CUPERTINO, Calif. — The iPhone is Apple’s hottest product but CEO Steve Jobs made it clear here at the rollout of new iMacs that the desktop systems are a crucial part of the company’s growth plan.
Apple was, of course, one of the pioneers of the personal computer industry. But Jobs said the PC is still key to the industry as well. “We think personal computers are more important now than five years ago,” he told a small group of press after the event yesterday. “Where would Facebook be without PCs? Where would photo editing be?”
He also zinged his PC competitors during a separate, more formal Q&A session with other Apple execs. Even Apple’s relatively new partner Intel came in for some back-handed criticism. Asked why Apple doesn’t feature the ubiquitous “Intel Inside” labeling most other PC makers employ, Jobs said, “We like our own stickers better.”
He was quick to follow with this: “We’re very proud to ship Intel in our Macs, but everyone knows we use Intel. A lot of stickers are redundant.”
Asked about using AMD processors, he replied that Apple uses Intel and left it at that. Apple has become an AMD customer for other parts, if not the main CPU. All three of the new iMacs include ATI graphics processors. ATI merged with AMD last year.
Jobs noted that Apple ships more notebooks than desktops, but touched on several unique advantages of desktops. For example, there is more miniaturization in portable systems, which tends to mean more expensive components. Notebooks are also more portable, but constrained by battery life when taken on the road.
Jobs said Apple remains price competitive with top tier PC vendors, but it’s not about to get into a price war. “Our goal is to make the best personal computers in the world, and make products we’re proud to sell and recommend at the lowest price we can.
“But there is some stuff we wouldn’t be proud to ship, we just can’t do it. There are thresholds we can’t cross. We don’t offer stripped down, lousy products.”
He said there is a “very significant slice of the industry” that wants the quality and features Apple offers. Apple’s market share in the U.S. grew about three times faster than the rest of the PC industry over the past year, but is still small. Apple’s share of the desktop market in the U.S. is between 4 and 5 percent, according to IDC analyst Richard Shim.
Gartner analyst Mike McGuire said Apple has one significant edge on its PC counterparts. “Apple has control over its software destiny,” he told internetnews.com. His Gartner colleague, Van Baker, said Apple’s iMovie software was already much better than the competition and the latest ’08 version introduced today is “dramatically better.”
“Apple’s value is in the user experience,” he said.
The latest iMacs are distinctive on the hardware side as well. Borrowing from its higher end Pro line as well as the iPhone, Apple brought largely glass and aluminum components to the new all-in-one iMacs.
Sleek as glass.
“Aluminum is durable and lightweight; recyclers love it,” said Jobs. “Glass is elegant, very scratch resistant and very recyclable.”
Baker thinks the greener approach will appeal to some consumers. “Consumers are increasingly sensitive to environmental issues and Apple customers perhaps even more than others.”
Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin thinks the new iMacs are among the first to be designed from the start with ecology and the environment in mind. “Other companies are still using a lot of lead and steel and they’re punching up their recycling efforts,” he said. “But this puts Apple clearly ahead of all that.”