The iMac Ahead

1999: For over a dozen years, the personal computer industry has been producing incremental upgrades. The 4.77 MHz IBM clone gave way to 8 MHz “turbo” models, then 10 MHz, and sometimes more. With the 80286, speeds leapt from 6 MHz to 8, 10, 12, and 16 MHz.

Fast forward. Over the past year or so, CPU speeds have flashed past 100 MHz. Last year’s hot 233 MHz iMac is yesterday’s news, replaced by an even faster model (as predicted in The iMac 300 in October – even if I did guess the speed wrong).

Bigger numbers, as in higher megahertz ratings, sell. So the 266 MHz iMac seems like a lot more computer than the 233 MHz model, even though it’s only a 14% improvement in speed.

What Apple is giving us isn’t a quantum leap in performance, but a slow, steady climb toward more capable iMacs at about the same price as the last model.

Case #1: Apple quietly replaced the original iMac with the Revision B model in November. Changes included Mac OS 8.5 instead of 8.1, a better version of the ATI RAGE chip set, and more VRAM, all without raising the price.

Case #2: Apple introduced the iMac Rev. C with more speed, a bigger hard drive, and more colors, at the same time reducing the retail price by $100.

More computer for the money. Each iMac is a better buy than the one before it.

After more than a dozen years in the computer industry, it’s pretty easy to predict the iMacs ahead of us. Every three months or so, Apple will make a small improvement to the current iMac, maybe doubling RAM, increasing hard drive size, or replacing CD-ROM with DVD.

And about every six months, the real world shelf life of a computer model, they’ll replace the current iMac with a faster model. My guess is they’ll also introduce a spectrum of new colors at the same time. (Anyone for wine, midnight, gold, or daisy?)

Update: Apple moved to a new set of colors with the Summer 2000 line. Colors included indigo, ruby, sage, graphite, and snow white.

There will be some variance to accommodate the Macworld Expo in January and August, so I expect the 300 MHz iMac will appear in August, followed by the 350 MHz iMac or 400 MHz iMac next January. (Either model could include Apple adopting a 100 MHz motherboard for the iMac, which will share more components with the Power Mac G3 than the current motherboard does.)

Looking at Moore’s Law (computers double in speed every two years or less, computers have twice as much memory and twice as large hard drives every two years or less), the second anniversary iMac will be a 500 MHz model with a 10 GB hard drive and 128 MB of memory.

Stick around and watch Apple continue to evolve the iMac into a better value with each upgrade.

Update: August 1998, 233 MHz. January 1999, 266 MHz. April 1999, 333 MHz. October 1999, 350 and 400 MHz. July 2000, 450 MHz – just before the iMac’s 2nd birthday. February 2001, 500 and 600 MHz. July 2001, 700 MHz.

keywords: #mooreslaw #imac