BusinessWeek:  Apple ‘blowing an opportunity’ with iMac G5; calls for ‘headless iMac’

“No question about it, Apple Computer’s new iMac G5 is beautiful. The minimalist design, whose echoes of the iPod are entirely intentional, would grace any desk. Although I have some quibbles with the details, the iMac offers outstanding performance at a fair price. Still, lovely as the iMac is, I think Apple may be blowing an opportunity to expand its market,” Stephen H. Wildstrom writes for BusinessWeek.

“The hardware is beautiful, the software is beautiful — so what’s wrong with this picture? For one thing, some functionality seems to have been lost in the interest of aesthetics. The previous generation of iMacs allowed almost unlimited adjustment of both horizontal and vertical screen angle and a considerable range of height. The new models offer effortless vertical tilt, but only up to 30 degrees. Horizontal movement is accomplished by swiveling the entire unit, which has a slippery plastic pad on the bottom of the aluminum foot. There is no height adjustment at all, a serious blow to good ergonomics,” Wildstrom writes.

MacDailyNews Take: With the iMac’s foot removed and an articulating arm attached instead (as Apple obviously intends as the ultimate iMac setup), the new iMac G5 simply floats above your work surface and allows an even greater range of motion that the iMac G4 desk lamp models that preceded it. Apple’s online store (under “Apple Accessories”) shows the “iMac G5 VESA Mount Adapter Kit” which will allows your iMac G5 to be used with VESA compliant mounting solutions such as wall mounts and articulating arms. Apple’s iMac G5 VESA Mount Adapter Kit is slated to become available for order in October for US$29. The iMac G5 VESA Mount Adapter allows your iMac G5 computer to be used with a variety of alternate mounting solutions such as wall mounts and zero footprint articulating arms based on the VESA flat panel mounting interface (FPMI). The new iMac G5 family features a removable desktopfoot. iMac G5 VESA Mount Adapter Kit contains a tool that allows you to remove the system foot and to attach the VESA Mount Adapter to the computer. The iMac G5 is now ready to attach to any VESA compliant mounting solution that has a 100mm x 100 mm attachment. More info here.]

“With any real improvement in Windows at least two years away, I think Apple could shake the industry by offering, for $700 or less, a PC-like Mac box for which consumers would provide their own displays. The company wouldn’t have to scrimp on features or quality; the unit would lack the elegant design of the iMac G5, but it would still be a Mac. Given Apple’s obsession with beautiful but expensive industrial design, there is almost no chance we’ll ever see such a product. And that’s a shame, both for Apple and for its prospective customers,” Wildstrom writes.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Wildstrom mentions Apple’s eMac, “Apple’s only sub-$1,000 computers are two dated eMacs, bulbous all-in-ones with 17-in. CRT displays.” Obviously, he’s calling for the mythical “headless iMac.” We suggest Wildstrom try pricing a 64-bit processor Windows machine that includes a Slot-loading Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW), two FireWire 400 ports, three USB 2.0 ports, two USB 1.1 ports (on keyboard), VGA output, S-video and composite video output, and a 17-inch widescreen TFT active-matrix LCD featuring 1440 x 900 pixels and millions of colors and see how close he comes to US$1,299. Even if he can come within $500, he still will be stuck with Windows and not have the superior and secure Mac OS X. Would a “headless iMac” make sense for Apple? Would it really increase sales or would it simply cannibalize Apple’s other Mac lines?

Related MacDailyNews article:
The Washington Times: Apple Mac offers better value than Windows PCs – October 05, 2004
Wendland: ‘Apple iMac G5 is the finest personal computer I’ve ever used’ – October 05, 2004
Apple Macs now cost less and run faster than Wintel PCs – September 30, 2004
Replace iMac G5’s foot with an arm using Apple’s iMac G5 VESA Mount Adapter Kit – September 01, 2004
Apple iMac G5’s removable foot saves us from switching to Windows XP – August 31, 2004


  1. He may be right. People often already have a monitor, but Apple forces consumers you to buy a monitor when you buy the computer–unless you buy a tower, but that’s the wrong market. They just might do well to sell a headless machine that’s priced at $699. But who knows? Maybe they’ve done their market research, and it’s told them no PC user would buy such a thing.

  2. Whether or not a headless iMac makes sense depends on how it is marketed. Do people need a headless iMac? No. Will people buy it if marketed properly? Absolutely.

  3. the refreshed emac will the be “headless” one i can see it. he’s probably right, but for the education market. emac is the best bet to be headless . . . wager anyone?

  4. Apple should revisit Cube design. It was ahead of its time when it flopped. And too expensive. People were complaining that it was not expandable. Back then there were not enough USB or FireWire peripherals. Now there is plenty of them. Did you know that Apple designed G4 Cube for future processor upgrades? I just installed 1.4 GHz G4 accelerator in one. I was surprised to find that there was a place for CPU cooling fan, complete with logic board socket for it. Apple put it in there! This thing can probably run G5 processor with little modification. Bring it on Apple! Shove it down the throats of those who say there is not sub-$500 Mac!

  5. Headless mac = powermac G5

    I don’t get it, perhaps porsche should start selling an engine-less boxster? Then we can throw a cheap pinto motor in the thing. It will be slow as shit, but damnit it will be cheap…This arguement is stupid..

  6. I’m with the article writer. I’d love to see a cheap little cube-sized G5 minitower. In fact, I’d say that the original Mac Cube was an excellent computer whose dismal failure stemmed from pricing it as a luxury item instead of an entry-level computer for consumers who already have a monitor.

    How’s this for a spin… I actually think a headless iMac would help sell Cinema displays. Why? Because there are lots of pro users who already have a slightly dated last-generation display who would like to upgrade to the latest aluminum display, but they have nowhere to put their old display. So if they could buy a headless iMac, they could use that with their old display, and use a brand new display with their high-end machine.

  7. And if a headless Mac comes, then people will whine about other things. “What, no PCI slot, but I already have PCI cards!”, “What, no second drive bay? But I have an old harddrive!”
    If you buy an iMac it come complete. That’s the beauty.
    Another thing: leaving the display doesn’t cut the price to 700 $; Apple doesn’t pay retail prices for the displays. And marketing and logistics, profit margins must stay the same. Meaning: a headless iMac with G5 would cost close to $ 1000. Not very tempting, in comparison.

  8. The all-in-one iMac is not something Apple can dump because the current Apple is all about brand recognition. If you had an headless iMac, then we wouldn’t recognize those computers as Macs – as in shops and TV shows. It will plainly be a “Windows” monitor in the eyes of people. iMac and even eMac is also about easy installation, which a separate monitor wouldn’t give. Apple has to remain recognizable to remain visible in the public, or else the Mac will fade away in obscurity. Apple will become the company of just another OS and nothing else. Will CPU sales go up? Maybe.

    Even if Apple produced a headless iMac, how much would Apple charge? And how much would Apple charge for the bundle of Mac and Monitor? If Apple made a $700 iMac, would more people buy it than the current iMac G5? Remember, this headless iMac will still not be upgradable. Will Linux zealots buy such a Mac? Probably not, because they will stick to their $500 dollar Intel hardware. It’s difficult, you know, for Apple to see if it will sell better.

    Maybe, just maybe the eMac can go headless. Make it a pizza box or maybe bring the cube back! But Apple wants the eMac to be about easy installation. And there’s no place in the product line for another Mac. So the only Mac that can go headless is the eMac – which would stand for economy Mac.

  9. Actually, the article has a valid point as far as it concerns switchers. Having recently switched myself, I had a perfectly good 21″ monitor that I could have reused with a new Mac. However, the iMac 17″ that I bought was for home use, so I didn’t need all the power in a tower model. Now, I’m trying to switch the rest of my family. They’re warming up, but they’re also all teachers — which means that they are all on seriously tight budgets at home. They have a hard time affording even an eMac on their salaries. A sub-$700 Mac that would let them reuse some of their existing hardware would go a long way towards convincing them to switch.

    A Wine-like environment for them to run all their little freebie educational PC games would do the rest, but that’s another topic altogether.

    In addition, a headless “iMac” would not cannibalize sales on current models primarily because it is aimed at non-Apple customers, especially at corporations who need to maximize their IT spending. I have a feeling that Apple would be more readily embraced in the business world if they would allow businesses to reuse some of their existing hardware investments while making the switch.

  10. Give em a Cube-ish box, 2 drive bays, 1 AGP slot, 2 PCI slots, FireWire, USB2, etc etc, keyboard and a THREE-BUTTON MOUSE (with scroll wheel), powered of course with a G5 having 512MB of RAM as shipped. Price it at $599, and watch what happens. Apple wouldn’t be able to make enough of them. (Shucks, they can’t even make enough of what they already offer.) I really think they could make a decent profit at that price, and if they could only meet the demand their profits would go sky high.

  11. The all-in-one design has one power supply, not two; one cooling system, not two; one case, not two; no monitor ports & cables. All these things cost money to make. In effect, the G5 iMac is a $600 computer piggybacked on a Cinema Display. There is zero chance that Apple could make a decent profit selling a headless machine for the same price. And even if they did offer a headless machine, they wouldn’t be making the markup on the Cinema Display, because most people wouldn’t buy them.

    Remember, this is not just some stupid idea that Steve Jobs came up with the other day. He’s been selling all-in-one Macs since 1984, & knows that millions of people are willing to pay for a top-quality monitor along with their Mac. Why change what works in favour of a business model that is almost sure to produce much less profit per unit?

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