The WhyMac

Apple's transition to their own in-house chips, Apple Silicon, has been a humongous boon for the Mac. For years the Intel-powered computers were good but Apple was at the mercy of Intel's roadmap. And many times it was underwhelming. The first M1 computers were stellar in every way, none more striking than the redesigned iMac. But lost in all the excitement was a simple observation: Apple seems disinterested in the iMac altogether.

The M-series iMac was released in May of 2021. Apple redesigned the whole thing. They went back to a set of colors, invoking the whimsy of the original. They made it so thin, the headphone jack (remember those??) had to be placed on the side in order for a 3.5mm plug to fit within. And it had nice color-matched accessories down to the power cord. It was great, especially with the jump the M1 had over the Intel i5 / i7 line.

Then it sat. It was overlooked for the M1 Pro/Ultra/Max chips Apple rolled out. The iMac was never mentioned or bumped when the M2 chips debuted. Same for the M2's more powerful brethren of Pro/Ultra/Max chips. Even with the debut of the Mac Studio and Studio Display, the iMac was just never talked about. One significant thing did happen with the Mac Studio's debut: the 27" Intel iMac was discontinued. And to me, that was the nail in the coffin.

The iMac is a great general purpose computer but the larger and more powerful 27" version was a workhorse. I know because it was my iMac for nearly 12 years. I bought a monster-spec'd one many years ago and it was a do-everything computer. It never struggled with anything I tossed at it. So why would Apple let it wither on the vine?

Apple's 'Scary Fast' event at the end of October (an oddity for Apple events in of itself) finally saw the iMac jump to an M3 chip... and nothing more. No options for a Pro/Max/Ultra version. No changing of its wireless peripherals to USB-C. No design tweaks. No nothing. Old chip out; new chip in. Done.

So why? Why even sell the iMac anymore? In so many ways it makes zero sense. Even for me, a diehard desktop user since... well, forever, have come around to the fact that in modern computing, laptops (especially the M-chips) are equally as powerful as a desktop. I always chose a desktop because I couldn't give up my giant screen. That problem has been long solved with docking stations. Now my current MacBook Pro setup feels like a desktop because it's driving two 4K 27" displays and I have a wireless keyboard and trackpad. For all intents and purposes, it's a desktop except when I need to take it on the go. Thunderbolt makes this so nice because it's a single cable I unplug and I'm on my way.

If Apple is keeping it around for pricing, I don't know how the iMac could beat the appeal of a Mac mini and some general accessories. The Mini has been continuously updated and got some nice bumps since the M1 came out. Could it be for sentimental reasons? I doubt that because Apple has never kept a product around for any reason other than to sell it. When its time has passed, they rightfully move on.

The era of "take computer out of box, plug in 3 wires and you're online" is long gone. A 'family computer' doesn't exist anymore. Laptops and portables have long been the preferred form factor. Modern computing has made them as good or better than their desktop counterparts. Apple will never say it out loud, but I think they continue to see the iMac as someone's first computer. It's still an "unbox and you're ready to go" experience and incredibly simple to get going. But that market is increasingly shrinking and even smaller when you consider someone's first computer is likely to be a teenager or college-bound student who needs a laptop.

The iMac is a wonderful machine with a rich history. It has the notable history of the computer that saved Apple. But that was over 20 years ago. And the iMac is still here and I'd love to really know why.

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