Who would have believed that launching a product range coloured like a bad 1970s shirt would have changed the fortune of a legend in distress?
Apple's iMac, which looks like an electronic Juicy Fruit, is almost solely responsible for the manufacturer's remarkable turnaround, and most recently, for it posting a seventh consecutive profitable quarter But is the iMac enough to keep the desktop publishing legend alive?
The results came in a week that saw the chip wars forcing poor results out of AMD and Intel, and look even better when compared with the recent poor performances of Compaq and other leading PC vendors. That said, there's still no reason to believe that the iMac fortunes are anything less than a multi-coloured novelty and that Apple's fate is still sealed unless the company can broaden its revenue base.
The iMac is a winner, but it's still a Mac and that means a very small voice in the desktop world. In its defence, it has succeeded where the PC failed - in making computers sexy, at least in a transparent kind of way (see Feature, page 30). Drab and grey when launched, PCs are still drab and grey today. They are still the only consumer electronic item that does not fit in with any of the other entertainment devices in your home. You can get TVs, videos, and hi-fis from chrome to black or any other colour to fit your funky, hip Home Front-inspired living room. But as soon as you buy a PC you may as well have flushed all that DIY money down the drain.
The iMac is innovative and definitely points a way forward for stodgy old PCs. However, since price has become the dominant factor in selling the things, it's unlikely that companies are going to start throwing buckets of paint at their products. PCs are no longer the profit makers they once were, and there are growing calls to make the things free and just sell the services. Maybe they should do just that.
Free PCs first appeared in the US, but can now be found in over here.
Tiny Computers has decided to get into the phone game. Linking up with Cable & Wireless, the reseller has set up Tiny Telecom, promising free PCs to fresh subscribers who spend more than £25 per month on their phone bills. As a model, it's innovative and if it proves a threat to BT then you can expect those that believe it's good to talk to launch a similar, but bigger, free PC/phone scheme. Either way, the PC is reduced to being a freebie attached to another product.
If free PCs catch on then the iMac needs a serious price cut and Apple needs to think about whether style can halt the colour of money. We don't think so.
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