The iMac Channel

The iMac: First of a Family?

5 July 1998 - Dan Knight

Don Crabb was the first to speculate in public that the iMac wouldn't stand alone for long (The iMac line, Don Crabb, MacCentral, 9 June 1998).

I have to agree with him.

The iMac is as revolutionary as the original Macintosh -- without breaking software compatibility (see The iMac: truly revolutionary). And just as the first Macintosh gave birth to the Fat Mac, Mac Plus, Mac II, and dozens of other models, I believe the iMac will soon be seen as the ancestor of a whole family of iMacs.

Apple has changed the paradigm from components to integration. You don't buy an iMac, then add a monitor and a modem. All the important parts are right there when you buy it. And USB will make adding a cable modem, Zip drive, or scanner easier than ever.

The iMac can easily become several niche computers.

The Network iMac

Already equipped with a fast Ethernet port, the iMac is ready for business and school. Drop the unnecessary modem and bump standard RAM to 64 MB and you have the ideal network computer at the same price.

The Expandable iMac

Take the Network iMac and put a Device Bay where the CD-ROM resides. Then add FireWire. Put an extra DIMM slot on the motherboard and leave out the modem.

This lets the buyer choose CD-ROM, DVD, or a removable media drive for the Device Bay - and you can hot swap them at will. FireWire provides access to fast external hard drives and video equipment.

For perhaps $200-300 more than the basic iMac, the serious Mac user who doesn't find a 15" screen constraining has a lot of options.

The Modular iMac

This is where we start getting serious: an iMac without a built-in monitor, with one or two PCI slots, with FireWire, and with one or two Device Bays. Cute, compact, and inexpensive, this could eventually replace the Power Macintosh series.

The AV iMac

Take the Modular iMac, build in a 17" monitor and better sound, and you have the AV iMac. Hefty, powerful, and still visually attractive.

The Portable iMac

Some people need the power of a PowerBook G3 without the price. And they don't need to run off a battery.

For these Mac users, an iMac with an LCD display cuts the iMac weight without compromising performance. The design could be a hybrid of iMac and PowerBook, lightweight and inexpensive. Provide just enough battery power to retain memory in sleep mode for a day or two and you'd have a great portable computer.

Although the display would increase this model's price, the ability to dispense with expensive power management features could make it a very attractive alternative to the PowerBook.

The iMac Family

This is all speculation, but it makes sense that Apple would capitalize on the new iMac brand recognition. It's much easier to say iMac than Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One, or even Power Mac G3. And within a year, if not months, the iMac brand will become as recognizable as the Apple brand, the PowerBook name, and the "up to twice as fast" G3 processor.

Apple's survival depends not just on great computers, but memorable ones. The iMac will be that and deserves to father a whole new line of computers.

Further Reading

  • The Tiny iMac, Dan Knight, the iMac channel (6 August 1998)
  • iMacs a plenty?, Don Crabb, MacCentral (5 August 1998)
  • The iMac line, Don Crabb, MacCentral (9 June 1998)

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