Apple’s New Temptation

Remember the brightly coloured plastic casing and all-in-one software/hardware package that characterised the iMac release of 1998. Those little devils sold like wildfire, infusing clunky and stale PC market with new enthusiasm and at the same time bolstering Apple’s stock price in the US by more than 400 percent.
But Apple hasn’t had another success in the PC market since ’98. Now it’s hoping its new iMac can perform sales miracles similar to its predecessor. If forward orders are anything to go by, those hopes will be fulfilled. The company has taken an astonishing 150,000 forward orders for what it is calling the fastest personal computer ever.
Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs believes the company must innovate its way out of the recession. The new iMac’s design clearly reflects that belief.
This is computer unlike any we’ve seen before. The 26.4cm circular diameter of the hard drive connects to jointed chrome pipe neck which in turn connects with the computer’s 15-inch LCD monitor, flat panel display that hovers above the hard drive. Stylish, definitely; fast, absolutely – Apple says the new iMac pro-cesses data in huge 128-bit chunks, instead of the smaller 32-bit or 64-bit chunks used in traditional processors.
The question, as ever, for Apple however is whether people will be prepared to pay the sort of premium its PCs normally demand.
The latest iMac comes in three models for the local market. The first new iMac model, with an 800MHz G4 processor and SuperDrive, should retail at $4899 plus GST. The second model comes with 700MHz G4 processor and Combo drive (reads and writes CDs, reads DVDs) and is selling for around $4099 plus GST. The third model will sell for $3599 plus GST and contains 700MHz G4 processor and CD-RW (read write) drive.
Seems pricey, but as the overriding concept behind the new iMacs is that they are the centre of “digital lifestyle”, they all contain an array of software for photography, music and video applications in the sale price. The top-of-the-line model also contains CD and DVD burner.
Apple is hoping that will make the product very competitively priced when compared to its PC counterparts.
The question remains how well will the computer sell in New Zealand. Historically Apple has sold well here. Its current market share is about five percent, which compares favourably with its world market share of just 3.5 percent.
Indeed Darian Bird, PC market analyst with IT research company IDC Research, thinks the market will accommodate the new machine. Apple’s core of devotees will probably upgrade and it’s likely to be popular with “got-to-have-the-latest-gadget” buyers. This is, after all, the demographic which Jobs and Apple are targeting though they’re also hoping the new iMac will provide the ultimate temptation for non-Apple users who have hitherto resisted the product’s seductive features.
Bird says the new iMac could appeal to more business users. He sees it selling strongly in its traditional niche, the multimedia marketplace, where it’s popular for use in education settings and graphic design. The flat panel LCD monitor makes the iMac an attractive front-of-house showpiece and because the screen can be moved out of the way it’s useful space saver as well.
Bird’s final verdict: “iMac’s likely to raise Apple’s profile though it is still niche product. Apple has never been market leader in terms of units sold, it’s always been seen as high value product.”

Damon Birchfield is an Auckland-based freelance writer. Email:[email protected]

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