Apple Archive

Count Apple Out of the Low Cost Desktop Market

- 2003.04.11

We all know it, and I've said it a million times: Macs are not cheap computers. In fact, they are probably some of the most expensive personal computers available. However, the one thing that won't die is the idea of a low priced, monitor-less Mac.

When was the last one? The beige Power Mac G3 desktop, which was discontinued in January 1999. Apple hasn't released anything like it since.

There are two sides to this. Some think that Apple should release an inexpensive Mac because it would enable them to gain market share. The lower price would enable those who had always wanted a Mac - but couldn't afford one - to buy a Mac. It would also let those who already had a monitor buy a new computer without having to replace the monitor they already invested money in (especially important for those that have 19" and 21" displays).

But would people buy it?

The iBook's a pretty inexpensive laptop, but I don't see people rushing out to get them. Most people think of the PC as the computer to buy, not even thinking of the Macintosh as an alternative. Apple's "Switch" ads have probably helped to point the Mac out to people.

Some people think that releasing a headless Mac at this point would be a bit premature, given that an iBook can be had for $999, and you can use your existing monitor with that. So, not surprisingly, there are a number of people who think that a monitor-less Mac would be a complete flop. They think that a desktop would appeal to a limited market - those who don't have a monitor would buy an iMac or eMac, and those who have one already most likely have a large one and are willing to spend the extra cash on the G4 tower.

Perhaps Apple could consider a docking station, something like the old DuoDock for the iBook and 12" PowerBook. It could allow those who want a modular, desktop Mac to have that - as well as a nice portable. Of course, it wouldn't exactly be cheap.

I don't see Apple releasing either.

Yes, they both would cut into desktop and iMac sales. Apple also is very picky about monitors. They sell a desktop, and they want you to use one of their monitors. The reality is that most Mac users who own a Power Mac tower of some sort probably didn't buy an Apple monitor - and if Apple could get away with allowing you to only use an Apple monitor, they probably would. A desktop or docking station would give Apple one more worry: How to make sure people buy Apple monitors.

The PowerBook Duo line stayed around for a few years before it became more of a gimmick then a practical computer in the changing times when people demanded more in a portable. While it wasn't exactly a failure, it wasn't exactly what people wanted by 1996. The Cube was also a great idea, but it was too expensive, too limited, and too awkward (a tiny cube with a power adapter almost as big?) for home users.

Knowing Apple, if they bothered to release a desktop at all, it would end up costing more than any other desktop computer available, be completely unupgradable, and have a considerably less consumer-friendly setup than the iMac or eMac.

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