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The iMac is a desktop computer designed and built by Apple Inc.. It has been a large part of Apple's consumer desktop offerings since its introduction in 1998 and has evolved through three distinct forms. In its original form, the G3, the iMac was egg-shaped with a CRT monitor and was mainly enclosed by colored, translucent plastic. The second major revision, the G4, moved to a design in which there is a hemispherical base containing all the main components and an LCD monitor on a freely-moving arm attached to the top of the base. The third, and current, scheme for the iMac, used in the G5 iMac and the Intel iMac, places all the components immediately behind the monitor, creating a slim design which tilts only up and down on a simple metal base.

The machine enjoys a relatively high profile in popular culture due to its distinctive aesthetics and Apple's successful marketing. The iMac and other Macintosh computers can also be seen in various movies, commercials, and TV shows (both live action and animated) due to their wide use in video editing/film production.

The iMac has also received considerable critical acclaim, including praise from technology columnist Walt Mossberg as the “Gold Standard of desktop computing;” Forbes Magazine described the original candy-colored line of iMac computers as being an “industry-altering success”. Recently, rumors have begun to circulate concerning the next-gen iMacs. It has been said that they will be released in Summer 2007, will be the thinnest computers ever and the 17-inch line will be discontinued due to the size of the systems.

[edit] Popular culture

The announcement of the iMac initially caused considerable buzz among commentators, Mac fans, and detractors in the press and on websites. Opinions were polarized over Apple’s drastic changes to the Macintosh hardware. At the time, Apple was revamping its retail strategy to improve the Mac purchasing experience. Apple famously declared that “the back of our computer looks better than the front of anyone else’s.” The distinctive aesthetics were easily spotted in public. The iMac was recognizable on television, in films and in print. This increased Apple’s brand awareness, and embedded the iMac into popular culture. When released, the iMac was one of the best selling computers in the U.S. and Japan for months, and Apple was unable to meet demand.

Apple declared the ‘i’ in iMac to stand for ‘Internet’. Attention was given to the out-of-box experience: the user needed to go through only two steps to set up and connect to the Internet. “There's no step 3!” was the catch-phrase in a popular iMac commercial narrated by actor Jeff Goldblum. Another commercial, dubbed ”Simplicity Shootout”, pitted seven-year-old Johann Thomas and his border collie Brodie, with an iMac, against Adam Taggart, a Stanford University MBA student, with a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion 8250, in a race to set up their computers. Johann and Brodie finished in 8 minutes and 15 seconds, whereas Adam was still working on it by the end of the commercial. Apple later adopted the ‘i’ prefix across its consumer hardware and software lines, such as the iPod, iBook, iPhone, iLife, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iTunes, iWeb, iWork, iSight, and iSync. The prefix has caught on for non-Apple Inc products as well.

[edit] USB

The original iMac was the first Macintosh computer to include a USB port. In fact, USB was the only peripheral interface built into the original iMac; Apple dropped legacy ports such as the Apple Desktop Bus and SCSI in favor of the newer interface. Although USB was invented by Intel and was also available on PCs at the time, the iMac’s popularity and sole dependence on USB helped popularize the interface among third party peripheral makers, as evidenced by the many early USB peripherals that were made of translucent coloured plastic to match the color schemes of the original iMac. Via the USB port, hardware makers could make products compatible with both PCs and Macs. This has allowed Macintosh users to use a large selection of inexpensive devices, such as hubs, scanners, storage devices and mice. After the iMac, Apple continued to remove legacy peripheral interfaces and floppy drives from the rest of its product line.

The successful iMac allowed Apple to continue targeting the Power Macintosh line at the high-end of the market. This foreshadowed a similar strategy in the notebook market, when the iBook was released in 1999. Since then, the company has continued this strategy of differentiating the consumer versus professional product lines. Apple's focus on design has allowed each of its subsequent products to create a distinctive identity. Apple derided the beige colors pervading the PC industry. The company would later use anodized aluminium, and white, black and clear polycarbonate plastics.

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