Less than a year after the launch of its iMac propelled Apple back into the PC race, the vendor last week introduced a new family of the popular computer.
The latest range includes iMac, iMac DV (Digital Video) and iMac DV Special Edition, which in traditional Apple splendour comes in a clear, graphite coloured casing.
It's what Myrna Van Pelt, Apple's corporate affairs manager, coins the `good better best' strategy.
According to the company, the new series is faster, sleeker, quieter and Internet oriented, including in the package 100 hours of Internet access for a $10 registration fee.
And after eight years of absence from the low-end PC market, Apple has jumped back in with its sub-$2000 iMac. `Apple hasn't played in this space for a long time but not many vendors will be able to match the price or performance of the new iMacs,' said Van Pelt.
Paul McCarthy, managing director of Apple reseller Choice Connections, anticipates the new range of iMacs will open up a variety of markets for the once solely education- and consumer-focused vendor. `Our slice of the consumer market increased dramatically with the original iMac and this new range will increase our penetration of the more experienced consumer segment' he explained.
McCarthy expects the new series to grow his business exponentially, with consumers no longer wary about the dearth of USB peripherals available a year ago. `Our business has basically doubled with sales of the original iMac and we will continue to grow with these products,' he said.
The timing of the launch has not been coincidental with Christmas just one of the peak periods Apple is gunning for. `We are ramping up for the education buying cycle at the end of the year and beginning of 2000, as well as the explosion of DV,' said Van Pelt, who explained that at a consumer level there is an inordinate degree of interest in DV, with Australia registering one of the highest per-capita ratios of digital camera ownership.
Van Pelt anticipates that the latest iMac releases will sustain the growth inspired by the original iMac. `We went and asked customers what we could improve and the new iMacs are smaller, lighter and more compact. We will also continue to push the envelope of industrial design with our completely see-through design,' said Van Pelt.
The iMacs can be preordered immediately and will begin shipping through Apple's traditional channel by the end of the month.
Last week was a busy one for the fruit company with a new release of its Macintosh operating system also going public. The Mac OS 9 will be available in November and features nine Internet power tools such as the search engine Sherlock 2, secure multiple-user capabilities and security additions like Voiceprint Password and Keychain management software.
It will cost $US149, with current Mac OS 8.5 or Mac OS 8.6 customers qualifying for a $US30 rebate.
Yet Apple land is not all sugar and spice, with McCarthy unhappy about rapidly shrinking margins. `Resellers in general aren't happy with margins. Even before the release of the iBooks, Apple decreased the recommended retail price and increased the dealer prices. Our margins are around 8 per cent,' McCarthy said.
Jon Hart, CEO of Apple Master of Media store Adtype Solutions, agrees that you have to love selling Apple to be in the game. `We're more in the vertical business space. But Apple needs that horizontal channel which is where the Apple Centres and the iMacs come in. There is very little margin there and it is highly competitive. All you can do is sell in volume,' said Hart.
All the new iMacs feature:
Faster Pentium PowerPC G3 processors, runs at 350MHz64MB SDRAMRage 128 VR 2D/3D graphics accelerator chipNew Harman Kardon sound systemNew slot load 24 speed CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drivesTwo USB portsFan-less operationSupports Apple's Airport wireless networkingiMacs Internet Setup AssistantAvailable in Blueberry$1995