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Apple Bumps iMac To 1 GHz, Adds Bluetooth Option, Drops Price

Apple Bumps iMac To 1 GHz, Adds Bluetooth Option, Drops Price

by , 9:00 AM EST, February 4th, 2003

Apple has, at long last, finally released a speed bumped iMac. The company has revamped the entire iMac line into a two-model product line it is calling the "Spring Line." At the top end is a 17" iMac with a 1 GHz processor, a first for Apple's consumer desktop. At the entry-level is a 15" iMac with an 800 MHz processor. This marks the first time Apple has offered only two models of the iMac since the company first introduced the original CRT iMac in 1998.

Apple has also lowered the price of the iMac, at least on the high end. The 17" iMac now starts at US$1799, while the entry-level unit actually has a higher starting price of US$1299, though the entry-level unit now includes the Apple Pro Speakers, a combo-drive, more RAM (256 MB), a larger hard drive.

Other changes to the iMac line include the addition of Bluetooth. Apple has also taken the rather bizarre path of introducing AirPort Extreme (802.11g) only on the 17" iMac, while keeping the 15" iMac saddled with regular AirPort (802.11b), splitting its own market (see The Mac Observer Spin below for commentary). Apple also omitted FireWire 800 from the iMac Spring Line.

Apple also announced a price reduction for the eMac product line, which TMO is covering in a separate story. From Apple:

Apple(R) today announced its Spring line of iMac(R) computers, featuring two new models. The new 17-inch widescreen model features a 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processor and 133 MHz system bus; 256MB of Double Data Rate (DDR) memory; a faster 4x SuperDrive(TM) for playing and burning CDs and DVDs; and internal support for AirPort(R) Extreme and Bluetooth, for just US$1,799. The new 15-inch flat panel model features an 800 MHz G4 processor and is now priced at just US$1,299 -- US$200 less than its predecessor.

Designed around an ultra-compact base, the iMac's flat panel display appears to float in mid-air, allowing users to effortlessly adjust its height or angle with just a touch. The 17-inch widescreen and 15-inch flat panel iMacs also offer two FireWire(R) 400 and five USB ports for fast, simple, plug-and-play connections to digital devices such as digital cameras, DV camcorders and iPods.

The 17-inch widescreen iMac offers the latest in communications with internal support for optional high-speed 54Mbps AirPort Extreme 802.11g wireless networking, offering speeds up to five times faster than previous wireless technologies, and optional internal Bluetooth for wireless connectivity to a range of peripherals such as cell phones and PDAs. Apple's new iSync software is included, so customers can automatically synchronize address books and calendars between Macs and Bluetooth capable cell phones.

Both flat panel iMac models include Mac OS X "Jaguar," Apple's next- generation operating system and Apple's iLife(TM) applications, an integrated suite offering iTunes(TM) 3 for managing digital music, iPhoto(TM) 2 for organizing and sharing digital photos, iMovie(TM) 3 for digital movie-making, and iDVD(TM) 3 for creating and burning Hollywood-style DVDs (SuperDrive models only). Also included is a collection of productivity and entertainment titles such as Quicken 2003 Deluxe, Microsoft Office v.X Test Drive and World Book 2003 Edition.

Pricing & Availability
iMac and eMac desktops are available immediately through the Apple Store(R), at Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.

The 17-inch widescreen flat-panel iMac, for a suggested retail price of US$1,799, includes:

  • a 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processor with Velocity Engine;
  • a 4x SuperDrive DVD-R/CD-RW optical drive;
  • an NVIDIA GeForce4 MX graphics processor with 64MB video memory;
  • 256MB of DDR system memory;
  • internal support for AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth;
  • an 80GB Ultra ATA hard drive; and
  • Apple Pro Speakers.

The 15-inch flat panel iMac, for a suggested retail price of US$1,299, includes:

  • an 800 MHz PowerPC G4 processor with Velocity Engine;
  • a 32x Combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW optical drive;
  • an NVIDIA GeForce2 MX graphics processor with 32MB video memory;
  • 256MB of system memory;
  • internal support for AirPort wireless networking;
  • a 60GB Ultra ATA hard drive; and
  • Apple Pro Speakers.

Build-to-order options and accessories include additional memory, AirPort or AirPort Extreme Card, AirPort Extreme Base Station, Bluetooth and the AppleCare(R) Protection Plan.

You can find more information on the iMac at Apple's Web site.

The Mac Observer Spin:

We are frankly surprised by a number of aspects of today's announcement. First and foremost is the simplified product line. Offering only two models for the iMac offers several compelling advantages to Apple as a manufacturer, as well as to retailers (including its own Apple Stores), in terms of inventory-related issues. That helps everyone keep costs down, and makes for easier choices for consumers.

The second really big surprise is the notion of having one iMac with AirPort, and the other with AirPort Extreme. Perhaps the company thinks that AirPort Extreme will compel more people to buy the more expensive model, but we think that the other features alone will do that (bigger screen, faster processor, bigger drive, and better video). The idea of splitting its own market doesn't seem to make a lot of sense in that it means Apple can't standardize its own inventory on AirPort Extreme, and introduces consumer confusion for no apparent benefit. That said, it is possible that limiting the low-end iMac to AirPort was necessary in order to maintain margins at the price point of US$1299. Without being privy to Apple's reasoning, this seems to us to be a bizarre, and rather silly choice for Apple to have made.

We are also surprised that neither iMac includes FireWire 800 options. Apple is clearly not intent on seeing wide-scale adoption of the faster technology, having kept it off the iMac, as well as the entry-level 12" PowerBook. It's an interesting strategy.

Now, on to the good: the price drop on the high-end iMac is a very good thing. With the faster processors, the addition of Bluetooth (as an option), and AirPort Extreme, the 17" iMac has become a much more compelling choice. The price drop was not as significant as the reductions on the PowerMac line announced last week, but is still good. There was less room to work with on the iMac line, as margins on the unit are smaller than on the PowerMac line.

The entry-level iMac being bumped by US$100, which Apple is trying to position as "yesterday's 800 MHz iMac is now US$200 less expensive", is less good. It's balanced, however, by the fact that the entry-level unit not has a minimum of 256 MB of RAM, necessary for Mac OS X, a combo-drive, as well as the addition of Apple Pro Speakers. The previous entry-level iMac had 128 MB of RAM, a CD burner, and no speakers. The new version is definitely more compelling as an entry-level machine.

All in all, we think the new iMac line, the "Spring Line" if you will, is pretty solid, other than the AirPort/AirPort Extreme silliness.

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