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iMac Workstation?

By John Virata
So there were no new PowerMac models announced at Macworld San Francisco this week, no big deal. While many in the PC world laugh at the supposed lack of horsepower that the current generation G4s feature, the Mac is still probably the most powerful computer in terms of user experience, and in the content creation market, the Mac is still king.

Introducing the new iMac instead of what the power users wanted, a new PowerMac, probably serves the company better from a financial perspective, and by virtue of the new design, will continue to set the mark for all of the PC clone makers to follow. Jobs noted that while Apple was "innovating," PC makers were retrenching and laying off thousands of workers. Gateway is turning into a shell of its former self, HP is still trying to merge with Compaq, Dell announced layoffs late last year, and where is SGI? Doesn't SGI ship a Windows box? or is it IRIX, or is it Linux? Can they make up their mind?


Seeding the future
Which brings me to my next topic, seeding the future. Apple sold 6 million iMacs since its introduction just three years ago, Of those 6 million, how many returned to Apple and bought a new Mac? And what of this digital hub idea that Jobs is talking about? Though not new, I think it is a great idea, as I have been using my Mac (and my PC) as a digital hub of sorts for the last five years or so. With its Mac and free software applications, Apple is doing a great job of seeding the next generation of digital artists. No other computer manufacturer can make that claim, though Sony is doing some pretty impressive things with its VAIO line.

All of the consumer level applications that Apple ships free with its computers have professional level counterparts that could potentially be on the upgrade path of those who use those iTools. Hook them early and they are customers for life, right? Well maybe yes and no. I use both platforms and enjoy using both my Mac and my Windows box.

Do I like the new iMac? Yes I do. From a design perspective, I think it has appeal. When I first saw a picture of it on the Web, I thought it looked like a flat panel display connected to an AirPort base station. It first looked ugly and the display was just not where it seemed. Then, I realized that the display is not cluttering up the desk, but is floating. And the computer itself serves as the base station or Digital Hub, if you will, for the entire setup. G4 processor, ample RAM, lots of I/O, the iMac today can serve as an entry level Mac workstation. Sure it doesn't have the PCI expandability or the internal hard drive capability, but you can expand it via FireWire and USB.

It is not the next generation G5 GigaMonster that all the Mac fanatics had hoped for, but it does set the stage for the next generation of PowerMac users. If only Apple made that flat panel display with the capability to create art directly on the display ala Sony's flat panel solution.

Apple is setting the stage to offer some interesting professional solutions in the next few years, that is inevitable. The current dual processor PowerMac is a pretty compelling solution when coupled with OS X. So what if it doesn't push the GigaMonster mark. Apple has a robust video editing solution, and a pro level DVD solution, all it would need to complete the circle is a credible 3D solution. Know of any 3D software company that Apple can acquire to complete the circle?

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at jvirata@digitalmedianet.com
Related Keywords:workstations, artists, media creation, content creation

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