The Silver Lining in the New iMac Line

by David Lang (Posted: 7/19/01)

Steve Jobs' MacWorld Keynote has come and gone, and the newly redesigned iMac everyone was hoping for is still nowhere to be seen. Instead, the "new" iMac line offers nothing more than a slight increase in speed, RAM, and hard disk space. Heck, Apple didn't even bother to introduce any new colors! Yet while the rest of the Mac-loving community is weeping and gnashing its teeth, I am actually excited by this latest iMac lineup.

Why would I be excited about such a pathetic update to the iMac line? Because it is the clearest indication Apple could have given that the next generation of iMacs will be truly ground-breaking.

Deep in the bowels of Apple's engineering department, a new, way-cool iMac is readying completion, and until then, Apple is just biding its time. Otherwise, why would it be putting so little into the current iMac line? A minor bump in speed, memory, and storage is hardly enough to keep the iMac selling like hotcakes, and Apple knows it; but until the new iMac is ready for prime time, what else can Apple do? It's got to have something to sell in the consumer desktop space, but if it really thought there was any more life in the current iMac design, it would be doing more to keep it fresh and exciting. As it is, the iMac as we currently know it is dead, and Apple is just keeping it on life support until its newest incarnation can be brought to life.

Imagine if Jobs had unveiled an iMac in the same form factor with a 17" CRT--something people have been anticipating for years. Such an iMac would have cost Apple a great deal to manufacture, but at this stage of the game would represent only a minor improvement. Thankfully, Apple isn't even bothering with such incremental enhancements. Instead, it has chosen to keep stalling until it can unveil the next big computing revolution. And while such a policy may test the limits of our patience, it should serve as a source of hope that the next-generation iMac will be something to salivate over.

Right now, everyone is looking for an iMac with a built-in LCD display, but the price of LCDs is still fairly high. Apple may be waiting for the economies of scale to become right for such an iMac. The same might be true of an iMac equipped with the new DVD-writing Superdrive. You can now get a Superdrive-equipped Power Mac for $1000 less than before, so a high-end iMac with Superdrive may not be all that far away.

Whatever is waiting in the wings for the iMac line, the latest half-hearted step up is, for me, a clear indication that the next big thing ought to be fairly big.

Update: Six months after this article was written, Apple unveiled the flat-panel iMac in a radically redesigned form-factor, with a G4 processor AND a Superdrive. Now if only I hadn't bought mine just two months before the new widescreen model came out! (sigh...)

David Lang is CMUG's Content Editor. David works as a developer of Accordance Bible Software, and lives in Maitland, Florida with his wife and four children.