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September 01, 2004

Nothing left to take away: the iMac G5

Almost everybody reading this already knows, but Apple introduced the new G5 iMac today (actually yesterday, as I check the clock). Single processor, 1.6 or 1.8 gigahertz, hooked to Apple's great 17" or 20" LCD display. A little skimpy on memory with 256 megabytes stock on each model.

The big news is the minimalist design. It's a 2-inch deep rectangle, with an aluminum stand keeping the whole thing from floating off your desk.

Many of the stories talk about the debt the new design owes the iPod. I wonder if they considered putting a clickwheel under the display, to be used as a hardware equivalent of Synergy, and to allow scrubbing in other media apps.

If the monitor-spanning hack works with it, you could build an amazing system by hooking a new 20" display into a 20" iMac, all for around the price of a 17" G4 PowerBook.
Update: The monitor spanning hack works; here are pictures to prove it.

Speaking of, when will we see a G5 PowerBook? Checking out the innards, it looks like Apple could build a 17" G5 PowerBook right now, if people would buy a 3-inch-thick PowerBook. In other words, if they could design it like a Dell.

Taking the shorter list first, here's what I don't like about the new iMac:

The monitor is still locked into the CPU, so you're forced to upgrade them together.

No FireWire 800?

Things I love:

The pricing: the systems are $400-$500 less than the G4 systems they replace.

They're VESA-compliant, so you can hang the whole thing from a desk or wall mount.

Punditry:

Find myself agreeing with Chuck Toporek that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth should be standard to further cement Apple's place as the PC maker who includes what costs extra with the leading brand. I wonder if they're doing it to push build-to-order sales, since the integrated wireless options are only available through the online Apple Store.

Find myself disagreeing with Paul Jackson of Forrester Research that this machine should have been a media center PC competitor. Jackson obviously likes his, but I don't know a single Media Center PC owner, and I haven't seen any evidence from ads and store displays that they're setting the world on fire.

I continue to hold out hope that Apple will legitimize this space, as they did with MP3 players when they introduced the iPod, by introducing an iServe that, among other things, can interface with your cable or satellite provider and stream video to any computer in the house (and the TV, naturally). There have been a couple of rumors about iPod-related products in 2005, and if the iPod eventually supports video, the iServe is right there.

Side note: Jackson says, "Better still would have been a software option to turn this machine into a full Wi-Fi access point: Intel's Grantsdale chipset already promises this functionality for PC owners." It does this, Paul. So will any Mac with an ethernet port and an AirPort card since 1999. Simple matter of checking "Share my Internet connection through...."

Like Adam Engst's suggestion that a new iMac plus Open Door's Envision would be a dandy living room installation, that would double as a digital picture frame.

Adam repeats the conventional wisdom that Apple has to disable monitor spanning to differentiate Pro and Consumer machines, and Glenn Fleishman suggests monitor spanning would add $75 to $100 to retail price. I doubt it. The monitor-spanning hack above proves the hardware support has been included on almost every recent consumer Mac. It's entirely a marketing decision, and I think it's one that doesn't make much sense in 2004.

Now that the G5 Pro line is all dual, it's differentiated by 1) having twice the CPUs, 2) faster frontside bus, 3) more maximum memory, 4) PCI-X expansion, 5) FireWire 800, 6) digital audio both in and out, 7) gigabit ethernet, and 8) much beefier video cards. Letting the iMac span monitors would be a very powerful argument for why the Mac is worth the premium over a Wintel box. It would also probably sell a lot of Apple displays.

On the PowerBook side, most of the same differences persist, although my 12" model shares some of the limitations of the iBook. Once again, only the Pro models (the "PowerBooks") are allowed to span monitors, even though the iBook features a 32 megabyte ATI Mobility Radeon 9200. Again, Apple would be better served by shipping a software upgrade that enabled spanning across the product line and really playing up what a difference the extra real estate makes.

September 1, 2004 in Apple, Apple - Desktops, Apple - General | Permalink

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