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Have we seen the last of the big iMac’s?

Are these great machines now a thing of the past?


Almost a week ago now, Apple unveiled their brand-new range of computers. Mac Studio, launched last week at Peek Performance, and it looks like it will pack quite some punch. Whilst we await the first review units to arrive and be put through their paces, what we do know is they will be fast. VERY FAST!

Normally, when fusing two chips, there is a fair amount of speed lost. But with Apple’s latest bonding technique called UltraFusion, it would appear virtually no compromise has occurred. With, essentially, two M1 Max chips stuck together, the performance figures look to be off the charts. So much so, in fact, that I wrote recently about them being almost too fast. We are rapidly approaching the point of having more power and speed than virtually anyone would ever need. And that is before we get to the Mac Pro and whatever crazy chipset they put in there.

But, with the advent of these new machines, it could also pose a problem for the much loved, large 27-inch iMac.

What we know

Last week, as John Ternus, SVP of Hardware Engineering at Apple wrapped up his part of events, he told us “we are nearly done with the transition to Apple Silicon”. He mentioned that we only have the “Mac Pro to complete the switch”. This left many of us wondering what that meant for iMac. The lack of any mention at all was deafening, but I may be able to explain that, possibly, in just a short while.

First, though, let’s have a brief look back at the history of iMac through the years.

Where it all began

The very first iMac went on sale on 15th August 1998. It has had numerous design changes and iterations though its lifespan, and became common place in many homes and offices. Seen as the go-to-choice for both consumers and professionals alike, it is instantly recognisable as a Mac. Steve Jobs announced iMac, saying it was designed for the “number one use consumers tell us they want a computer for, which is to get on the Internet, simply and fast.” That Christmas, iMac became the best-selling computer.

Designed by Sir Jonathan Ive, it was originally to be named MacMan. Luckily, Steve was working with ad man Ken Segall, who dreamt up the moniker we now know the computer by. The original TV ad, voiced by the mellifluous tones of none other than Jeff Goldblum, perfectly set the stage. It was the first in the now long and illustrious range of ‘i’ products (the ‘i’ standing for internet). iMac was responsible for killing of floppy disk drives and also bought USB to the masses. It was also the first ‘fun’ computer, being available in a range of colours including Bondi Blue, Lime & Strawberry.

Some iconic designs have graced iMac over the years, but it was not until 2007 that the first anodised, aluminium bodied iMac first saw the light of day. Eventually available in 21.5in or 27in, the pro version was the last to join the ranks in 2017 which was distinctive in its shade named Space Grey.

Last year, iMac had a new lease of life, when it was given the M1 Apple Silicon chip and shipped, once again, in a variety of colours. The latest iMac, is seen as a somewhat fun, consumer device, and fits that role perfectly.

What next?

So, when Ternus made his statement about only one Mac left in the lineup to address, technically, he was correct, as you’d expect! iMac as a brand has indeed already had Apple Silicon breathed in to it, with the aforementioned 24in model. So, whilst yes, only Mac Pro remains totally untouched by Apple Silicon, last week, on the same day the Studio Mac made its grand debut, Apple removed the 27-inch machine from the website. You simply can longer buy it. During the Mac Studio announcement, Ternus also told us that Mac Studio “is seen as a great replacement for the larger iMac”.

No one saw the potential demise of the large iMac coming until last week. Screen analyst, Ross Young, had maintained that a new iMac was indeed heading our way. Now, Young gets his information from the supply chain, and is rarely wrong. I am guessing the information he received of a new 27-inch display in the supply chain, he had assumed would be the iMac. As we now know, however, that screen was actually the Studio Display, also announced last week. There is talk of a 7K panel and, possibly, a mini LED version of the new 27-inch monitor joining Apple’s display ranks this year too.

Apple, it would seem, are keen to keep distinct demarkations in their lineup. The iMac, from here on in, will be seen as a consumer device, only ever being given the basic M1 or M2 chips and none of the jazzed-up derivatives such as Pro, Max, or Ultra. Even if the much lamented 27-inch does ever return, it could be with a basic chip within, and so still, a consumer iMac. Whilst the consumer users will have Mac Mini and iMac, the pros will now be lured by the Mac Studio and Mac Pro.

Whilst, work is already afoot with the M2 chip, which will first be used in MacBook Air, Mac Mini and MacBook Pro. 9-5 Mac reported that Apple have no plans to relaunch a 27-inch iMac. Interestingly, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Ming-Chi Kuo disagree, both thinking that although not imminent, a new pro level large iMac will at some point once again be available.

Sad times

The 27 – inch iMac is the best Mac I have, as yet, ever bought. It is the machine I spend most hours behind, the one that earns me money and is the one I am writing this blog on. A 2015 machine, ancient by IT standards, until now, it still serves me well, and has never let me down (did I really just tempt fate by writing that)? All those years ago, I was drawn to the large form factor, the speed and of course, the 5K Retina display, which until this day, remains a sheer joy to work with.

I had always assumed that my next Big Mac purchase, would be, well, another BIG iMac. It would seem, though, that now, that will not be the case. My money, I think, is about to be spent on a M1 Max MacBook Pro. I am sure it will be a beast and be blessed with speed I have never used before.

That said, I will lament and miss my venerable 27 incher. We have been through many days and hours together. Many fraught, client meetings and even a pandemic. Indeed, my design company was built with this machine. Even when it is no longer my daily driver, there will be no way I can bring myself to let it go. I think I will keep it in the office or at home, like one would a piece of fine art.

Steve Jobs & Jony Ive, I owe you a debt of thanks, for making so many hours of work such a creative and enjoyable experience. And, if we are never again to have a large, 27 inch iMac – Rest In Peace, my friend.

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Originally published at https://www.talkingtechandaudio.com/blog on March 14, 2022.

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