Inside the new iMac

On September 7, 2004, in iMac, Opinion, by Roger Born

The new G5 iMac is something new in many ways. First of all, there has never been a Mac that only appears as a monitor and keyboard on your desk. This isn’t just a new Macintosh. It’s one that’s super thin and beautifully made. This will be very seductive to those prospective customers who see it for the first time.

Apple hit another home run here, folks. Don’t believe me? Look at Apple’s next quarter’s profits come December. It will be their most profitable quarter ever. Apple is going to sell tons of these new iMacs. (Wasn’t I right about the sales of those mini iPods too?)

Just listen to Phil Schiller’s part of the Keynote about the new iMac: “Just like the iPod redefined portable digital music players, the new iMac G5 redefines what users expect from a consumer desktop, …a lot of people will be wondering ‘where did the computer go?'”

I think this points up something we have been saying here on the blogs as MyMac. The new G5 iMac is meant to look like the iPod. They are both the same white plastic, and the same general shape. Apple wants the consumer customer to see the connection in their lives. Their iPod has liberated them and their music. Now the iMac can do the same thing to the rest of their computing lives.

This is the first iMac that you can fix or update yourself. Its insides are completely and quickly accessible, just like the Power Macs are. Apple claims that you can replace many of the iMac G5’s parts by yourself. The new iMac is designed to make it easy for us to install replacement parts if needed. This includes the LCD display, the power supply, the optical drive, the hard drive, the memory, the AirPort Extreme card, the modem card, the main logic board, the G5 processor, and the fans. Only Bluetooth cannot be added by a consumer, but must be added by Apple.

The new iMac G5 also has 4 built-in diagnostic LEDs on the main logic board that can help you troubleshoot your computer. One LED indicates that trickle voltage from the power supply is there. The second, that the main logic board has power from the power supply. The third LED tells you that the computer and the LCD display are communicating properly. The fourth, that the computer is not overheating. Full instructions about the LED indicator lights, which are behind the back cover of the computer. Also, the three screws on the back cover are ‘captive’ screws, so you can’t lose them.

This new G5 iMac has superior connectivity, by offering two FireWire 400 ports; three USB 2.0 ports, VGA out; S-video, composite video out, at the back right side of the monitor, and two USB 1.1 ports on the keyboard. Few computing companies offer this many and as varied ports as Apple does.

There is also a built-in Microphone on the iMac between the speakers, underneath the front of the iMac. The arm adapter on the iMac is also a VESA industry standard. That means that any VESA arm will work on the G5 iMac. An adapter kit is available from Apple for compliant arms, so the iMac can be mounted on a wall.

WHAT THE NEW iMAC DOESN’T HAVE

Several Pundits have loudly lamented the fact that the new G5 iMac does not have video recording and playing capability, nor does it have wireless capability. Their whining can be heard even way out here in the desert.

First of all, the new iMac IS wireless, because it comes with the ability to add an AirPort card and a Bluetooth connection. Neither of these additions cost that much to add, and their lack on the new iMac keeps the cost down for everyone else who doesn’t want or need wireless connectivity.

So? Did Apple miss something not giving video capability to the new iMac? If you mean can the iMac play DVDs? Sure it can, since it comes with the Combo Drive, and its excellent big screen monitor, it can play movies very well.

However, our Pundits are talking about the lack of a TV tuner in the new iMac. They are also talking about the fact that there is no portable, miniature, or mobile iMac, which would double for a Media Player. True, the new G5 iMac is not a portable Media Player.

I don’t think that Apple stumbled here at all. The new G5 iMac is a Consumer model. It is exactly what it is supposed to be. People who want to fit their Mac with a TV tuner, an external hard drive, a DVD burner, and record their own TV for archiving or later viewing will usually opt for a PowerMac. After all, they are power users, right?

A PORTABLE VIDEO MAC?

Did you know that Apple almost had the very first Media Player? If you are an Apple trivia buff, you might remember Newton’s stillborn cousin, code-named Sweet Pea, which was to be a CD-based mobile multimedia player.

So, what about an Apple Media Player in the near future? Even I was hoping for one of these. After all, Apple DID apply for and obtain a Patent for something like this, earlier this year. It was an 8″ video viewer. Some (mistakenly?) thought it was going to be an Apple Tablet computer. I think the patent may well be for an Apple Media Player, and one that finally has a big enough screen to be watchable. (Most all the new MPs have lass than a 4-inch screen.) However, this doesn’t mean that Apple will market a Media Player. They already built an Apple PDA, and then canceled it, didn’t they?

Besides, after looking closely at Microsoft’s Windows Media Player with its tiny 3.7″ monitor, I am beginning to understand that the technology is not quite there yet, and therefore, why an Apple Media Player is probably a ways off too.

The first problem with a Media Player is technical. The second is legal.

This is because the video that you want on your TV or VCR is recordable only via an ANALOG connection, (RCA cables). Besides the extra expense of owning the players for input and encoding, recording analog video must happen in real time’ to be useful. Its not real time, folks. At least not for any portable media player. You have to first convert the show you taped to a different format for most any media player on the market today.

Here is the real problem with using a Media Player if you want to watch TV on it.

It’s the night before you want to use your new Media Player on your commute to work the next morning.

(Let’s say you want to record Jay Leno’s Tonight Show episode.)

Plug your PC into your TV, cable or SAT box, and run an analog cord between them.

Set your PC TV Tuner software to record at 11:30pm. (Assuming you can figure it out.)

Hope and pray that your video, PC, TV tuner card, Windows software all work right.

Get up in the morning and start transcoding last night’s show on your PC.

An hour and ten minutes later the transcoding is done.

You quickly transfer it to your Media Player, and go to work – late.

Yes, you can copy copyrighted TV shows from P2P networks and transcode them to run on the Media Player. There will always be a few people doing this. However, most people who buy a Media Player, just want to use it like a TiVo. Micro$oft would rather you buy their subscription to legally download and view (but not copy) copyrighted TV content onto your Media Player. But even that option is not set up yet, and may not be for a while. The reason for this delay is legal. This is because of possible reprisals from the DRM and the RIAA of course. Even Micro$oft is having trouble getting them to play ball here.

Since using Micro$oft’s Media Player is so clunky, is there any decent Mobile Media Player on the market now? Take a look at the Archos. It’s the best there is at the moment. However, the Archos has a dim, dark screen, and their screen is still not big enough to watch comfortably. It still cost a lot to own, and it still is a pain to record anything off of the TV.

PCs are the missing link in recording TV. Apple knows this. It’s only going to work when it’s all digital, all the way through the process. The current business of transferring analog signals to digital, and then again to a third format is just awkward and clumsy.

Yeah, the RIAA doesn’t want this, but the FCC does, and they have mandated that new TVs will be digital.. There is still the DRM facing Apple, but they did pretty well appeasing all the players with their iTunes store and the configuration of their iPods. I think Apple will do the same with a Media Player once it all comes together digitally.

Right now, the current Media Player will never be as useful than the DVR that’s already on the market. Only a Digital Media Player, one that sits next to your cable/satellite DVR box, makes any sense in all this. It should easily and quickly digitally record a TV show just like your DVR or TiVo would do, and with the same digital quality. So far, there is no such thing.

Therefore, if and when Apple does deliver a Media Player, it will be much more functional by providing other uses besides watching TV or movies on it. I think it will be an innate part of your consumer G5 iMac and all those uber-cool Apple Media Apps. It will also be completely DIGITAL in its processes, and seamlessly and breathtakingly fast in its file transference of the media you want to watch.

Besides, think how nice a new Apple Digital Media Player will look sitting next to your new Apple High Definition Digital Wide Screen Television. Oh, wait . . . You already have that. It’s your Apple flat screen monitor!

No, the new G5 iMac is not the portable Media Player we were hoping for. Nor is it a headless, portable, miniature iMac. Nor is it two decades ahead of everything else.

The G5 iMac IS a really cool, minimal, usable, and desirable consumer Macintosh of the first order. It looks like the iPod’s big brother, and its much faster, and hundreds of dollars cheaper than the G4 iMacs. For what it is, it’s perfect.

So? When are you going to get one?

 

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