Apple today quietly added a $999 iMac to the purchase options for colleges.
The custom model is priced $200 less than the entry-level desktop iMac available to the general public, and $149 under the price of that same system when sold to K-12 faculty and higher education students.
It cannot be ordered by college students or their parents.
Equipped with a 21.5-in. screen, 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive, the educational iMac also sports a slower processor -- a 3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 -- than the current model available to the public, which boasts a 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5.
The $999 iMac includes half the graphics memory, half the hard drive storage space and half the RAM of the $1,199 iMac.
And unlike the recent refreshed iMacs -- Apple revamped the line in May -- the educational-only iMac does not provide a Thunderbolt port, opting instead for the older DisplayPort technology.
According to Apple's specifications for the machine , RAM can be boosted to up to 8GB, but only at the time of purchase, hinting that user-done upgrades aren't possible.
Over the years, Apple has regularly offered cut-rate iMacs to educational buyers at prices as low as $899 . In fact, the previous-generation deal -- a circa-2009 20-in. model with the older Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and 1GB of RAM -- remains available at that price.
While the $999 21.-5-in. iMac comes with Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, the $899 20-in. machine is bundled with one of two older operating systems, Leopard or Snow Leopard.
The $999 iMac can be purchased only by eligible colleges and universities direct from Apple through their authorized agents. It's unclear whether the machine can be ordered by K-12 schools.
Custom iMacs for colleges start at $899 for the 20-in. desktop, $999 for the 21.5-in. model. (Graphic: Apple.)
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
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