Today, Apple lifted the curtain on a new model of iMac, this time designed for the company’s budget conscious fans. Of course, “budget conscious Apple fan” is almost a contradiction in terms, but I digress…

The new iMac is priced at $1,099, a full $300 cheaper than the next model up in the same 21.5-inch size category. The new SKU offers up a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel i5 with 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and an Intel HD Graphics 5000 chip. The next iMac up the line has twice as much internal storage and a faster, quad-core CPU, clocking in at 2.7GHz.

It’s telling that Apple would release a less expensive entry into its desktop computer line the same week Microsoft is getting ready to release its next flagship product, the Surface Pro 3. The two products are barely in the same category, of course: the iMac is a budget-friendly desktop, while the Surface Pro 3 is a fancy ultrabook/tablet hybrid device. They both have similar price tags, but that’s about where the comparisons end.

However, the last time Apple offered a less expensive computer model was in April, when the company offered an $899 Macbook Air. That announcement came less than a month before Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3, a move that targeted Apple’s line of laptops, and also will result in price cuts for the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 models.

In short, it seems as though these two companies are now competing with each other more directly than they have in quite a while. Now that Microsoft is in the hardware game, it’s more incumbent on Apple to make sure that it makes its products as engaging as possible. Offering a lower barrier to entry on its iMac product line is a great way to do that. On the flipside, buying a solid Windows 7 or Windows 8 desktop all-in-one PC from a Microsoft hardware partner is far less expensive than $1,099, even with similar specs. To me, Apple computers still seem like extravagant items that don’t quite justify their cost. But that’s just my opinion – clearly I’ve had my share of Windows-based frustrations, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

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[Apple’s New iMac]


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