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Apple Beefs Up iMac Line, Widens Price Gap With Dell

Published May 3rd, 2005

Apple recently refreshed both the PowerMac and iMac desktop lines. The PowerMac upgrade was nice, but nothing spectacular.

Today’s iMac upgrade, however, was a doozy! Very much worth taking notice of, so I did.

I’ve revisited the “High End Consumer Desktop” specs and pricing to see what impact Apple’s new line has on that shootout. You can read the details, but very briefly, the gap widened a little in Apple’s favor, though not as spectacularly as the new specs would suggest, thanks to a couple of key “free upgrades” at the Dell store.

Here are the upgrades in the new iMac line, which kept pricing completely flat across the 3 models. All models now have the following standard specs:

  • 512MB RAM, up from 256MB. This was previously a $75 upgrade option.
  • The ATI Radeon 9600 video card with 128MB of memory, previously only available on the PowerMac line,
  • Built-in 802.11b/g wireless, previously an $89 upgrade
  • Built-in Bluetooth receiver, previously a $49 upgrade
  • Standard 160GB hard drive, previously a $50 upgrade
  • An upgrade to the 1.8 or 2.0 GHz G5 processor, previously available only on the PowerMac line, and
  • A free upgrade to Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), released last week as a huge enhancement to Apple’s previous version of OS X, called “Panther.”

In addition, Apple now includes gigabit ethernet as a standard feature for faster networking, a faster frontside bus, and, on the two 2.0 GHz models, a faster Superdrive CD-RW/DVD-R model sporting 16X write speeds and dual-layer DVD support.

The Dell model was more or less unchanged, with the addition of a free cheapo color printer this time around. Today, Dell was also offering a free upgrade to 512MB of RAM and 160GB hard drive, which helped slightly reduce the computer’s final price. Because the Apple no longer needed any upgrades at all, its final price fell from $1,653 to $1,499, the base price… and it still had much more powerful specs even at that price.

Of course, this is the nature of the PC business… companies leap-frogging each other either with pricing improvements or better specs. Many of you have always assumed, based on erroneous common sense, that any leap-frogging Apple was doing was confined to the specifications or design universe.

As today’s iMac upgrades make clear, I hope, Apple quite often also does the leap-frogging over the competition in price as well.

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