Does the Mac Need a New Model?

by James R. Stoup Sep 30, 2005

If you head over to Apple’s site and click on the store link you can check out everything the company sells. Software, iPods, accessories and, oh yes, computers. In fact they have 6 different product lines (not counting the Xserve G5 or the Xserve RAID which aren’t really geared towards your average consumer). Apple has two types of laptops, iBook and PowerBook, and four types of desktops, Mac Mini, eMac, iMac and PowerMac. Those lines break down into a total of 18 different models: two models of both eMacs and iBooks, three models of iMacs, Minis and PowerMacs and five models of PowerBooks. In looking at their lineup one can see that Apple clearly has three types of consumers in mind.

The first group of consumers are looking for a portable device and they have a wide range of seven different laptops to choose from. The iBooks are cheap, the PowerBooks are, well, powerful and all of them are fairly light. In fact, Apple has one of the best line of portables on the market and they contribute quite a bit to the bottom line. Each laptop is correctly priced and between cost and features they cover your average user’s needs.

Then we look at the second group, the all-in-one line. Apple has stuck with this idea when most other companies have long since given it up. And so, for those customers who want the smallest contained package Apple offers two types of eMacs and three types of iMacs. But here Apple loses its focus somewhat. Because while the iMac is a very powerful competitively priced machine, the eMac is a throwback to an era that has already passed. Who wants a CRT when LCDs have gotten so cheap? And why go with a G4 when the G5 is so much more powerful? When looking at the eMac most consumers would rather downgrade to a Mac Mini (and buy a monitor) or upgrade to a iMac (and get more space, memory, speed etc.) for its obvious advantages. And that is why I consider the eMac to be, by far, the weakest of Apple’s products. It tries to fill a need that doesn’t exist anymore. Now, a good deal of my concerns would go away if Apple reduced the cost of their insanely price eMac. Why do I use such harsh language? Because a Mac Mini with comparable features to the entry level eMac cost $600. Remember now that the eMac cost $800 and the only real difference is 32 MBs of RAM and a 17” CRT. Ok, who really believes that a 17” CRT monitor can’t be had for under $200? I can go to and get a 19” CRT for $140 and I don’t think they even sell 17” CRTs anymore. But assume for the moment that a 17” CRT cost $100, that means that additional 32 MB of VRAM cost $100 too. Hum, neither of those prices seem to be anywhere near reality so why don’t we try and figure out just how much it should cost. Take $600 as the starting point and add $25 for a 17” screen (buying old technology in bulk, I can’t imagine it cost much more than that). As for the RAM, upgrading a PowerMac G5 from 128 MB to 256 MB cost $50, so keeping that in mind how much do you really think that extra RAM cost? Another $10? Maybe $20? Why don’t we go with $15. That means our $600 base computer gets a $25 monitor and a $15 RAM upgrade to bring the price to a whopping $640. But let’s Apple-fy the price and make it $649.00 ok? Priced at that point I could almost see them becoming mildly popular with schools or businesses, maybe.

And finally we have the third group, those who want a desktop and either already have a monitor or are going to buy a new one, either way they don’t want it integrated with the computer. These consumers have a choice of three Mac Minis or three PowerMacs. And finally we have gotten to the point of this article. When you see those two models side by side doesn’t anything seem odd? A $500 Mac Mini and a $2,000 PowerMac, shouldn’t there be something in-between? On one hand you have an entry level, slim line computer with no room for expansion and on the other hand you have a monstrous dual processor tower with lots of room for expansion. So once again I ask, shouldn’t there be something in-between? A middle ground, if you will. In short, I think Apple needs a mid-range desktop computer that doesn’t have a built in screen which could sit between the Mini and the PowerMac.

Ideally such a computer would have the guts of the current iMac, 2GHz processor, half a gig of RAM, 160 GB harddrive, but in a tower that is smaller than that of the PowerMac line. It should have room for another harddrive, plenty of RAM and several PCI slots as well. Price it at $1,300 and I think Apple would have a hit on it’s hands. Because there is a group of people (myself included) would would love to have another Mac but really would only have use for a tower (due to its room for expansion). Thus I have to either drop 2 grand on a new PowerMac or hit ebay for a used G4. Guess what, ebay gets the nod on this one. Now, the only problem left is to decide what to name it.


  • Of course. My argument goes in the line of say the PowerMac being the almost intimidating giant “Pro”, the mini the microscopic “Beginner”, the iMac the friendly “Normal” machine. A screenless iMac (and that’s we’re basically talking about) would have to share “Normal” minus the screen. Maybe going in the direction of making it the “highly individual” model.. as you both said, if anyone could make the plainest machine into somehting special it is Apple.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Oct 02, 2005 Posts: 371
  • eMac is not evil.  the eMac has a place for the budget concious.  You can get a solid computer with everything you need for $799.  Kinda hard to do with a Mac Mini or an iMac.  I bought one for my inlaws and they love the thing.  But again, it was an inexpensive system that was ‘all in one’ and all I added was a printer & the Mac Missing Manual book

    Trekkie had this to say on Oct 02, 2005 Posts: 6
  • I blogged on this a while ago. As a matter of fact I even mocked it up. Check it out…

    g4m4nn had this to say on Oct 02, 2005 Posts: 4
  • eMac’s rule.  I have both an iMac 20” 2.0GHz and a dual 2.3 PowerMac and still find myself doing a lot on the wifes eMac.  For just about anyone who isn’t a geek (like myself) it’s just about perfect - and that’s why it’s still around.  So many people forget that so few people like to tinker or expand….  good thing Apple doesn’t forget that.

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Oct 04, 2005 Posts: 112
  • When it comes to the eMac, this article doesn’t make a lick of sense.  First of all, you don’t consider the fact that a Mac mini requires the purchase for a Keyboard and Mouse, which total $58 from the Apple Store.  That narrows the gap considerably.  You might argue “oh well, everyone has a keyboard and mouse.”  But (a) that’s not true, especially for first-time buyers or schools buying in bulk, and (b) you include the cost of a CRT.  So let’s compare Apples to Apples: Add your $140 monitor to $58 and presto: you’re hovering around $800. 

    Second, remember that the eMac was initially targeted at schools ONLY.  Regular Apple users demanded that Apple sell it to the general public, and the company eventually gave in to demand.  So the only reason that Apple sells the eMac to the public is because the public demanded it.

    Finally, you write, “But let’s Apple-fy the price and make it $649.00 ok? Priced at that point I could almost see them becoming mildly popular with schools or businesses, maybe.”

    Well, guess how much an entry-level eMac costs at the Apple K12 Education Store?  That’s right, $649.

    frankbruno had this to say on Oct 05, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Agreed, a ‘midi’ is needed. The mini almost works for me but I can’t bring myself to it due to lack of RAM space and a slow hard drive, oh, and paultry processor. I’d take a 7200rpm, 4GB RAM capable, 1.8-2 G5 and no PCI in the blink of an eye. Those towers are an enormous waste for many of us, I think.

    eMac is I believe, still preferred by education, due to hard shell and screen to withstand abuse of pre-teens. And it’s harder to walk off with.

    eyehop had this to say on Oct 05, 2005 Posts: 19
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