The original iMac was something entirely different from what people expected in a computer that sat on their desk. While everyone else was selling boring beige boxes, Apple said, "Hey, we have this translucent, gumdrop-shaped all-in-one computer that is, well, cool." And it was.
It wasn't anywhere near the most powerful computer you could buy at the time, but it was colorful and fun. It was approachable and friendly--you could pick the whole thing up with a handle at the top. It was, well, playful.
I think you could argue that the iMac's personality made it--in some ways--the most personal of personal computers. Over the last 20 years, the iMac has evolved, but it almost always retained that sense of playfulness, even if it lost the color.
The G4 version, which came out in 2002, was one of the most iconic desktop computer designs ever. That's the one with a 17-inch LCD display floating on a stainless steel arm over a half-sphere dome that served as the base, and housed the computer's "guts."
If we're really being honest, however, in the last few years the iMac has lost that playfulness. It still has a personality, but as its silver aluminum industrial design became thinner and more sophisticated, the iMac's personality changed.
It is still a better-looking computer than almost any other desktop, but it's starting to show its age. It has large bezels around the display, and a chin that makes it resemble a caricature of what a cool all-in-one might look like--seven years ago. Plus, it hadn't seen a color that isn't either gray or darker gray in years.
On Tuesday, Apple announced the newest version of the iMac. The highlight was supposed to be that it now includes Apple's M1 processor. That's certainly a big deal, and it shouldn't be overlooked. After all, Apple had promised to transition all of its Macs to Apple Silicon within two years, and we're nearing the halfway point of that promise.
Besides, the M1 is an order of magnitude faster than the Intel chips it replaces, making the new iMacs an incredible all-around computer. The M1 even meant that Apple was able to slim down, well, everything about the new iMac. It has thinner bezels, a smaller chin, and there's no longer a bulge on the back to house all of the computer guts.
Honestly, though, I think a much bigger deal is that the new iMac is now available in seven colors.
Welcome back, personality.
It might not seem like adding color is that big of a deal, but I think it's brilliant, especially for the iMac. If the explosion of personalization that happened on the iPhone when Apple made it possible to customize your Home Screen and add widgets is any indication, our devices are more an extension of our own personality than ever before.
And most of us would probably prefer to think our personalities are colorful--not gray. It's as if Apple is saying to its customers, you no longer have to choose gray or grayer-gray. Now, you can choose whichever color suits you--just like you can do with an iPhone.
This latest design brings back the thing that made the iMac so popular in the first place. In this case, along with the fun, you also happen to get one of the most powerful Macs the company has ever made. That's not a bad deal at all, and I suspect Apple will probably sell a lot of them. That's brilliant.