Apple's new iMac will go on sale on Friday -- and at least one analyst suggests the new product could be one of the wedges by which the technology giant can peel away market share from Microsoft Windows.
The all-in-one model comes with 8 GB of 1600 MHz memory, a 1-terabyte hard drive, third-generation, quad-core Intel Core i5 processor which is upgradable to Core i7, and 60 percent faster performance with the latest Nvidia GeForce graphics processor. There's also a new design, reduced reflection on the 21.5-inch, 1920x1080 screen, and an optional Fusion Drive, which combines 128 GB of flash solid-state storage with a 1-terabyte hard drive. A 27-inch model will be available in December.
New Apple models could take advantage of a window of opportunity for the company, according to Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis. He told us Apple could "grab market share from Microsoft, particularly on the desktop," for a reason that could be seen as particularly ironic.
'Closer' to Windows 7
Customers looking to buy a new PC, Greengart said, will have to choose one with Windows 8. But, instead of the moving to the new Microsoft OS, with its new user interface and a learning curve for many basic functions, customers might choose to move to Mac, he said.
The reason? "The Mac OS is now actually closer to the user interface in Windows 7 than the new Windows 8 is," Greengart said. While the newest Mac OS utilizes some aspects from Apple's mobile iOS platform, he pointed out that it is still primarily designed for a mouse and keyboard. On the other hand, Greengart noted, Windows 8 "is primarily designed for a finger."
Windows 8 is based around a new, touch-optimized interface of colorful tiles with live data. "There isn't a traditional interface in Windows 8," he said. Greengart noted that, even if one chooses to utilize the "classic" interface designed for keyboard and mouse, it is not exactly like the classic one in Windows 7, and users will need to learn new ways, for instance, to start applications or to print.
Design, Fusion Drive
"It's an easier transition from Windows 7 to Mac OS than from Windows 7 to Windows 8," he said. Greengart added that he likes Windows 8 on a tablet, where the touch interface can be used to its fullest, but that he "genuinely" dislikes using the OS with a mouse. "I'm not saying it's bad, but it's a different learning curve, and the UI is a radical departure" from Windows 7, he said.
Greengart also pointed to two innovative aspects of the new iMac. One is its "striking" design, which makes the screen look "razor thin" when seen at an angle. At its edges, the new computer is only 0.2 inches thick.
The other innovation he cited is the optional Fusion Drive, which constantly and automatically optimizes storage between the magnetic drive and the solid-state storage. The intended result is to provide the kind of storage volume to which users have become accustomed in a desktop unit, while offering fast load times.