Apple preps standard, special edition iMacs

Next gen. consumer machine to be tailored for retail and other markets

Specifications for the next version of Apple's iMac continue to emerge on the Web, with the latest specs. coming from Mac-oriented Web site Apple Insider. With so many attempts to nail down just what Apple's next iteration of the iMac will contain, it's hard to be sure what's real and what is arguably clever obfuscation put out by Apple spin-meisters -- the difference between a leak and a company-sponsored leak is very narrow. However, some consistencies are beginning to emerge. AppleInsider's latest iMac spec. features a basic model derived from the current machine. Instead of a new, 17in display, we have a 15in CRT screen but with a larger viewable area. That's in marked contrast to recent reports that the next iMac would feature LCD an LCD screen -- a neat idea, but one that fails to take into account the current shortage of LCDs. According to AppleInsider, Apple will offer three versions of the new iMac. The first will ship with a 350MHz PowerPC 750 (aka G3) CPU, CD-ROM drive (apparently a tray-less model), and will be available in a single colour, blue. The site doesn't offer memory and hard drive specs. The second model will come in the five colours of the current iMac, sport a 400MHz G3, tray-less DVD-ROM drive, 64MB RAM, 10GB hard drive, 2x AGP Rage 128 graphics card, two USB and two FireWire (for the first time on the iMac) ports, 56Kbps modem, 10/100 Ethernet, AirPort radio networking support (via a slot for the AirPort add-in card) and, oddly, video out and two headphone socket. The third configuration ups the RAM to 128MB and the drive size to 13GB and comes in the Power Mac G4's silver colour scheme. While we can neither confirm nor deny what AppleInsider's sources have suggested, we're a little concerned about the number of models this latest spec. entails. There are seven machines in all: one 350MHz model, five standard colour 400MHz and the silver 400MHz machine. Apple had a tough time getting its channel to handle the five colours of the current iMac -- and they were all the same machine. Increasing the number of colours to six and offering multiple hardware specs. strikes us as a distinct step away from the original iMac's 'keep everything simple' approach. Indeed, having three configurations doesn't mean three configurations will ship. It's perfectly reasonable to have the five-colour version as the main release replacing the current iMac line-up, with the silver version perhaps being offered either as a limited edition model or as a demo model for shows and showrooms. The 350MHz version could well be a cut-price, diskless release aimed at schools who want to hook up cheap terminals to a NetBoot MacOS X Server system. Whatever the plan, it's certainly hard to imagine Apple putting all of these models out in the main retail channel, if only because the whole point of the iMac is that it's cheap to make, and if you start offering too many configurations that advantage is soon lost. ®

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