iMac – Incredible Value or Overpriced Sucker Bet?

When Apple introduces a new product people are going to complain and their number one complaint is going to be cost. Like heat flowing from a hotter body to a colder one the whining is inevitable. Of course this time it seems particularly bad, it feels as though my computer is parked behind a constantly revving 747. The best way to whine is with your dollars: if you think it is too expensive then don’t buy one. Well that’s not good enough, you gotta bitch right?

Of course you do and the number one gripe is why does a $1,500 computer include such a crappy graphics card? A fine argument, I’m down with you cause, you know, iLife relies heavily on the GPU.. What? It doesn’t? In that case I definitely agree because you need a 9800 or better to run Motion, andWhat? If you’re a Motion user you’re a G5 owner? Well of course you need that super awesome video card for games Now just shut your whining pie hole for half a second. If you’re really into games don’t you have a PC you built yourself. Or an Xbox? Geeze the gaming specs for video cards change so fast that unless you have a spring-loaded AGP slot you can’t keep up. So keep the game grievances to yourself. I know similarly priced all in one PC’s have way better graphics card, just look at the Sony VAIO W. The Sony features a high-end integrated graphics chip that uses your system memory. Sure the VIAO costs way more but.. What’s that? Integrated video sucks? Well never mind then.

Most of the people whining are folks who know a little something about computers. These folks should also realize that most computer users know nothing about computers, and they like it that way. At least that was my hypothesis. I decided to test it out at Atlanta Bread Company this afternoon. My plan? Ask ten people what video card their computer had and see just how many people care. My first subject was tapping away on a Toshiba of some sort. In between bites of his ABC special I asked him: “Hey what kind of video does that thing have?” The answer: Windows Media Player. I inquired further but the guy became increasingly confused and management started looking at me. I decided that was enough embarrassment for one lunch and extrapolated the data to the following conclusion: If you care about it you’re in the minority. Not that it’s not important, it is just not important to most people so it’s not a huge deal for the folks likely to be buying an iMac.

People who say the iMac is an incredible value always pull out this chestnut: Well you get a G5 and a 20″ inch monitor for $1999 a 20″ an Apple monitor costs $1299 alone so you’re getting a G5 for only $700. These people are best avoided, they possess the mental agility of the four-year that cries when you hold your thumb between your two most foremost fingers and exclaim: “Got your nose”. Sure it’s an incredibly realistic illusion but come on, do you really think Apple is selling those monitors at cost? The stand-alone monitor also features one supremely valuable aspect the iMac monitor lacks: When the computer craps out you can keep the freaking monitor.

The next complaint is about the amount of memory. You only get 256MB of RAM and for that kind of money, we’re talking a cool two grand on the top end, you’d expect more. Wouldn’t you? True enough, heck if you were buying the VAIO W mentioned earlier you’d get twice that memory, frickin twice! For the same amount of money! Of course you’d get a substantially smaller screen (17.5″) but YOU GET 512MB. So I can’t really disagree, for 2,000 you’re much better off opting for the VAIO heck you’ll save 45 dollars buy not having to add another memory chip. I don’t think the loss of 2.5″ inches of unchangeable screen real estate is too much of a sacrifice.

You can’t make a computer without people complaining about the hard drive size. Seriously most people don’t think they should ever remove anything to free even the tiniest amount of space on their computer. I gotta say: most of the stuff on your computer is crap. You toss all your e-mail message from pre 2002, most of your music, nearly all your fonts and god knows how many assorted unused programs and not know they were ever gone. But that’s okay, I know people aren’t like that, they like to save everything forever. My wife has a t-shirt from high school that she earnestly believes she’ll wear someday (cause airbrushing is coming back baby!) So to the complainers whining about hard drive size I offer one word: Firewire. Yep companies make firewire hard drives that will run comfortably on the computer so when the hard drive is getting just a little tight go ahead and pony up the dough to buy a drive, then you could use it to back up all those fuzzy shots of your dogs. (Just for the record the more expensive Dell 4600C features a 40 GB drive, half of what the 17 inch iMac features). At this point I should note that the iMac is bereft of Firewire extreme ports. That is surely a major failing right? Honestly I can’t imagine when I might need a firewire extreme port as long as the iMac can comfortably transfer the video from my GL2 I’m happy. Of course you might want to use firewire to transfer extremely large files, the Mac for that is called the G5 tower.

Honestly a lot of the complaints are centered on what the new iMac isn’t: a fully featured G5 or a modular Dell. See when it comes time to compare specs people compare it to the G5 towers, when it comes to price people compare it to the cheapest Dell. That makes it tough on Apple and here Apple has to walk a careful line, make a computer too powerful and expandable it will eat into G5 tower sales AND be too expensive for the average Joe. Make a computer too crappy, and well, it will be a Dell. Much like the question: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” there is no easy answer for Apple but sales will tell you how close they got.



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