iMacTV, Take 2

1998.09: Last week I suggested that Apple produce a set-top version of the iMac with a DVD player, infrared keyboard, and the ability to display as clearly as a TV screen allows. (See I Want iMacTV.)

Earlier this week, Somnath Banerjee of State of the Macintosh wrote an article, cMac and Mac Game Credibility, proposing something similar but different: a consumer Mac geared toward the game player.

For the sake of simplicity (and consistency with my previous article), I’ll call the new machine iMacTV.

Here are my design goals for iMacTV:

  • retail price $999 or less
  • output to Mac monitor, VGA monitor, digital TV, or analog TV
  • DVD player and decoder
  • infrared keyboard with trackpad and USB port for mouse
  • good 2D and 3D graphics engines
  • 64 MB RAM – plus one empty RAM socket
  • 300 MHz G3 (which should be entry level when iMacTV ships)
  • LocalTalk/PhoneNet port for inexpensive networking (speed is sufficient for multiplayer games, 4x faster than a 56k modem)
  • one IR game controller

You start with the iMac motherboard, boosting it to a 100 MHz bus, moving to a 300 MHz G3, and making 64 MB your standard configuration. By next summer, that will pretty much be a solid entry level computer system.

Users can attach it to their TV (regular or digital) or a monitor, either Mac or VGA. They can connect it to other iMacTVs in the home using phone wire – or to older Macs with PhoneNet adapters.

Instead of spending $400 on a decent DVD player, $300 on a powerful game machine, and $800 on an entry level computer, the iMacTV combines all these into a single package. It should include a coupon for a special price on Virtual PC, just in case they want to play DOS or Windows games.

The unit should look like consumer electronics, which means not beige or Bondi-and-ice. Black and brushed aluminum are the typical looks for VCRs, DVD players, and other serious audio and video hardware, so Apple should adopt that look for iMacTV.

If possible, Apple should leave the mezzanine slot open. With the upswing in digital video, adding a video input board (possibly including FireWire, S-video, and NTSC composite) could make the iMacTV an excellent video editing system – and a way to dub all your old analog tapes to digital or make them into QuickTime movies.

Of course, you’d still have the USB ports, an internal hard drive, and all the other great features that would make iMacTV not just a great consumer video device, but a real Macintosh, too.

Update: In October 1999, Apple introduced a new iMac design with a slot-loading optical drive and a slightly sharper CRT display. The entry-level $999 version had a 350 MHz CPU, 64 MB of system memory, and a 24x CD-ROM drive; it came in blueberry. The 400 MHz iMac DV and DV SE models included a 4x DVD-ROM drive and were the first iMacs with built-in FireWire. The iMac DV came in all five “fruity” iMac flavors, the DV SE in graphite gray. All three models support up to 1 GB of RAM. Not headless, but otherwise somewhat similar to the iMacTV concept.

Further Reading

keywords: #imac #imactv #headlessimac