The iMac perfects the desktop

Thanks to Apple, the desktop is no longer a barren wasteland, says Tom Yager

I have never owned a desktop computer. I own servers. I own scary desk-side systems with 64-bit AMD and IBM G5 CPUs. I have AMD Turion and Apple PowerBook G4 notebooks. In the world of computing, I consider desktop computers the muck at the bottom of the tank that swallows creativity and imagination. They are slapped-together sheet-metal sedatives that carry petty-cash price tags and quality to match.

It's important to note that despite my fondness for Apple's enterprise offerings, I've always felt the iMac might as well be made by a different company. Even so, duty required that I unpack the iMac that arrived this week and give Apple's first Intel-based box a spin. What I scheduled to be a pro forma, kitchen-table evaluation turned out to set a personal and professional precedent.

After 30 years of refusing to touch a desktop computer, the centrepiece of my office is now a 20-inch iMac. I used OS X Tiger's migration wizard to transfer the data and applications from my ever-present PowerBook G4 to my iMac. I now look forward to working in my office where it was previously a place to avoid in favor of an iLap, a comfy chair and a PowerBook G4.

IMac, a trim polycarbonate, cinema-aspect LCD panel concealing a dual-core Intel-based PC, is history's first perfect desktop. No, I have not parted with my lifelong disdain for either desktops or hyperbole. Apple simply delivered what I've held out for in a desktop. As it is, I have relieved my PowerBook G4 and my Power Mac G5 Quad from the desktop duty into which both were pressed, freeing them for the tasks for which each is best suited.

Frontline PC makers take their cues from analysts who look at buyers and decree that innovation and ingenuity are just wasted capital. These are the same shapers of opinion who showered Apple with huzzahs for its decision to jump into the commodity PC pit. Why make silk purses for a market shopping for sow's ears? Besides, we're told, Apple Computer's shares should be listed under the symbol IPOD. The world has enough PCs, let alone PCs running this Tiger thing that makes gorgeous screen shots but lacks a Start menu.

If iMac shipped with Windows or Linux, I wouldn't go near it. If Apple's Intel-based desktop looked like a Power Mac G5 with a separate display, I wouldn't have signed for it. Apple's Intel-based desktop had to be an iMac and Apple deserves credit for taking the risk.

IMac rates as the ideal desktop because you drop it on your desk, power it up, point it at your network and you're ready to do serious work. There's no shopping for 802.11b/g wireless, Bluetooth, LCD panels, webcams, speakers, infrared remotes, digital audio cards, an upscale mouse and so on. iMac excels because Apple chose the components you would have selected if you had taken the time to build your own desktop from best-of-breed parts.

You can be impressed with iMac as a really pretty desktop computer that runs great applications. But if you see iMac as a view port to all of the user-focused engineering genius and creativity in which no other PC maker thought worth its investment, you understand why I see the iMac machine as the first and the only desktop worth using.

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