Readers weigh in on iMac design

reader feedback Apple's mum on what its next-generation desktop will look like, but News.com readers offer their suggestions.

Margaret Kane Former Staff writer, CNET News
Margaret is a former news editor for CNET News, based in the Boston bureau.
Margaret Kane
4 min read
CNET News.com readers' consensus predictions are in: The new iMac will incorporate a more powerful G5 processor, a large flat-panel screen and a casing of brushed aluminum.

Apple Computer has released few details regarding its forthcoming PC killer, and if history is any guide the company will aim to surprise.

Beyond anticipating novelty, readers debated whether Apple should continue the iMac tradition of an all-in-one design or offer a separate monitor for greater flexibility.

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A few suggested doing away with the pedestal and slipping the computer's guts in behind a flat-panel screen; others called for a return to Apple's failed cube design and a separate monitor; while one reader pondered the possibilities of a detachable tablet-style screen.

"People wouldn't *have* to stick to a single size of display. Businesses could more easily justify them as alternatives to virus-prone Windows boxes," wrote Jonathan Fingas in favor of a modular approach.

Others pointed out that the guessing game has been going on for a while, linking to mock-ups posted on an Apple community site.

Word from one Apple insider adds credence to some of these unsubstantiated musings: "Imagine combining the G5 and the Cinema display, and that should give you a pretty good idea" of what the new machine will look like, a source told CNET News.com recently, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The next-generation model is due in September, but Apple has so far declined to say what shape it will take. One thing's for sure, though: The company has a reputation to live up to. The current iMac, which debuted in January 2002, looked like no other computer before it, with a flat-screen display on a swivel arm riding above a half-moon base.

Apple has garnered attention for other designs as well, from the original Macintosh to the Newton PDA to today's zeitgeist gadget, the iPod digital music player. Often the response has been in the form of applause, but there have been catcalls, too, over the years.

As for what the upcoming iMac should look like, readers' response has ranged from requests for specific features to praise for Apple's previous efforts.

"The all-in-one in education, K-12, should no longer be the only option from Apple," commented a Michael Theochares. "The cost of repairing/replacing the monitor for these outweighs the benefits."

Timeline of the iMac

July 8, 1998
Steve Jobs touts the new iMac as a catalyst for Apple's comeback

July 16, 2001
Is the iMac over the hill at age 3?

January 7, 2002
Apple introduces first flat-panel iMac

January 28, 2002
Apple announces it has 150,000 preorders for new iMac

March 21, 2002
Blaming flat-panel and memory prices, Apple hikes price of all iMac models by $100

April 29, 2002
Apple introduces eMac, cheaper CRT-based alternative to the flat-panel iMac

July 17, 2002
Apple introduces 17-inch flat-panel iMac

February 4, 2003
Apple refreshes iMac line with new 15-inch and 17-inch models

March 18, 2003
Apple discontinues original gumdrop-style iMac, ending its five-year run

September 8, 2003
Apple speeds up 15-inch, 17-inch iMacs

Nov. 18, 2003
Apple introduces 20-inch iMac

July 1, 2004
Apple announces new iMac on the way, but delayed; stops taking orders for current models

Some people also predicted that Apple would continue to use the clean white lines so popular on its iPod music player, while others lobbied for aluminum. Possible additions include Bluetooth accessories to eliminate wire clutter, and there were calls for greater expandability. At least one reader put in a good word for "cinema" displays.

But more than one reader noted that looking pretty won't be enough to help the company, whose share of the PC market is miniscule.

"Apple needs to compete. Enough of this laid back, whatever type attitude. If they are going to remain a computer company (Which I'm starting to question what with Apple seriously focusing on Music and the iPod.) they need to kick some butt," writes a reader identified as John Doe.

"They need to put more money into the quality and performance of their computers and lower the price. Don't waste time on some cutsey looking PC, get a PC for it's functionality and performance," noted Robert King.

Of course, comments like that predictably prompted shouts from Mac loyalists that "time and time again the computer industry looks to Apple for the next idea or look" of the personal computer, as one reader put it.

There was also some debate as to whether Apple would even go forward with a new iMac, or instead simply focus on G5 desktop and associated models.

"They will definitely be G5, or will offer G5, possibly dual," wrote one reader.

"Apple needs three product lines, for both desktop and notebook computers. The entry level, all-in-one desktop coupled with a basic notebook (iMac); the powerful, professional desktop and notebook (PowerMac/Book); AND a midrange pair that look funky and do things that few other computers can," wrote Bc Saxman.

Reader Sundar Ranganathan agreed with the notion that Apple should stick to several product lines, with different family members in mind.

The new iMac, Ranganathan wrote, would be similar to the existing models except that it would have a wireless keyboard and mice and a wall-hangable display with TV tuner and S-video inputs. "Moms can hang this in the kitchen, watch TV, listen to music using itunes; kids can play silly games and dance to beats etc.; There would be a slot load DVD+-R/RW on the side of the LCD. in other words this time it would be "dump the dome!!"

CNET News.com's Evan Hansen contributed to this report.