Apple Archive

Is Apple Killing the iMac?

- 2000.12.15

Let's go back to 1992, when consumer computing was a new area for the Macintosh. Apple Computer had competed before in this area with the Apple ][+, //e, and IIgs. In 1992, Apple took three models that already existed - the Classic II, LC II, and IIvx - and created the Macintosh Performa 200, 400, and 600. Apple later released the Performa 250, 450, 460, and 475, along with the all-in-one Performa 550/560 and 575. The 500-series Performas were all-in-one versions of the LC III+ and the LC 475.

Then Apple released the 630 series Performas. They were popular sellers, receiving good reviews from owners and magazines. But Apple spoilt it all when they released PowerPC Performas. These PowerPC versions used the PowerPC 603 processor, but sported a logic board design similar to that of the Performa 630 series. Not good - the PowerPC 603 is a 64-bit chip, and forcing a 75 MHz 603 to run on a 32-bit logic board slowed down performance to worse than that of the 6100/60! These machines were about the same speed as the 630 series machines (a little faster), but consumers' expectations were higher, expecting performance comparable to the 8100/80.

Then there were the quality problems. Many 6200s and 5200s had bad ROM/cache SIMMs, which needed replacing by an Apple dealer. Some 5200s had video problems where the display would occasionally turn a bluish tint. Luckily for those 6200 and 5200 owners, there is a repair extension program which expires in 2002. (In other words, if you have a bad ROM/cache SIMM or a video problem, get it fixed while you can)

Then there was the naming. Apple had by now gotten totally carried away. 6200CD, 6205CD, 6215CD, 6220CD, 6290CD - all for the same computer with different software bundles.

By the time Apple actually released decent Performas again, they had ruined the reputation of the Performa name. Performa had come to mean "poorly made," "problematic," and "underpowered."

The later Performa 6400/180 and 5400/180 were certainly not poorly made, problematic, or underpowered. The damage had been done, and Apple dropped the Performa name with the 6400 series, and released the new Power Macintosh 6400/200 and Power Macintosh 6500/225. The 6500's install CD states that it is the "Home Macintosh." The restore/tutorial CD is the same as the Performa CD, and even says "Performa" on the front.

The iMac

Is Apple getting carried away with the iMac?

First there was the iMac, followed by the iMac. Then proceeded the iMac - in five different colours, followed by the iMac with a slot loading CD-ROM drive, the iMac DV with a DVD drive, and the iMac DV SE - available in "graphite," featuring a bigger hard disk and faster processor.

The most recent "plain" iMac is almost the same as the previous models, except that it only ships in "indigo." The iMac DV now doesn't feature a DVD drive; it is available in indigo and ruby. The newly released iMac DV+ ships in indigo, ruby, and sage. This model does feature a DVD drive. The iMac DV SE now comes in graphite or a new colour, snow (which is, as you may have guessed, white). That's an awful lot of iMacs.

If you go into a store, tell them you have an iMac, and ask for a RAM upgrade, the next thing they ask you is "what kind of iMac?" The average user doesn't know! The thing says "iMac" on the front, so that's all that the user knows. (don't feel too bad - it's worse for PC users going into a store and telling them they have a "486 PC" wouldn't help them much more than if you said you had a "PC").

iMac was a great name - just like PowerBook, but PowerBook was used over and over again without a naming problem because Apple put numbers after it (PowerBook 140, PowerBook 520, PowerBook 5300). Apple seems to have dropped the numbers from their computer lines over the past few years, but they can't keep calling all of the base iMac models the "iMac." They need to figure out some way to separate the models so that the average user doesn't have to worry about different parts fitting only certain versions of the iMac, software upgrades working only on one specific model, etc. They also have to be careful not to create too many models at the same time.

Take a look at Compaq. They have countless "Presario" models. My sister has a 5441, but there were at least five others in that series. The difference? Software and hard drive size - just like Apple's old Performas. The iMac is starting to get this way, too. It was supposed to be an easy purchase for someone starting out on the computer, but now the Bondi blue space age machine has multiplied into four different models, each available in one, two, or three colours!

My suggestion? Trim the DV from the line, and rename the DV+ and DV SE (remove the iMac name). Maybe call it the "vMac" (for "Video Mac" - make your own movies). Make two versions of that (standard and enhanced) and one iMac. Do that, and many more people just starting on the computer wouldn't have to worry about what iMac to choose.

If Apple isn't careful, they may end up killing the iMac. That would be a shame, since the iMac is one of the cutest, easiest to use, and most colourful computer systems out there.

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