ISSUE 452: THE HIGH-TECH OFFICE- June
Intel's Celeron and Apple's iMac vie for a slice
of the growing low-cost computer market
A few weeks ago, I briefly looked at a couple
of new products, both aimed at the growing low-cost computer market: Intel's
Celeron processor, and Apple's iMac computer.
Reader Art Prufer took issue with my
suggestion that potential computer buyers stay away from
Celeron-powered units. I'd suggested that because the Celeron lacks a
feature known as a Level-2 (L2) cache, its performance left much to be
desired, compared to competitively priced processors such as the AMD
Prufer e-mailed me several reviews of the Celeron.
While they agreed that for standard business applications, Celeron
performed at about the same level as last generation's Pentium-MMX 200
or 233, they suggested that this level of performance is perfectly
adequate for most business users. As well, the reviews pointed out that
on a number of popular games such as Quake-2 which make limited use of
the L2 cache, a Celeron will outperform Pentium-MMX and K6 models.
In addition, they point out that Celeron computers use
a Pentium-II-compatible motherboard, enabling buyers to eventually
upgrade to a more powerful Pentium-II processor, something that can't
be done if they purchase a K6 machine. (The K6 uses motherboards built
around the older Pentium-style Socket 7 design.)
The moral, of course, is that there's no piece of
advice that's right for everyone. And I'd have to agree: even though
the Celeron-powered machines offer slower performance running standard
Office suites than their equally low-priced competition, it's probably
plenty fast enough for most business users.
As for Apple's iMac, the company's entry into the
low-priced market, it looks like nothing else for sale (actually, it
won't be for sale until August, more or less) with its one-piece design
in a curvaceous, translucent blue case. But with a price of about
$1,999, it's not quite competing with the real low-end PC models.
In demoing the machine, Apple's sort-of-chair Steve
Jobs suggested that while the competition was offering yesterday's
technology, iMac represented tomorrow's. And in many ways, that case
could be made: the G3 Power PC processor powering the iMac is
fast and powerful, and the styling does look like it belongs in a Jetsons
But while it included Ethernet networking, a modem, a
CD-ROM drive, and a PC-style Universal Serial Bus (USB) port, Apple
left out many standard features found on virtually all other personal
computers. And as a result, I think they've managed to limit the iMac's
usefulness -- particularly to those customers upgrading from an older
If you have a Mac-based small business, you may have
several machines connected with the built-in, easy-to-use AppleTalk
networking. Want to add an iMac? Sorry, no AppleTalk.
One of the nice things that Macs have over PCs is the
ease with which users can plug in an external SCSI drive, bringing
their data and programs from one machine to another. Sorry, no SCSI
Users may want to upgrade their computer but keep
their current printer. Sorry, iMac has no printer port. There's a
built-in 33.6 kbs modem, but no mo-dem port to upgrade to 56k.
And I'm writing this column on my notebook. If I
wanted to print it out, I'd save it on a floppy disk, walk downstairs
to the computer that's connected to the printer, open the file, and
print it. But iMac has no floppy drive. In fact, it has no built-in
removable storage at all.
There are ways around all of these problems. Upgrade
the AppleTalk network to Ethernet (and get a far speedier network).
E-mail the file to yourself, so you can get it on the computer where
the printer is attached. Wait a while, and buy new printers, new
removable storage, new scanners, all using USB.
Intel has already announced that it will produce a
Celeron processor with a Level-2 cache for better performance. Maybe
Apple will release an iMac model that's a better fit with the computing
environments of many of its potential customers.
In that case, both of these products could turn out to