iMac, Apple's Hardware Margins and 'Junk'


Today's news of a $1,200 iMac got me a little nostalgic, to the point of even considering a quick spin out to an Apple retailer to check out the new, and I'm sure super-sexy, systems. But there it was again -- that damn built-in monitor.


My main complaint as a jilted Mac user has always been that Apple insists on trying to sell me a new monitor every time I'm ready to buy a new computing box. I set up an Ubuntu system in our office here recently on some ancient hardware. I've had the 17-inch monitor for 14 years. I'm pretty sure this is its fifth PC.


Steve Jobs might consider my venerable monitor "junk," as he endearingly labeled affordable computer systems from other vendors in this breathless Forbes piece on the new iMac announcements.


Of course, most observers (even those that really like Apple tech) agree that most of the Mac's momentum of late stems from the enormous popularity of the iPod/iPhone/Apple brand. This BusinessWeek article takes a more level-headed approach to the iMac announcement, suggesting that Jobs is bothering to go after the shrinking consumer desktop PC market only as a way of positioning the iMac line "as a home server and repository for personal digital content." Quote:

But the subtext of Tuesday's announcement was Jobs' belief that Apple is best equipped to deliver great content and a great consumer entertainment experience both within and outside the home.

So why does a server need a built-in, high-resolution monitor? I don't know about you, but I've got a TV at home that's a tad bigger than 24 inches for watching videos. Oddly, the S-video adapter to get a signal to that TV is not included in the iMac's unquestionably impressive spec sheet (DVI is built in).

What really drives me nuts is the idea that Apple keeps pushing these built-in monitor systems (you can get a perfectly acceptable 20-inch widescreen for under $300) when it already offers the niftiest entertainment center PC out there in the Mac Mini. I mean, it comes with a remote, along with all the iLife software that now helps you upload YouTube videos -- wow. And it's got the S-video adapter in the box.

This ZDNet post notes that the Mac Mini upgrade to the Core Duo 2 chipset was basically swept under the carpet by Apple.

Why? Maybe because it's priced comparably with other high-end multimedia towers without the bloated margins on hardware sales that building a monitor into your PC promises.'s Lance Ulanoff writes today that the Mac is now poised to dig back into the consumer PC market (he discounts business users as not the Mac's audience, oddly). Ulanoff writes:




Pricing also used to be a big bugaboo for Apple's systems. You still don't get as much for your dollars as you do with, say, a Dell. The gap is narrowing, however, and soon price will be a paper tiger that no one will be willing to trot out.

Well, I'd say that if Apple was willing to push the Mac Mini as a cost-neutral competitor to Dell systems, that argument would already be off the table (surely Jobs & Co. could eat the cost of a commodity keyboard and mouse).

I've already made up my mind that when I am ready to buy an entertainment center PC that I don't have to use for work (whole other story), I'm going to buy a Mini. That is, if Apple hasn't scrapped the line by that time as "junk."

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