Just in time for the back-to-school selling season, and falling on the heels of several consecutive quarters of remarkable growth, Apple this week unveiled new iMac home computers and software suites aimed at digital media and personal productivity. Apple has been on a roll lately with a successful string of product releases, and the company says that the new iMacs and software are aimed at enticing Windows users to the Mac.
The new iMac is an evolutionary update over the previous design and features the same basic form factor, albeit in a new aluminum enclosure that is more reminiscent of the company's Pro computer designs than was the previous white version. The new iMacs feature 20- and 24-inch integrated glossy widescreen displays, 2.0 to 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo microprocessors, and 1 GB of RAM. Prices start at $1200, which is cheaper than the previous generation 20-inch iMac, though Apple used to offer a 17-inch version that started at under $1000. (The older 17-inch model is apparently still offered to educational customers.)
On the software front, Apple released new versions of its iLife and iWork suites. Apple iLife '08 includes the iDVD software found in previous versions but adds many new capabilities across its other digital media-oriented applications, such as iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb, and Garage Band. Apple iLife is just $79 for individuals and, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs noted, is "years ahead of anything available for the PC." The iWork '08 suite of productivity applications is considerably less interesting than iLife, but adds a new spreadsheet application, Numbers, to the Pages word processing and Keynote presentation packages that were included in previous versions. Like iLife, iWork is just $79 for individuals.
Additionally, Apple updated its poorly performing .Mac online service to support custom domains, 10 GB of storage, and a new Web Gallery feature that requires iLife '08. Apple also quietly updated its Mac mini, which is value-priced for a Mac desktop PC. The diminutive Mac mini now sports reasonably modern Intel Core 2 Duo microprocessor choices and is priced at $599 or $699 depending on the model.
Coming as it does just after the wildly successful launch of the iPhone, Apple is hoping to snare Windows users by "halo" products that bring customers into its retail stores. Other Apple halo products include the iPod line of portable media players and the Apple TV digital media hub.