Apple banks on iPod’s success with latest iMacs

Apple Computer Inc. is hoping to entice PC users who purchase iPods into buying the similarly designed new iMac G5 – but one Canadian reseller says, “”they’re dreaming.””

“”Apple has done many exciting things,”” said Allan Sorensen, sales and service at North Star Computer Ltd. in Toronto. “”Very

few PC users have come over and Apple users have been greatly entertained in the process.””

“”There’s a reason why PCs dominate with the clones and the price-competitiveness and the prevalence of these things being in the office. This is a personal choice to go with Apple.””

Sorensen was commenting on Apple’s recently announced iMac desktop. The machine’s new design integrates the computer, including the G5-based logic board, power supply, slot-loading optical drive, hard disk and speakers, into a two-inch flat panel display (on the 17-inch model). The panel, which comes in 17-inch and 20-inch models, rests on an eight-millimeter-thick anodized aluminum foot.

“”iPod brought life back to Apple,”” said Mary Percat, national sales manager of resellers at Apple Canada. “”PC customers are buying iPod. It’s an opportunity for resellers to sell a new Mac product (to them). Resellers have a primed customer base to sell to that they didn’t before.””

Apple said there won’t be significant changes to its go-to-market strategy with this release, which is scheduled to ship later this month.

“”There’s no particular change to our channel strategy,”” said Percat. “”It’s an opportunity for national retailers like Best Buy and London Drugs as well.””

The desktop is available through Apple directly, Ingram Micro and EMJ, and national retailers such as Best Buy and London Drugs. Percat added the number of orders to date have been “”very good.””

Targeted at small and medium business as well as home users and the education market, Apple doesn’t expect too many sales from its high-end user group. “”We’re not targeting creative professionals,”” said Willi Powell, strategic development manager at Apple Canada. “”The feeling around that is the professional user usually wants a little more flexibility on their monitor or display options or even their hard disk.””

The Power Mac G5, for example, allows users to install two drives which can be mirrored, giving users more data security, added Powell.

Percat said Apple is also aiming the product to resellers who specifically sell to small and medium markets. “”SMB customers still need e-mail, access to the Internet and Microsoft Word. The ease of use is still there,”” she said.

The iMac, which originally debuted five years ago, is available in three configurations.

New features on all models include, AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth wireless modules (802.11 standard) built in at factory level, 600 MHz front-side bus, 400 MHz DDR memory expandable to 2 GB, AGP 8X graphics and 7200 rpm Serial ATA drives up to 250 GB. The new iMacs also come standard with a NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics processor with 64 MB video memory for graphics performance and game play.

Users can opt for an external Bluetooth device that plugs into the keyboard or USB port for about $70, said Powell.

The systems ships with Apple’s suite of digital lifestyle applications called iLife, which includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and GarageBand. It also comes pre-installed with Mac OS X version 10.3 Panther.

For Sorensen, this is the most “”exciting”” release since the first iMac.

“”This is as exciting to me as the day the original iMac came out,”” he said. “”It seems very archaic now but people were lined up at midnight for those things. (Apple) was right on the money for that time. This thing is way ahead of it. I can’t see people ever saying they’ll need another computer after this. This thing will last for 20 years.””

Sorensen expects his first shipment from EMJ to arrive in a week “”without any unforeseen surprises.””

The starting price for the 17-inch model with 1.6 GHz processing speed is $1,749; $1,999 for the 17-inch with 1.8 GHz; and $2,499 for the 20-inch with 1.8 GHz.

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