Mac Scope

Waiting for the Knockoffs

Stephen Van Esch - 2002.04.03

The new iMac is a hands down winner. No one questions there. From the gushing reviews in the Mac press to the gushing reviews in the PC press and to the gushing reviews in the non-tech press, Apple has pretty much wowed everyone. Even absolute Luddites I know have seen pictures of it and admired it.

So where are the knockoffs? Anyone want to lay down a bet or two regarding when the first "iPC" appears - and the first Apple lawsuit is launched?

The copycats might have a tougher time this time around, though. The first iMac was reasonably easy to copy for a flat panel iMaccouple of reasons, not the least was the fact that a little translucent plastic could give a machine a bit of the Apple magic. The original iMac was also an all-in-one machine, which weren't all that uncommon. So, a dash of color, an all-in-one enclosure, and you had a knock off iMac ready to deceive naive computer shoppers everywhere.

Things are different this time around. First off, the shape of the computer is entirely different from anything seen before. It will take time to get some designers together to create a workable version of the round iMac base. The manufacturing process will also have to be tweaked considerably before an iPC can come to market.

The biggest roadblock, though, is the pivoting arm that holds the monitor. That's no mean feat of engineering, and the fact that it's strong enough to be used as a handle will only make it harder for an iPC to come to market. Can you imagine the number of smashed machines if the arm wasn't properly designed?

The smooth pivoting ability might also be very difficult to duplicate. Let's face it, a poorly designed pivot for the flat screen will cause more grief than most companies will want.

The final hurdle is the fact that the new iMac is so completely an Apple product that any attempt at duplication will be extremely obvious. A circular base? Didn't we see that on the iMac? A pivoting monitor? Didn't the iMac come out with that last year?

Apple's ad campaign pretty much guarantees that anyone watching TV or walking the street of a major city will know about the new iMac and know that it's an Apple product. Everything that comes after it will be an also ran.

Of course, many people are so wedded to their PCs that a knock off iMac will suit them just fine. They'll buy one (before the lawsuit shuts down the imitator), try lifting it by the pivot (bad news there), realize that adjusting the monitor is not smooth and easy (and may not be adjusted to that many angles), and that the cheap plastic around the base looks, well, cheap.

I still think a knock off is entirely possible. It won't be for a little while, because there are so many hurdles. And when it does come out, it will probably be so shoddy that it will only drive more iMac sales.

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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