Well we can't say we saw this coming. Apple, who was expected to come out with a new Mac to target the education market, has done just that, but it's not what you think.
Apple has begun offering, through educational channels, a new low-priced Intel iMac. At US$899 the new iMac is priced US$400 cheaper than anything available to the general public and just US$100 more then the high-end Intel Mac mini. One might expect a horribly crippled machine at this price but the US$899 model actually compares fairly well to the US$1299 model. Both machines use the Intel 1.83 GHz Core Duo and sport a 17-inch widescreen LCD. The only major differences are that the EDU iMac comes standard with a 80GB drive (vs. 160GB), a 24x Combo Drive (vs. 8x Super Drive), and Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics with 64MB of shared memory (vs. ATI Radeon X1600 with 128 MB). The consumer model also sports built in Bluetooth and an Apple Remote which the new low-end EDU model lacks.
The new machine also comes standard with keyboard and mouse making this truly an affordable all-in-one solution for education, something the 'budget priced' Mac mini cannot offer. It should also be noted that this new iMac spells the long-awaited end for the crufty old eMac:
The 17-inch iMac for education is available immediately and will replace the eMac®, Apple’s last CRT based computer, providing students and teachers everything they need to learn and create in today's digital classroom, all in the ultra-efficient iMac design.
This new low-priced iMac is enough to encourage awkward glances in the general direction of my credit card; I have always admired the price point/value of iMacs and the slightly lower specs of this machine doesn't hinder that. This would be an ideal way for a lot of people to jump on board the Intel bandwagon. The question is: what does this mean for the consumer line? Speed bumps ahoy?