Definitions

minitower

IMac

The iMac is a desktop Macintosh computer designed and built by Apple Inc. It has been a large part of Apple's consumer desktop offerings since its introduction in 1998, and has evolved through four distinct forms. In its original form, the iMac G3, the iMac was gum drop- or egg-shaped with a CRT monitor, mainly enclosed by colored, translucent plastic. The second major revision, the iMac G4, moved to a design of a hemispherical base containing all the main components and an LCD monitor on a freely-moving arm attached to the top of the base. The iMac G5 and the Intel iMac placed all the components immediately behind the display, creating a slim design which tilts only up and down on a simple metal base. The current iMac shares the same form as the previous models, but is now thinner and uses brushed aluminum and black-bordered glass for its case.

Like other Apple products, the iMac enjoys a relatively high profile in popular culture due to its distinctive aesthetics and Apple's successful marketing . The iMac and other Macintosh computers can also be seen in various movies, commercials, and TV shows (both live action and animated). The iMac has also received considerable critical acclaim, including praise from technology columnist Walt Mossberg as the “Gold Standard of desktop computing"; Forbes Magazine described the original candy-colored line of iMac computers as being an “industry-altering success”. The first 24" Core 2 Duo iMac received CNET's “Must-have desktop” in their 2006 Top 10 Holiday Gift Picks.

iMac models

Design

The announcement of the iMac initially caused considerable buzz among commentators, Mac fans, and detractors. Opinions were polarized over Apple’s drastic changes to the Macintosh hardware. At the time, Apple was revamping its retail strategy to improve the Mac purchasing experience. Apple famously declared that "the back of our computer looks better than the front of anyone else’s". The distinctive aesthetics were easily spotted. The iMac was recognizable on television, in films and in print. This increased Apple’s brand awareness, and embedded the iMac into popular culture. When released, the iMac was one of the best selling computers in the U.S. and Japan for months, and Apple was unable to meet demand.

Apple declared the 'i' in iMac to stand for "Internet".Attention was given to the out-of-box experience: the user needed to go through only two steps to set up and connect to the Internet. "There's no step 3!" was the catch-phrase in a popular iMac commercial narrated by actor Jeff Goldblum. Another commercial, dubbed ”Simplicity Shootout”, pitted seven-year-old Johann Thomas and his border collie Brodie, with an iMac, against Adam Taggart, a Stanford University MBA student, with an HP Pavilion 8250, in a race to set up their computers. Johann and Brodie finished in 8 minutes and 15 seconds, whereas Adam was still working on it by the end of the commercial. Apple later adopted the ‘i’ prefix across its consumer hardware and software lines, such as the iPod, iBook, iPhone and various pieces of software such as the iLife suite and iWork.

Apple’s use of translucent candy-colored plastics inspired similar designs in other consumer devices. For example, grilling machines, portable electronics, pencil sharpeners, video game consoles and peripherals (including the Nintendo 64, which was released in special edition ‘Funtastic’ colors) featured the translucent plastic. Apple’s introduction of the iPod, iBook G3 (Dual USB), and iMac G4, all featuring snowy white plastic, inspired similar designs in consumer electronic products. The color rollout also featured two distinctive ads: one called ‘Life Savers’ featured the Rolling Stones song "She's a Rainbow" and an advertisement for the white version had the introduction of Cream’s "White Room" as its backing track.

USB

The original iMac was the first Macintosh computer to include a USB port. In fact, USB was the only peripheral interface built into the original iMac; Apple dropped previous ports such as the Apple Desktop Bus and SCSI in favor of the newer interface. Although USB was invented by Intel and was also available on PCs at the time, the iMac’s popularity and sole dependence on USB helped popularize the interface among third party peripheral makers, as evidenced by the many early USB peripherals that were made of translucent colored plastic to match the color schemes of the original iMac.

Via the USB port, hardware makers could make products compatible with both PCs and Macs. Previously, Macintosh users had to seek out certain hardware, such as keyboards and mice, specifically tailored for the "old world" Mac's unique interfaces. Only a limited number of models from certain manufacturers were made with these interfaces, and often came at a premium price. USB, being cross-platform, has allowed Macintosh users to purchase a large selection of inexpensive devices, such as hubs, scanners, storage devices, USB flash drives, and mice.

After the iMac, Apple continued to remove older peripheral interfaces and floppy drives from the rest of its product line.

Design legacy

Although closely imitated by competitors, the iMac clearly shone as a winner in the personal computer market. Borrowing from the 1997 Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, the various LCD-based iMac designs continued the all-in-one concept first envisioned in Apple's original Macintosh computer. eMachines marketed the eOne computer as an iMac look-a-like. The successful iMac allowed Apple to continue targeting the Power Macintosh line at the high-end of the market. This foreshadowed a similar strategy in the notebook market when the iBook was released in 1999. Since then, the company has continued this strategy of differentiating the consumer versus professional product lines. Apple's focus on design has allowed each of its subsequent products to create a distinctive identity. Apple derided the beige colors then pervading the PC industry. The company would later drift from the multicolored designs of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The latter part of the first decade of the 21st century saw Apple using anodized aluminum and white, black, and clear polycarbonate plastics. Today many PCs are more design-conscious than before the iMac's introduction, with multi-shaded design schemes being common, and some desktops and laptops available in colorful, decorative patterns.

Criticism

The iMac has no floppy drive, unusual for computers at the time of its introduction. Some reviews, such as the oft-quoted Walt Mossberg review, mentioned the iMac shipped with less RAM than industry standard and had no slots for camera memory cards as the only drawbacks. There is a current major criticism for the August 7, 2007 batch of iMacs pertaining specifically to the 20 inch model. Apple is currently being sued for having allegedly deceived the public by promising millions of colors from the LCD screens of all Mac models. The 20 inch models, however, currently only display 260 thousand colors; dithering was used in an attempt to hide the discrepancy. This issue was originally noticed on Apple's line of MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks. This issue arose due to the use of 6-bit per pixel Twisted nematic LCD screens, instead of more modern technologies. There also has been some criticism of the 20" Aluminum iMacs for having lesser viewing angles than the 24" Aluminums. This is due to lower quality displays being used in the 20" models than in the 24"s. Apple hasn't commented on the issue.

While not a criticism of the iMac per se, the iMac's integrated design has some inherent tradeoffs that have garnered criticism. In The Mythical Midrange Mac Minitower, Dan Frakes of Macworld suggests that with the iMac occupying the midrange of Apple's product line, Apple has nothing to offer consumers who want some ability to expand or upgrade their computers, but don't need (or can't afford) the Mac Pro. For example, the iMac's integration of monitor and CPU, while convenient, commits the owner to upgrading both at the same time. Similarly, the iMac's graphics chip is soldered to the motherboard, precluding an upgrade, and models after the iMac G5 (Excluding the August 7, 2007 iMac update) made it virtually impossible for the end-user to swap out the hard disk or optical drive. While conceding the possibility of a minitower cannibalizing sales from the Mac Pro, Frakes argues there is enough frustration with the iMac's limitations to make such a proposition worthwhile.

Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms however is with all white (including G5s and Intels) iMacs with serial numbers starting in "W8." Many users with these units had permanent vertical lines of color appear on their screens after approx. 13+ months of use. These units tend to have more lines appear over time and the only known remedy is to have the screen replaced. Apple hasn't responded to the issue yet, however there is an online petition of users with this problem as well as a website dedicated to it (http://imaclines.blogspot.com/), both made by users experiencing this problem.

Another inherent issue that developed on quite a large number of iMac G5 17 inch and 20 inch models had to do with bad capacitors installed on the motherboards. Symptoms of this problem included: scrambled or distorted video, no video, no power, and computer lockups. Apple had a repair extension program in place for many of these iMac units, however, that is all but run out now for most if not all of the G5 units in the field. People have been taking the repairs of these computers into their own hands, and replacing the capacitors themselves.

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