Flower What?

Originally published 23 February 2001 as a Tech Reflections article for Low End Mac.

Like many other Mac aficionados, I was checking out the news from Macworld Tokyo Wednesday night. Someone mentioned new iMac models, which didn't come as a big surprise to me.

Then I saw the colours.

The what? Flower who? Dalmatians? What kind of mind-altering substances were those designers on when they came up with this stuff? Apple spent eight months developing these plastics? Why?

What happened to sensibly (if irritatingly) named and sensible looking colours like ruby and sage? Even strawberry, in all its Barbie-pink glory, was better than this.

"Macs Are Toys"

Apple has recently been touted in the popular press as "getting back into the business market" with the subdued colours on the iMac DV line.

If the iMac were ever a serious consideration by any corporate purchasing department, it isn't now. What businessman would want an iMac on his desk that looks like someone ate a florist's stock and threw up on his computer? What businesswoman wants an iMac on her desk that looks like something out of the X-Files, with little alien spaceship-like blobs all over the plastic?

Apple effectively killed corporate sales of iMacs for the next eight months, and probably longer, because these outrageous colours further cement the iMac's image in the press as a "toy computer" and not the real, productivity-enhancing business machine that it can certainly be.

The Consumer Market

How about the consumer market? Admittedly, I can see the Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian* colours appealing to some of the girls I knew in high school, so there is undoubtedly a market out there. Whether or not this will actually increase iMac sales remains to be seen.

* Did anyone bother to spell-check Apple's site before it was posted? Dalmatian doesn't have an "o" in it.

I don't think the new iMacs have any more visual appeal to the teenage market than the old ones did. They certainly have less appeal to large sectors of the adult population, as evidenced by the talk on several mailing lists last night. Put these two factors together, and you have a recipe for trouble in the sales department.

Good-bye DVD

Looks aside, Apple did another incredibly stupid thing with the new iMacs — they took out the DVD drives.

Nearly every consumer-targeted PC on the Wintel side has a DVD drive. A lot of them have CD-RW drives. Some have both.

A combination DVD/CD-RW drive is available, but not yet in a slot-loading format. I find this a very poor excuse for dropping DVD.

To be competitive in what is widely acknowledged as a cutthroat consumer market, Apple absolutely has to have feature parity (if not MHz parity) with Wintel machines. Removing the DVD drive is folly — consumers go out to buy a machine for their kid going off to college, and the kid says, "Hey, I wanna watch DVDs on my computer. Hmm...looks like the iMac can't do that. How about this nice HP?"

The fact is that watching DVDs on a 15" computer screen isn't really worth it. (Like many people, when I want to watch DVDs, I'll get a DVD player for my TV.) Consumers don't realise this, just like they don't realise that a 1.2 GHz Pentium 4 isn't any faster in most daily tasks than a 733 MHz G4. This means that Apple had better establish the value of the CD burner over a DVD drive really fast, or else sales are going to go right down the drain.

And then there are those damned colours to contend with.

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson