored iMacs in January, and supplies of the most popular colors at most dealers have been tight in the months following since. Notwithstanding, iMacs were the fourth best-selling systems on the market in February, according to PC Data.

No official price cuts on older iMacs will come from Apple as the company moves to limit its exposure to losses incurred from inventory issues, but the move could force some stores with many iMacs to lower prices anyway.

Dealers with inventory of the older Bondi Blue "classic" iMac have been selling systems for below $900, and those prices could fall further with two other variations of the iMac available to consumers. The lowest-priced iMacs, the original Bondi Blue models have been outselling the individual fruit-flavored iMacs, although the fruit flavors as a group are selling in larger numbers.

One source at a large reseller noted that they had not been notified of exact system specifications yet, and that Apple might still ship a 300-MHz chip in the revised iMac.

No new colors are being added, but dealers will have some ordering changes to take into account.

Apple has discovered that the blueberry systems have outsold all other fruit colors by a significant margin. To facilitate production planning, dealers will have to buy four blueberry iMacs to go with one each of the other four colors when they buy systems from Apple, sources said. Dealers can still order individual systems from distributors.

For consumers, the end result of Apple's moves is better availability of their preferred colors.

Meanwhile, Apple has launched its first promotion for its PowerMac G3 systems by offering either a free built-in modem or Zip drive. In addition, customers buying Apple's 17-inch monitor get a $100 mail-in rebate. The offer runs through June 27 for qualifying systems.