Mac Lab Report

The Headless iMac: Once Again Ahead of My Time

- 2005.01.04

I have never seen such a fever of unrepentant rumor-retelling as that surrounding the $500 "headless iMac." Remember, folks, there was just one unsubstantiated rumor - and then another that sounded suspiciously like the first.

Now everyone's yapping about a headless iMac.

Just remember, you read it here first: Low-End Macs: Why Apple Needs a Headless Model for Education and Home Users (2004.04.16).

I really think I started the ball rolling with this one, though: How a Revised Cube Could Save Apple Education (2002.12.05).

Editor's addition: Adkins wasn't the first to call for a headless iMac. I first suggested it in The Tiny iMac (1998.08.05 - ten days before the iMac was first available for sale), and followed that with A Compact iMac? (1998.09.10).

I haven't been alone in calling for a modular consumer Mac. Gene Steinberg (Mac Night Owl) called for such a model in March 2003. "A low-cost, headless iMac may be just the ticket to give Apple credibility in a lot of places. It may even help preserve its educational presence."

Alex Salkever (Business Week Online) has been asking for the same thing (see The iMac Needs to Lose Its Head, 2004.02.11). And there have been numerous others - google "headless iMac" and you can find hundreds of articles for and against the idea.

I once wrote: "Until they can produce a headless iMac for under $600 or so, Windows will own the entry level." If the rumors are true, this will be the first time Apple has offered a Mac at such a price. In fact, the first time they've dropped below US$799 (CD-ROM versions of the G3 iMac).

Last May, I suggested other configurations for a headless consumer Mac in One Size Does Not Fit All: Mac Solutions for the Entry Level (2004.05.05). And these articles are just the tip of the iceberg. We desperately want Apple to make a low-end Mac for the consumer market. We want Apple to grow their installed base.

I also proposed a "media center" iMac, which is what some sites are now calling the "headless iMac," in I Want iMacTV (1998.09.17). Of course, that was before iMovie, iDVD, or even CD-RW drives came standard with any Mac - and long before EyeTV made it possible to record analog video to the iMac's hard drive.

Then again, we're not all agreed here at Low End Mac. Anne Onymus penned Why We'll Never See Another Modular Desktop Design from Apple (2002.12.11):

"Call it pigheaded stubbornness (with apologies to the porcine population), but I think that Apple wants to be perceived in a certain way - and Steve Jobs doesn't see any type of traditional desktop design fitting that image. Profits and stockholders be damned. Apple is never going to pursue the huge market for desktop Macs. It might turn them into a 10% player...."

Then again, Anne was wrong about the flat-panel iMac, too.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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