The white, desk lamp-like iMac with its adjustable flat-panel screen debuted to bothand critical acclaim, but sales quickly lost steam, leaving analysts unsurprised by Apple Computer's plans for an all-new design. Apple stopped taking orders for the flat-panel iMac on Thursday.
"The old iMac wasn't selling so well, and it was getting long in the tooth," said retail analyst Stephen Baker, who tracks the computer market for the NPD Group.
Apple has declined to comment on the replacement iMac, but the company issued a statement Thursday saying it hadof the current model and would have a new one ready by September. Apple said it hoped to have the new model sooner but wouldn't say what led to the holdup.
Timeline of the iMac
Apple introduces first flat-panel iMac
Apple announces it has 150,000 pre-orders 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, but delayed; stops taking orders for current models
The current iMac design, succeeding the translucent machine famous for its variety of gumdrop colors. The flat-panel landed on the cover of Time magazine just as CEO Steve Jobs showed the machine off before thousands of Mac fans at Macworld Expo San Francisco. In less than a month, Apple boasted 150,000 pre-orders.
For a time, the unit was, and Apple chose to briefly by $100 to make up for rising component costs. By June of that year, there were already signs that demand was .
Combined iMac sales of $448 million peaked in that first quarter and have steadily declined since.
"If you look at the history of this iMac, the one thing that has to strike you is the huge jump out of the starting line," Baker said. "Once it got going, I'm not sure it ever really caught on."
In the quarter that ended in March 2004, Apple sold 217,000 iMacs--the lowest total ever and below the 233,000 units of the original iMac sold in the last quarter before the flat-panel model was introduced.
The flat-panel remained a pricey machine throughout its life. Unlike the original, which eventually entered the sub-$1,000 and sub-$800 ranks, all varieties of the flat-panel iMac sold for a suggested price of at least $1,200.
Only a few months after introducing the flat-panel iMac, Apple, a lower-cost all-in-one built around a 17-inch CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor. The model was initially introduced for only the education market, but Apple quickly it to consumers as well.
The arrival of the flat-panel iMac also coincided with a shift among Apple buyers, and computer owners generally, toward laptops. Portable machines now account for nearly half of Apple's unit sales.
The flat-panel iMac's 30-month life was comparatively long for computer designs but only about half as long as theof the original iMac, which debuted in 1998 and was finally discontinued in March 2003, more than a year after the arrival of the flat-panel machine.
Nonetheless, design experts say that both generations of iMacs made their mark on the computer industry.
"The iMac clearly had a significant impact on the design of IT products and a very positive impact both in its original form and in the flat panel," said Mike Nuttall, a co-founder of industrial design firm Ideo.
Nuttall said the fact that few Windows computer makers followed suit with flat-panel all-in-ones may be a sign of the different ways Mac users and PC owners view their devices.
"A PC user is so used to the precedent of being able to buy displays separately from the (computer) and enjoys that freedom," Nuttall said. "I think the typical Mac user is very committed to Apple...Having the computer all in one is maybe more acceptable to a Mac user."