Apple has squeezed a sixth product into its neat four product quadrant - or a seventh if you count the iPod, as Steve Jobs apparently does when posed with this discrepancy at the rack launch last month - by making the eMac available to world+dog.
Launched a month ago, the eMac is effectively the classic CRT iMac upgraded with a larger display and G4 horsepower, but Apple ensured that it was only made available to education users. As we noted then, the eMac lacks for nothing in the speed department compared to the new LCD iMacs - it matches the new iMac feature for feature - and Mac community sites speculated that it could detract sales from the flashy new arrival.
The eMac should be a popular choice with at least a couple of traditional Apple user bases, if Register readers are to be believed: grunt production work in publishing houses and in record studios. The former, apparently, have been looking for a fast Quark machine to augment the expandable pro-Macs, and the eMac's CRT-display (graphics pros are fussy about color fidelity, and shy away from LCDs) and its low cost make it easier push through a departmental budget. For the latter, used to lugging an iMac on the road, the eMac offers a robust option.than the lampstand iMac. That's an odd one to hear - we've done our best to throw an iMac2 around, and you really, really don't want to do this for too long, as the thing is pretty damn solid - but we guess the reaction proves that perception is everything.
The new iMac looks clinical, sterile almost - and we suspect Apple knows this. So the promo videos custesy it up, show the computer jiving away to a contemporary soundtrack. Only when a roadie sees a hinge, he thinks "breakable part". So there's some work to be done here: perhaps Apple can drive a large, dense object - such as the President - into an iMac to prove that it can stand up to rough treatment?
With megahertz and price comparisons between the iMac and the eMac putting them neck and neck, the differentiator becomes the display, of course. And here's where things get weird, for neither has much to boast about.
While Apple's laptops really dazzle with their LCD quality, we keep hearing (and have to agree, from the models we saw at MacWorld) that the new iMac's display is barely up to snuff. It's inferior to Apple's standalone 15-inch LCD, to us.
And on its part, the eMac obliges users to downscale to low resolutions to maintain usable frequencies. (Three years ago I bought a nasty CRT 17" monitor, the cheapest I could find, and yet it handled 1024x768 comfortably at 100Hz. The eMac turns in that resolution at 89Hz, and to get to the higher resolutions Apple boasts about in the eMac blurb, you need to throttle back to 72Hz. Which, when combined with the penal stripes branding in OS X makes for an experience similar to the torture sequence in the Ipcress File, and we wouldn't want to wish that on anyone. (Except Michael Caine, all over again).
On balance the eMac stands a good chance of helping Apple expand its market, and with the classic iMac design now appealing to the kind of people who buy the abominable PT Cruiser, who knows where it could end? We bet on this sticking around for some time. Oh, and it's pretty quiet, too. ®