The iMac has held the crown of ‘best all-in-one’ for years. But recent developments by other competitor manufacturers are starting to see impacts on the numbers. Why should Apple be worried? Firstly, there are the numbers. In 2010, all-in-one computer sales were predicted to be up 68 percent, to 11.5 million units worldwide – with Apple’s new iMac losing 12 percent of its 50 percent market share. Though these figures were narrowly missed, the growing trend sees manufacturers of all-in-one PCs competing strongly with the computing giant.
It’s been pointed out that virtually no one – barring perhaps hardcore gamers, build-at-home specialists, or 3D graphics managers – needs a tower sitting under their desk when portable computing is so affordable and powerful nowadays. If a laptop just isn’t going to cut it – screen size likely being the most influential limiting factor – an all-in-one computer is likely to be the next best consumer option.
Though manufacturers have dipped their toes into the touch screen all-in-one waters, that seems to be a diminishing trend. So – what makes non-Apple all-in-ones a competitive option?
The most obvious answer is price. All-in-one computers tend to be much more affordable for the average person or family than a new iMac. But price alone is rarely a decent motivator for purchasing behavior (take that, Keynesian economists). The modern buyer is somewhat more discerning. Windows 7 has a tough time competing for blow-for-blow against OS X Mountain Lion, so what can these manufacturers offer that Apple cannot?
The big market to go for here is business. With a trend towards virtualization across the enterprise market, thin clients are becoming ever more integral to business consumers’ IT strategies. And what’s the most important aspect to a thin client? The screen.
And this is where an all-in-one – which typically has a sizeable monitor as a matter of necessity (all the components having to go behind it) – beats any other option currently on the market. They don’t need Apple’s brawn at Apple prices – a thin client can punch at the middle-weight category on the computational scale and fulfill the servile role just as well as a full-blown machine.
What is more, all-in-ones often cater very nicely to various different kinds of video input. The same cannot be said for Apple’s newer iMacs, which accept only a Thunderbolt input – extremely rare among PCs nowadays – to function as an external monitor.
Having a big-screened thin client that is easy to hook up to a mobile computing device would be a Godsend for the creative industries and across a range of other professions (including statisticians, programming, and project management, for example). The iMac’s time may be near.