Apple last week revealed its first new-look Mac: the iMac consumer machine, based on the G3 processor.
With its curved transparent body, and a mouse that lights up when you touch it, the iMac is "next year's computer for $1,299 (#778); not last year's computer for $999 (#598)," according to Steve Jobs, Apple's interim CEO.
"Today we brought romance and innovation back into the industry," he added. "iMac reminds everyone of what Apple stands for."
However, industry analysts were sceptical about whether the iMac would change Apple's fortunes. "Apple will find it a hard road over the next five years and will probably end up being a smaller company," said Ashim Pal, analyst with the Meta Group.
Pal said the iMac would appeal to "Mac bigots" and the design and education markets, but that Apple was losing its "uniques" over the rest of the PC market. "It is hard to see a long-term future since the Wintel model has such market share and is catching up in terms of an integrated operating system and ease of use," he added.
"There are customers out there interested in flashy design, but Apple is not the only player offering that," Pal said.
Apple claims the iMac offers the "excitement of the Internet and the simplicity of the Mac". Available worldwide in August, the iMac has a 233MHz G3 processor with a high speed 517Kb backside L2 memory cache, 32Mb of SDRAM and a built-in 15in monitor with 1024x768 resolution. It also includes Internet connectivity through an internal 33.6Kbps modem and a 12Mbps Universal Serial Bus.
An Apple spokesman said the education, publishing and consumer markets were sufficient to provide Apple with significant growth. "The Apple brand has more depth and loyalty than anyone in the consumer market," he claimed.
"There are around six million users out there who have not upgraded for four or five years. The iMac will be a product they will be proud to own."
Apple also announced a new series of G3 PowerBooks equipped with 233MHz, 250MHz and 292MHz PowerPC processors priced from $2,299 (#1,377) to $3,299 (#1,975).
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