Techworld

Apple starts selling thinner, higher-priced iMacs

Fusion Drive option costs between $250 and $400

More than a month after Apple unveiled new all-in-one desktops, the company today started selling its redesigned iMacs.

The 21.5-in. iMac, with standard configurations prices at $1,299 and $1,499, will ship in one to three days from ordering. The larger 27-in. iMac, which costs $1,799 and $1,999 for its two models, can be pre-ordered starting Friday, but won't ship for two to three weeks, Apple's online store showed.

The new desktops are $100 more than their predecessors.

Apple introduced the new desktops on Oct. 23, but said then that the computers would not ship for weeks. The same week, CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the delays, saying then that iMac supplies would be "constrained for the full quarter in a significant way."

The delays were unprecedented for Apple. Since the new iMacs' Oct. 23 unveiling, Apple has had none to sell on its online store, having also pulled the previous generation from the market. Only remaining inventories of the older models -- which were introduced in May 2011 -- were available at Apple's retail stores and those of its authorized resellers.

The most innovative addition to the new iMacs was "Fusion Drive," an option that combines 128GB of flash storage with a standard platter-based hard drive of between 1TB and 3TB. The hybrid drive significantly speeds up some chores, such as starting the iMac and opening often-used applications.

Apple charges an additional $250 for the option when fitted with the 1TB drive that comes standard with each iMac. To boost Fusion Drive to a 3TB drive costs $400: $250 for Fusion, an extra $150 for the move from 1TB to 3TB. The lowest-priced 21.5-in. iMac cannot be configured with Fusion Drive.

Analysts have said that Fusion Drive is likely composed of a Seagate platter hard drive and an SSD, or "solid-state drive" provided by Anobit, an Israeli company that Apple acquired in December 2011 for a reported $500 million.

The new iMacs feature Intel's "Ivy Bridge" 2.7GHz, 2.9GHz or 3.2GHz quad-core Core i5 processors, 8GB of memory, 1TB hard drives, and Nvidia graphics chipsets with 512MB of RAM. The desktops also shun optical drives -- Apple's been dumping the drives from systems as it rolls out new designs, leaving only the non-Retina MacBook Pro laptops and the low-volume Mac Pro tower with built-in DVD/CD drives -- and retained the previous models' screen sizes and resolutions.

While the 21.5-in. iMac has long been the best-selling desktop in the U.S., the line faces increased competition from Windows all-in-ones, said Steven Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group.

"Windows desktops have done well all year, with all-in-ones accounting for 20% to 30% of [Windows PC] retail sales," said Baker in a Thursday interview. "They make great touch devices."

Windows 8, Microsoft's new operating system, emphasizes touch capabilities. Apple's iMacs are not touch sensitive.

The new iMacs can be ordered today from Apple's online store; the 21.5-in. model is available today at Apple's retail stores. A 27-in. iMac ordered Friday will purportedly ship between Dec. 14 and Dec. 21.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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