What's wrong with beige?

What's wrong with beige?

It's a gamble, but it could pay off. Apple is putting enormous resources behind the launch of its brand new iMac machine. What Apple says is true - this is a new generation of computer for people who have never bought one before. There could be room to sell as many as 15 million machines in the US alone, and perhaps half a million machines in Australia (both Mac and other architectures).

Apple is gambling that this new market segment needs a computer that's as simple to buy and install as a VCR. As a result, the iMac is as close to foolproof as it could be made without losing the name personal computer. What worries most traditional PC users could be what helps the machines succeed - it doesn't have a parallel port, a normal serial port, a diskette drive or internal expansion slots.

What it does have is an out-of-the-box specification that allows it to connect to the Internet with consummate ease. Not only does it have a 56Kbps modem as standard, but it also has inbuilt 10/100 MHz Ethernet and an infrared port. More importantly for the add- on market, it has two USB ports, and this is expected to give a welcome boost to the market for all USB devices such as scanners, cameras, multimedia and so on.

Apple is also giving a boost to the advertising industry, committing over $US100 million for an advertising campaign in the US between now and Christmas. The campaign starts here in early September.

US billboard designs feature a large photo of iMac with one of the following headlines: "I think, therefore iMac."; "Chic. Not geek."; "Sorry, no beige."; or "Mental floss".

What most buyers won't know is that every time they buy one of these machines they'll be paying a slice of this ad bill. Based on Apple's own sales prediction, the US campaign will take $US200 out of each sale of the $US1300 machine. What that figure rises to if the machine flops, you wouldn't even want to think about.

What will be of special interest to this industry is the effect this machine has on the software marketplace. I can see at least four possible scenarios: 1) The buyers are content with what comes with the machine. 2) They tend to buy standard Mac software. 3) They get so used to using the Internet, their standard way of buying and receiving software is via the Net. 4) The success (and inherent differences) of the iMac will spawn a whole new software segment. I think the last is quite likely, don't you?

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