Apple has had its ups and downs. The fruity iMac is responsible for its current up and could set the standard for consumer PCs. The 'i' in iMac stands for internet and Apple's own figures claim that more than 80 per cent of owners are using it for just that. Cunningly, it has produced a machine that does exactly what it says on the tin, with a compact aspirational design. The competition should start scrumping any day now. But is it any good?
I'm a conformist Microsoft and Intel user, but my first non-home computer was a Macintosh LCII - you're allowed to snigger. It did, however, fulfil my graphic desires at the time. Couple this heritage with the fact that I love consumer electronics, and I was surprised to find myself slagging off the iMac. It's physically more interesting than a beige block but it's not a proper computer, right?
Well, the worm has turned. I've not only changed my mind but am considering buying one. Why? Well, the ads are great for starters. I love the Rolling Stones backing track, although cynics may remember Microsoft bought Start me up to launch Windows 95. Then there's everyone's favourite loveable geezer Jeff Goldblum, who, when not upsetting dinosaurs, has been known to defeat alien invasion using an Apple PowerBook. Both compelling campaigns, no doubt helped by Apple's recruitment of Millard Drexler, president and chief executive of Gap, to its board of directors and Steve Whilhite, former Volkswagon US sales and marketing honcho, as head of marketing.
The crunch came as I advised a friend about upgrading her aging PowerMac.
We had overlooked the iMac because it didn't seem up to the job. Then we happened across the latest specs - 333MHz processor, 6Gb hard disk, a fair display and built-in 56K modem. Not a bad computer for £750. Sure, you need to expand the paltry 32Mb memory and add a removable drive, but you're looking at a decent system for less than £1,000, including VAT.
The iMac satisfied my friend's dual desire for a significant performance boost and a compact tangerine accessory for the home.
The technology enthusiast in me also loves the fact that by fitting only USB ports to the iMac, Apple has finally given the market the kick-start it needed. It's even encouraged peripheral vendors to produce devices in transparent blue cases, although this is of little consolation if you have a strawberry iMac. Maybe future generations will have swappable coloured covers, like Nokia mobiles.
So, the iMac is great news for Apple, but what about the rest? The long anticipated and hopefully transparent iBook portable has yet to emerge and the delayed G4 processor may scupper Apple's battle against the increasingly muscley Pentiums. If it's not careful, Apple may again find itself satisfying only one group of users. The iMac could end up being another essential buy from a one-trick manufacturer.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, blueberry - because I'm worth it.
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