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.


  • So maybe that single processor G5 they discontinued? smile Maybe drop that in a Quicksilver style case.

    Something between a Mac Mini and a PowerMac G5 can also be easily found second hand by way of a used dual G4 tower.

    I know that’s not exactly what you meant.

    donovan had this to say on Sep 30, 2005 Posts: 19
  • The eMac is probably going out of production, let’s not forget that…

    Twisted Intellect had this to say on Sep 30, 2005 Posts: 7
  • Though - come to think about it - if have a middle-class computer, Intel (with the future posibility for viruses) -  aren’t we then moving towards Hell… err… Dell.. Sorry… wink

    Twisted Intellect had this to say on Sep 30, 2005 Posts: 7
  • In defense of the eMac

    It has more connectors than the mini. It has a faster hard drive than the mini. It has a microphone, and better speakers than an iMac.

    I considered the mini but bought the eMac because I wanted a 100% Apple system out of the box, but didn’t have the budget for an iMac. There’s no power brick; there’s no third party hardware needed; everything matches.

    Finally, some of us still prefer the display of a CRT over even the latest LCDs, and it has that “it looks strong enough to use as a footstool”, (not that I ever would stand on it) quality that I fondly remember from the original 128k Mac.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect; I wish it were as quiet as a mini, but I for one would feel a pang if they killed it off.

    Andrew Burke had this to say on Sep 30, 2005 Posts: 3
  • what apple needs is a mini-tower for people who are afraid of getting locked into a all-in-one like the imac. imagine a much smaller footprint than the G5, but with 1 processor, 2 PCI slots and a replaceable video card.

    price it around $1400 or in combo with a 20’’ cinema display for $1999. that would still price it below the entry level powermac but several hundred dollars above the imac.

    i think with a slim, elegant G5-ish design it would sell very well. that would leave mac mini on the low-end, imac and mini-tower in the middle (depending on the need for slots) and powermac on the high end.

    david randall had this to say on Sep 30, 2005 Posts: 10
  • I don’t think that there will be any major changes until the MacTels are released, but there will be a strong chance at that time for the mid line tower as well as a new eMac.  Depending on how developers are doing with their conversions to the “universal binaries” platform we could see announcements as soon as MWSF in January so I wouldn’t be in a rush to buy on ebay - you’re gonna want that money for the MacTels!

    MacKen had this to say on Sep 30, 2005 Posts: 88
  • Skipping ahead…

    I think the middle ground for the monitor-less Mac should be a reintroduction of the G4 tower. Why not? It doesn’t need to have a zillion expansion options - it could be a small tower. But slap a pair of 1.42/1.5 GHz G4s in there and price it at like $999 (so you can say it’s under $1000). Basically, you’d be buying a dual processor Mini with more RAM slots and the ability to change the graphics card. Maybe room for a second HDD/optical drive.

    Hell, I’d buy one!

    Plus, with G4s available to Apple for years to come, it could possibly help some transition to the MacTels. Or hurt it. I don’t really know.

    I just want a non all-in-one Mac that’s new and doesn’t cost more than $1500. I’m poor.

    Waa had this to say on Sep 30, 2005 Posts: 110
  • One of the case studies in an old advertising book was Coca-Cola. I think it was during the late ‘50s that sales began to drop, and the company called in some marketing experts. The analysis was that there were too many Cokes (regular, cherry, etc.), which fractured the brand in the public’s mind. Cut it down to one Coke and come up with new names for everything else. Sales shot back up, and Coca-Cola Company learned a valuable lesson…

    ...which is why all those variants are back! Classic, Diet, Diet Caffeine Free, C2, Cherry, Vanilla, ad nauseum. There was a time when Apple had too many variants, as well, and they were hurting just like Coca-Cola. Perhaps they can diversify once they can get a steady flow of processors to keep up with the orders they are already getting.

    Metryq had this to say on Sep 30, 2005 Posts: 7
  • While your article is well concieved, you go on too long about the “unnecessary” eMac.  While for a home user’s or business perspective, I could see how one can view an eMac as dated, and unnecessary, but let me tell you from my perspective, having worked for 4 years in the educational market (where the “e” in the eMac comes from, actually).

    Back in 1998, when Apple released the original iMacs, there was much rejoicing.  No longer did we have to deal with floppy drives (forcing many teachers over to the network drives for files that had insisted for years on floppies over our network store because they were stubborn), and it was an all in one machine that was inexpensive as compared to the AIO PowerMac G3, and mostly as powerful, albeit not as expandable.  This was a major boon for us, since we could roll out labs much faster, with only 2 cables to connect (plus keyboard/mouse), and the profile made it much more indestructible for students’ use.  Really the only part that students could destroy now (and they did) was the CD-ROM drive.

    Then there was the slot-loading iMacs.  This took care of the cd-rom destruction issue, and allowed schools to continue the trend of iMacs for students’ use.  This worked wonderfully for years, and with the iMac DV models, even teachers could use these machines.

    Initially, when Apple replaced the iMac G3 models with the iMac G4s, with their beautiful LCD displays, administrator’s hearts stopped around the world, mine included.  Never would I put an LCD where students found any way possible to break a machine, including sticking pencils and cheese in floppy drives, carving out the lens of the Bondi iMac’s cd-rom tray, and stealing mouse balls.  It was just asking for destruction.  When Apple did this, they announced about 2 months later the introduction (I’m sure due to these complaints from schools) of the eMac. 

    These schools don’t want a fancy machine, just something that has a small footprint (the eMac is a fraction of an inch shallower from front to rear than the original iMac) so that it can fit on a desk, and do what it needs to do; namely word processing, internet browsing, and some other minor applications.  And there were some requirements: CRT display for it’s durability, similar footprint as the original iMac, all in one, and be as inexpensive as possible.  The eMac hits all of these well, and with it’s G4 processor it is perfect, even still today, for schools.  Some home users will use them because they’re cheap (about the same specs as a Mac Mini, with a 17” display, but a little cheaper if you don’t already own a display), and my sister actually owns one.  But by and large, this machine is not targeted for home use, rather, for educational use, where an LCD display would be suicide, and a G5 processor would add an unnecessary cost.

    If anything, add a model to fit in the middle, but for heaven’s sake, leave the eMac alone.

    Robert Cole had this to say on Sep 30, 2005 Posts: 1
  • 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.

    Amazingly enough, I agree with James.

    But I strongly disagree with others that it should be an old G4 or that it should cost $1500.  The problem right now with Macs is that you have to sacrifice so much just to afford one, or you have to pay out the nose for the latest models (and I’m talking strictly desktop towers here, not the all-in-ones).

    I’d love to see a 2.0 or 2.5 Ghz processor, 1GB of RAM, upgradeable video card, smaller case, etc, for around $900.  In other words, all of the specs of your average PC at Best Buy, at the same price as your average PC at Best Buy.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 01, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • MiddleMac!

    sirron had this to say on Oct 01, 2005 Posts: 6
  • Beeb,

    Are pigs flying? Did I just see satan giving out free sleigh rides? Did the Shaq and Kobe make up? And most importantly of all, did you just agree with me?

    Whoa, I am getting all tingly.

    Did you agree with the rest of the article too or just that point? Either way thanks for your comment, which I agree with.

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Oct 01, 2005 Posts: 122
  • Robert has excellent points for the eMac. It is not meant for consumers, period. A friend of mine has one, nice machine, but personally I would find it too noisy for home use.

    Otherwise, sure there could be room for a MiddleMac. Make it an iMac featurewiese but with exchangeable video card & one or two free card slots. Also price it just like an iMac minus the 17” or 20” display. The problem with this is that there would be NOTHING special about it in order to give it product identity.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Oct 01, 2005 Posts: 371
  • Did you agree with the rest of the article too or just that point? Either way thanks for your comment, which I agree with.

    I disagree that the laptops are correctly priced, but other than that it’s all good.

    The problem with this is that there would be NOTHING special about it in order to give it product identity.

    I disagree.  There is nothing particularly special about the iPod feature-wise, but it certainly has an identity.  Ditto the Mac Mini.

    If anyone is capable of taking a typical, run-of-the-mill product and making everyone think it’s special, it’s Apple.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 01, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • In response to Beeblebrox, I definitely agree that Apple’s core advantage is to take something that would otherwise be considered “run-of-the-mill” in a Windows, Linux, xBSD, etc. machine and make it something desireable.

    glyphrunner had this to say on Oct 01, 2005 Posts: 3
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