Apple’s iMac turns 20

“The iMac launched May 6 1998, exactly 20 years ago. It is not the most significant computer to ever exist. It was a clear descendant of the original Mac which established the ‘all-in-one’ desktop computer category,” Horace Dediu writes for Asymco. “”That category, to which it still belongs, is a modest segment. The last time Apple reported portable sales separately was in late 2012 when the desktops/servers and pro systems combined made up only 20% of all Mac sales by units. If iMac were 10% of Mac sales, it would represent about 2 million units in 2017.”

“Desktops evolved into laptops and personal computing evolved into pocket computing. Becoming more personal means more intimacy and this is leading to wearable computing,” Dediu writes. “There is more beyond that to be sure.”

Apple's iconic iMac
Apple’s iconic iMac


“But the iMac is a historically significant machine. It allowed Apple to start on a new trajectory. It did this by first offering a financial lifeline. Sales of Macs, which were at the time the only source of revenues for Apple, increased from 2.7 million to 3.8 million a year,” Dediu writes. “Second, the iMac was the first host of OS X, an operating system built on Unix which made it extremely flexible. iMac gave Apple the space for OS X to be developed and to be optimized for various hardware… Lastly, iMac’s design screamed ‘consumer product’ which went from signaling inferiority to superiority. It set a standard for novelty, creativity and dynamism in the category that was considered second-rate. To me the incredible aspect of the iMac’s entry is its uncanny timing. It came not only just in time to save Apple but exactly half-way between the first two ages of computing.”

Much more in the recommended full article, including the usual excellent graphs, here.

MacDailyNews Take: We have owned a bunch of iMacs throughout the years, from Bondi to Blueberry (sorry, no Flower Power or Dalmatian) all the way to our current sleek aluminum desktops. The original MacDailyNews site was built mostly on an Indigo iMac G3 (with a PowerBook assist)!

Happy Birthday, iMac! And, thanks, Steve!


  1. The clock is ticking. Apple II lasted 16 years before being discontinued. I see two ways of the Mac era ending. 1. Macs are discontinued as a product line, or 2. Macs are released with A-series processors.

    The Mac could not do all that the Apple II could when it was introduced (and was the Mac was still lacking in some areas when the Apple II/IIGS was discontinued). BUT, it was able to things that new users wanted to do, and expanded into areas the Apple II could never reach.

  2. I’m sorry, but how ANYONE can equate that crappy hockey puck of a mouse as cool is beyond me. Worst mouse I ever had the disdain to use!

  3. oh, that original “Bondi Blue” iMac! ; )

    i remember the 1st day it came out.
    i went to Harrods, London.
    they had no idea how to sell it.
    though it was a novelty, i had read all i could on it before going to see in physically. at Harrods, i persuaded 2 customers to buy it since Harrods staff didn’t know how to sell this non-beige pc ; ), the 1st internet-ready / non-beige / transparent / portable desktop pc…i had fun to support Apple’s new effort ; ) – thanks for changing the dull dell ibm big blue (non-blue pc) world Apple/iSteve ; )

    1. There was a big furniture shop in Tottenham Court road, London which used those original iMacs as point of sales terminals. Customers could often be seen affectionately stroking the curved plastic rear moulding of the case.

      Ive always felt a good test test of public artworks such as sculptures is to see how people touch and stroke them. With a bronze sculpture, the places people touch are bright and shiny in contract to the rest of it. You can look for the shiny parts to see where people’s attention is drawn. I was interested to se show people felt the need to touch iMacs in the way that they touched sculptures. I’ve never noticed anybody fondle a beige PC tower ( note – kicking is not fondling ).

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