What if Apple never updates the iMac?
Tue, 17 Feb 2009
I’m serious. What if Apple has decided that the iMac that is currently on sale is the final update to the range. That’s yer lot kids… buy them until there’s no more left.
There was a lot of chatter recently regarding an impending update to the iMac, but it still hasn’t happened. Where is it? As the chatter dies down I’m strangely reminded of the Mac mini. This hasn’t been updated since August 2007 and for a long time there were rumours of an impending update; in retrospect based upon nothing other than the fact that people believed that there was an update coming. Simply because it hadn’t happened yet.
Apple is clearly simply selling off a back catalogue stock of Mac minis. It can’t really be making them any more, the Intel GMA 950 graphics processor isn’t being produced, which is why the MacBook was updated to the X3100, then when that wasn’t available any more it was upgraded to the new NVIDIA 9400m.
Parts for the iMac aren’t in short supply, Apple can carry on making them if it wants, but is it going through a costly upgrade and design process?
There was a forum debate (heated, as they usually are) on Macworld recently where a user called J.P pointed out that 70 per cent of all Mac sales are notebooks. Most notably the MacBook. He wondered if Apple would spend all that money on the research and design of three products (the Mac mini, iMac and Mac Pro) when they only represent 30 per cent of all computers sold.
Instead, it’s been mooted that Apple is planning a brick-like Mac that will be sold alongside the new LED Screen. Think of a Unibody laptop without the keyboard or screen (if that’s possible). It will replace the Mac mini and iMac and therefore be only one consumer desktop to design, instead of two.
I’m undecided on this rumour. Sounds great and stupid in equal measures. At least it’d be something, though. A desktop alternative to the rapidly ageing Mac mini and iMac.
What if Apple has decided that most consumers will now buy a laptop, and that high-end film, video and design studios want the Mac Pro. What if it has decided that the iMac has had its day?
It’s certainly possible. Apple was the first company to reject the floppy disk; and one of the first to push the idea of a laptop without a CD-ROM. Apple decides that a feature is “legacy” and then phases it out from its product line. Another recent example is FireWire.
I wonder if its going to be one of the first major computer manufacturers to eject the idea of the desktop computer. At least in the consumer space.
We’re pretty sure that Apple’s decided that there’s little point in upgrading the Mac mini; hence the design stasis. It may be that they’ve decided not to spend the money on R&D; saving it instead for more important things: getting Mac OS X Snow Leopard out, fixing MobileMe and developing new iPhone features and doing something with the Apple TV spring to mind.
We’re sure they have other ideas regarding products we’ve never heard of.
So they’re saving money by not upgrading the Mac mini; and selling off what stock they have left. Could the company be planning the same fate for the iMac?
Let’s assume that the Mac Pro accounts for 15 per cent of desktop sales, the iMac 10 per cent and the Mac mini a generous 5 per cent. These percentages may be the other way round, I’m not sure. Either way the iMac is a small amount of the overall picture. It’s also the part that’s probably shrinking – while companies keep buying Mac Pros; consumers are now buying MacBooks instead of iMacs.
Does Apple keep developing the iMac when it’s 7 per cent, 5 per cent, 2 per cent? At what point does the company go, “enough – the desktop market is over."
It’s going to happen one day. So why not now?
Last year I bought a MacBook Air; I briefly toyed with the idea of a MacBook or MacBook Pro. At no time did I think of getting an iMac. I have a Mac Pro at work though.
Apple seems to have said “enough” to the Mac mini. I believe that the Mac mini will now be sold until there are a few left in the warehouse, then quietly removed from sale. I may be wrong, and a Mac mini sporting a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with an NVIDIA 9400m processor may be waiting in the wings – somehow I doubt it though.
In some ways, the difference is emotional. The Mac mini was a great little computer, but let’s face it: nobody’s crying over it. The iMac represents the turning point for Apple. It is a culturally important computer with a distinguished history. In short, people care about it. Perhaps not enough to buy one, but certainly enough to take note when it’s no longer on sale.
Steve Jobs famously doesn’t do nostalgia and the lack of any 25 year celebration from Apple shows that it’s not afraid to look forward, instead of back.
So how long do we wait for the iMac upgrade before we decide one isn’t coming?
(I reserve the right to be wrong. And if Apple updates the iMac next week nobody will be more than glad myself).
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Posted by: Mark Hattersley
We'll probably never know how well the mini would have done as I amongst many have avoided buying one in the forlorn hope that an updated model was on the way. I can say that I know of at least three people who would have been customers if Apple had either squashed update rumours of given a time frame for new models.
We're at the cusp of a major recession, and Apple decides now is the time to ditch the Mac Mini AND the iMac? God I hope not. Or at least if they do, I hope they have something else up their sleeve - ie. something affordable. Is it possible that Apple have anticipated an explosion of Mac clone companies emerging, forcing a different approach?
Presumably the popular iMac has decent profit margins. Considering all Mac desktop sales are now tanking compared to laptops, I'll be amazed if Apple don't try to make their consumer desktops more appealing with decent (but not spectacular) updates fairly soon. Either that or maybe they'll unveil a new headless Mac. I don't think that "never" updating these Macs is really an option.
I am seriously thinking of an iMac since it is much more powerful than the laptops and has more connectivity+ larger screens for a lower price. But I like laptops too for their portability!
I would agree but they never updated the Mac mini, despite - As Alanaha says - an update would undoubtedly have resulted in more sales. So it's obviously an option that Apple is prepared to take at some point with a product line.
That's true. Or the other possibility why BOTH machines have been neglected this long might actually be that there's something else on the horizon to replace both of them...
Indeed, but some say that the relatively low profit-margin Mini outlived its most useful purpose (that of enticing switchers) with the advent of Boot Camp. This allowed PC users who bought ANY Mac to keep using their Windows stuff. That's why I think the Mini's been badly neglected for almost 2 years. I think Apple will want to maintain buoyant sales of their iMac range for a number of reasons & I don't see how they can achieve that without giving iMacs something extra. I'll also be very surprised if Apple abandon the consumer desktop market anytime soon... but I guess stranger things have happened.
Keep in mind, Apple doesn't sell into the type of market that would be effected by a recession... so that's why Apple has remained in record growth territory during this slight downturn.
If sales start to go down, Apple can just release a new product with a few ads on TV and sales will stabilize, no other company in the world has that advantage.
YES, the mini is the golden egg of Apple's product line, each unit spawns 4, or 5 new Mac sales.
Let's just hope it allows 2, 2.5 drives for Time Machine and firewire, if not, it's kinda the end of the Mac mini, just like what happened to the Mac Classic II in 1991 or so.
I've wondered about this. Just before the iMac G4 was released, the G3 models were looking long in the tooth. I wondered then if Apple would obsolete desktop consumer Mac's for a mostly-laptop line. Clearly I was wrong then.
Now, its possible. I definitely could see Apple merging the iMac and Mini line into a single box. Perhaps something along the lines of the Cube? (Don't laugh, I'm serious.) I don't mean its pricepoint; I basically mean essentially the Mini with a 3.5" hard drive and modern/fast processor, etc.
I realize many swear by laptops, and I understand that. But for me, even with the aging iMac line, you can't beat the value of a 3GHz processor and 24" screen for $2200.
Portability is worth nothing to me. My home computer never needs to leave the house and I've got a nice desk for it that beats the heck out of trying to use a MacBook on a table or my lap. Having a built-in battery that's going to wear out even if I never use it is pointless.
Notebooks really don't have enough storage capacity either and Apple's solution is the Time Capsule, a non-upgradeable device with no built-in backup and the frustrating speed limitations of USB 2.0 and 802.11.
If the took the cd player out of the mac mini, and the fan, you'd basically have an iPhone that you could sell for thrice the price. I think we still need some main storage at home, safe on the desk, that interfaces with a large screen and full keyboard.
A 500GB hard drive for any MacBook or Mac mini is $89, that's plenty big. You can easily upgrade a Time Capsule to 1.5TB, yes USB 2.0 is kinda slow, but 802.11n is just as fast as 100BaseT, and FAR faster than your internet connection, so it's not a problem.
And a battery doesn't really wear out if you keep it charged / rarely use it. And lastly, it's not sealed in. No Apple product has sealed batteries, that's just a myth.
If Mini is pulled then Apples promises to the DataCenters putting in requests for status on the Mini will be broken and a huge amount of ill will generated.
I'm not suggesting that the mini will be "pulled". The opposite in fact; just kept on sale while the stockpile dwindles.
Maybe when the pile is gone Apple will update the mini to new stock. Maybe not... maybe it would be replaced with a new type of Mac, maybe not. I'm sure your status request would be answered accordingly.
just a quick heads up, Apple doesn't stock pile products, they stopped doing that around 1999. They keep around 10 days of product in the pipe, so it's not related to extra inventory.
it's been 561 Days since the last Mac mini update, so that's why people are worried.
The "days past" matrix is here:
A while back, Apple submitted a patent application for a monitor with a slot that seemed to be for a mini-notebook, so (apparently) the latter could be used free-standing or as the guts of a desk-top unit.
I can imagine a re-designed Mini that would similarly drop into a slot on a monitor, thus effectively building an iMac. The same unit, though, could also be used as current Mini's are.
Hi!. Just a few days ago I've talk to an Apple rep in one of the store in Vancouver. She talked me that brand new Macmini will be for sell in Feb/09 and Snow Lepard in dowload form from Apple "FOR SURE" in Aprli and in June in retail.
@A&Ski You honestly think that an Apple rep has any more idea that we do what Apple is bringing out?
Seriously. You don't know Apple. The guys who engineered the iPhone software didn't see the iPhone hardware until Steve Jobs stood up on stage and presented it to the world (and vice versa for the guys that engineered the hardware).
Less than 100 people have probably seen the next-gen Mac in development. Maybe even less than 20.
That's how seriously they take secrecy.
Nice article, it's an interesting question and is probably the future of consumer computing in many ways. I've only used laptops for the last 4 years (with a monitor at home given) and I don't miss my desktop, in fact I much prefer being able to grab everything in the form of a laptop and go work in a coffee shop. The only argument against having a laptop and monitor for most users is cost and Apple have always shown a pronounced disregard for that problem...
The last Apple store I was in Mark, down in Southampton, had all the macbooks at the entrance, the iMacs where buried at the back, although they did seem to moving things about a bit.
I keep reading new iMacs next month, I hope so.
I just picked up a Mac Mini despite of all the rumors of an upgrade I have no regrets. I made the purchase at an Apple Store and after looking around realized there was only one Mini and one Pro on display. The floor was dominated by iPods and laptops. I think that may indicate where Apple is headed
Time to take your medication Mark.
Well, this is discouraging.
I am working on a deathbed laptop. It crashes every evening... don't ask.
I'm hoping the new computer will be an i7 iMac, ready for Snow Leopard. I want the biggest and fastest I can buy. The iMac with the big screen will make good use of my desktop.
With flash drives and a small portable hard drive, and a smart phone, I no longer need or want to carry my laptop. It is heavy and the thought of it being stolen is horrible. A desktop tower is as elegant as a PC -- so I'd prefer the neatness of an iMac.
Also I'm looking forward to lots of video conferencing instead of business travel. I am already amazed at how well I can to business this way.
So... daily I watch to see about the news of iMac upgrade. I have even talked to the local store where they've agreed to a cut-rate rental if my laptop dies to support my wait for the new iMac.
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