The Ongoing Conflict: iMac Budget, Power Mac Taste

Ever since Apple introduced the iMac in 1998, some Mac users have been left out in the cold when it comes to buying the Mac they want. The problem is simple: these users want the flexibility of a Power Mac but the simplicity and price of an iMac. Unfortunately, no real solution exists. Why isnit the iMac good enough? After all, millions of them have been sold, and the majority of users are happy.

The most obvious problem is its built-in monitor. Yes, 15" isnit a bad size. But monitor prices have been dropping steadily, and many consumers now want a larger 17" or even 19" screen. While the iMac does offer video-out, you are still stuck buying a 15" monitor, and you canit use multiple monitors to display different things with an iMac.

Another problem is the iMacis lack of expandability. You canit add internal drives, for one thing. Furthermore, there are no PCI or AGP expansion slots. Admittedly, not many people feel the need to add internal drives or PCI or AGP cards. But those of us on a budget might like the option - especially gamers who want to upgrade the video hardware.

Appleis answer for those clamoring for a "headless" iMac is the Power Mac Cube. But letis face it: The Cube may be stylish, but it certainly isnit a flexible and expandable system. It has no extra expansion slots, and no room for internal drives. Besides, it is definitely out of the price range of most consumers, at $1799 sans monitor.

So what should Apple do? Easy: Introduce a new low-cost system that is expandable. To keep costs down, use existing components where possible. For example, the G4 case could be used, but offer it in Indigo blue. Donit bother with the high-priced G4 processor; instead, use a 500 MHz G3.

Other standard equipment should include 128 MB of RAM, at least a 10 GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, and an ATI RAGE 128 16 MB video card. Three PCI slots would offer plenty of expandability, while a couple empty drive bays would leave room for future growth.

Of course, this system could be built-to-order at the Apple Store, which means Apple could offer options like a Zip drive, ATI Radeon video card, more RAM, a bigger hard drive, SCSI support, etc.

All this...for the low price of $1199. Thatis $400 below an entry level G4, and $600 less than a Cube. Sure, you donit get a G4 processor, but that is a compromise many people would gladly live with.

Such a system would offer Mac consumers the same level of flexibility enjoyed by PC users, along with an affordable price. If Apple truly wants to please its customers, a system like this should be offered as soon as possible. The Cube just doesnit cut it!