Tokyo Complaints, iMac/Cube Gripes, & Praise For The GeForce3 February 23rd, 2001
Poor Apple, can't catch a break. We Mac users are such armchair quarterbacks, back seat drivers, and Critiqués Extraordináire, it seems Apple can do nothing right. Better yet, many of us have deluded ourselves into thinking our opinions matter. Whoops, that includes me, so I guess it's time I start ranting about the Tokyo announcements.
Yesterday, I penned a piece about the new iMac colors. I strongly disliked them at first, but now I love 'em. I think they are great, and I think they are going to rejuvenate sagging iMac sales once again. The fact that iMac sales need to be rejuvenated is the sad thing, because it is something that is totally avoidable in my ever so non-humble opinion.
I think the iMac, as we currently know it, has run its course. There's only one reason for that too, and that's the damned monitor that's in it. It's 15", and that's a loose definition of 15" too as it only has 13.8" of viewable space which is about as small you can get and stillcall it 15". It's getting hard to even find a 15" monitor at the retail level any more, and that's because NO ONE WANTS TO FREAKIN' BUY ONE! Would it really be so hard to slap either a 17" CRT or a 15" flat panel in an iMac? I find it hard to believe that it would be that difficult or expensive, but I don't have access to the numbers. Logic says that because it is so irrational for Apple to still be shipping iMacs with 15" monitors that there must therefore be a compelling reason why they don't, but I just find it difficult to swallow. With a larger screen or a true 15" flat panel display, I think that Apple could sell many millions of iMacs all over again.
I also think that Apple has screwed up with its CD-RW implementation. Apple's management realized that they had utterly missed the boat with CD-RW, and Steve Jobs admitted as much this past fall. The problem is that their solution is just as bad as the problem. Instead of adding a CD-RW option, or making CD-RW standard and keeping DVD as an option, they have swung 180 degrees and made CD-RW the *only* option. Believe it or not, there are people who want to play DVDs on their computers as well as people who want to burn CDs. The ideal solution would be a sort of Not-As-SuperDrive that plays DVDs/CDs and burns CD-R/CD-RW, but that drive hasn't really hit the market at the right price point yet. Still, when ordering an iMac, Apple should give customers a DVD option for those who want it.
That brings us to the blankety-blank low end consumer oriented entry model iMac. Apple announced that they price for this model was going to be raised by a mere US$100. For this US$100, you get 50 more MHz, a couple of FireWire ports, and the ability to mirror your video to an outside monitor, all important considerations for low-end consumers to be sure (please, please, please note the sarcasm). With RAM being as cheap as it is, and other component prices continuing to drop as well, it seems to me that Apple could have found a way to make the low end model faster while keeping it at the same price. If that meant no FireWire and video mirroring, then so be it. If there is a cost savings from having the exact same motherboard on the entire product line, then let the low end be a loss leader.
Reports from Apple have suggested that the high-end models have vastly outsold the low iMacs. Conventional wisdom would therefore suggest that Apple need not concern itself with the low-end market. I have no idea if that is why Apple has taken this path, but if so, I think it is flawed reasoning. While buyers may not have been purchasing the US$799 models, that model was still luring many buyers to at least look at the iMac. In other words, the mere presence of a cheap iMac made some people who may otherwise have ignored the iMac take a look at the product line. Many of those then opted for more expensive models once they checked them out.
I have anecdotal evidence to support this too. I have a friend who was looking to buy a cheap computer. Though he researched the all low-end Macs and PCs out there, he immediately took a look at the higher end iMacs once he saw them in person. Of course, he ended up buying a cheap and crappy PC just because it was cheap, so I am not sure if he supports or negates my arguments here. I any event, I think it was a bad move to raise the price of their low-end models. It appears that at least some Wall Street analysts share that view.
On the high end, I would like to have seen speeds of 700 MHz. I don't know whether or not there are G3s available at that speed, but if so, it was a bad decision not to use them. This is just a general whine, so pay little heed to it, as I have no information to back it up.
Add it all up, and the only thing I was really consider to be positive about the new iMac is the new colors.
I love the Cube. From an artistic stand point that is. It is beautiful and it is quiet. I like quiet. I wish all computers were as quiet as the iMac and the Cube. And pretty. I wish all computers were as flat out cool looking as the Cube. I am a Tower person myself though, because I am a fan of slots. Even if I never use them, I personally like having the option. If this were not the case, I would dump my G4 tower and get a Cube in a heartbeat.
But I digress...
The Cube is beautiful, but it has fewer features than a tower. It is for this reason that I think it should be cheaper than a tower. Assuming Apple could make a profit, I think they should offer a Cube for US$999. I think they would sell a gillion of the things at that price point. Don't be fooled by the US$1299 model either; it's just the left over first generation model that didn't sell, and it frankly isn't worth US$1299. It would be a good deal at US$999 with 128 MB of RAM. This is another case of me just not understanding what Apple is thinking. They admitted that the Cube was missing its target, but they don't make the right moves to make it work. If you are going to make a beautiful machine with a feature set aimed at mid range consumers, don't price it for professionals. Call me whacky.
The biggest news to come out of the keynote is the fact that the GeForce3 is coming to the Mac. Not only is it coming to the Mac, it is coming to the Mac first! This is remarkable news. I wonder how much money exchanged hands, but however much, it was worth it. This is going to help position the Mac as a serious gaming platform, especially once we see some games come out for OS X. It's all about perception, and even if the GeForce3 is Mac-only for a week, there are gamers who will have it in their heads that the Mac had something they wanted first! When is the last time that happened? I offer a big bow and two pats on the back to whomever it was that made this deal happen.
It's too bad that talk of the iMac colors has overshadowed the GeForce3 news, but what the heck. At least folks are talking. This is about the most controversial keynote we have seen since Bill Gate's Orwellian head loomed over the crowds in 1997. It appears we live in interesting times.
began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).