Apple's new iMac finally delivers what consumers were after in 2002, but whether they will dump the beige box PC in favour of the new design icon remains to be seen.
The Guardian has published two reports on the new iMac this morning. Jonathan Glancey's You've come a long way, baby looks at the history of the Mac and how Apple has survived by raising the style stakes. Neil McIntosh's Mac to the future suggests that the new iMac is what consumers were hoping for in 2002.
McIntosh writes: "The new iMac brings Apple fans the machine many had hoped for in 2002, with electronics and optical drives tucked unobtrusively behind the screen."
But the new iMac would have been impossible with the technology available in 2002 when the angle-poise iMac was unveiled. Apple VP Phil Schiller told the Guardian: "The new machine presented a number of challenges on the drawing board. Indeed, mounting a DVD-writing optical drive at such an angle inside the machine would have been impossible when the second-generation iMac was launched.
"There were many things – airflow, cooling, how you're able to get all the components in there in an even smaller package, how you get a slot-loaded drive mounted vertically and, of course, not just vertically, but at an angle which you can adjust. We've done a lot of engineering work on all those things."
Praising the new design Schiller says: "The new design makes it simpler, much easier to use. The i/o [input/output plugs] are easier to reach along the left-hand side. It really makes the whole computer disappear, so that you can just focus on the work you need to do, and how you want it to work for you.
"I think that's the ultimate expression of an all in one; it has the components you need to interact with it, display, keyboard, mouse, and everything else becomes minimal and gets out of your way."
Schiller is positive about the new iMac's chances of success: "For some reason, we've been the only ones who either understand how to make an all-in-one computer work really well, or have the design talent to make it work well. It's not easy; it's easier to have just a system unit and a separate display, and not have to solve these problems. But that's typical of Apple. We take on the challenges others might be afraid to take on."
Glancey writes that it is Apple's style that will help the company sell iMacs. "Most PC users see their computers as hugely useful tools: they will tell you how many more functions, or how many zillion more gigabytes of processing power, their latest laptop has compared with an iMac G5. This, though, misses the point. Simplicity of operation aside, Apples relies on sheer style to sell, at a premium, in a hugely competitive market."
Unfortunately style won't be enough, the beige box will maintain its predominance, he predicts. "Apple's computers are an attempt to create a little piece of perfection in an imperfect world. It can never win, of course, and gradgrind PCs will continue to dominate the market, but as the latest iMac shows, Apple simply can't help but keep trying to lead us into electronic temptation.
"This is the very world the miniature computer has helped so many people escape, to set up on their own, to gain control over their own destinies, and perhaps why Apple has made a design fetish out of its desktop and laptop computers. Not only can they look good at home but, plugged into the world, with your choice of music, you feel, if only fleetingly, master or mistress of your universe."