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Busman's Holiday
Will Artemis Return from the Grave:
Educators Hope for All-in-One Re-release
by Steve Wood
December 23, 1998

  

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All-in-oneI felt like Elton John's 1973 version of Candle in the Wind when I heard in October that Apple discontinued the All-in-one Mac (code name Artemis). Just like the line where John sings, "And I would have liked to have known you," I never got my hands on one, but I have yet to see a bad report on one. Cast in the timeless Macintosh all-in-one tradition, this machine reverses the less-than-excellent image created by the LC5200-5400 education versions.

The Artemis seemed to have only one problem, the iMac. Rated by some a vastly better machine than its bondi blue brother, the All-in-One was only available to educational institutions and educators, but appeared to compete for education sales with the iMac. It definitely competed with the iMac for production capability.

Introduced in April, 1998, it actually fit a different niche than the iMac, serving as a compact, all-in-one, mid-range computer for education. Many educators who needed a mid-range machine preferred the small footprint of the All-in-one to a desktop or minitower. Many educators lauded the machine's excellent reliability. For example, Ohio special educator Joe Taylor summarized many of the emails I have received from teachers when he wrote of his All-in-One:

I just read your article on Apple's discontinuation of the AIO model. I agree that this was indeed a mistake. I bought one of the machines for my personal use when they first came out in the spring and absolutely love it (I am unfortunate enough to work at a school that has gone the way of windows - which makes me that much more thankful every night when I get home from work). You're right. This is the machine that fills the educational market's needs in a way that the iMac cannot. The only reason I can see for Apple discontinuing the machine is that they feel it competes with the iMac, which it does not. They serve different markets. In any case, let's hope Apple gets it's act together before the educational business is totally gone.

Joe's point about the All-in-One and the iMac serving different markets deserves illustration. The iMac is a truly incredible entry-level computer that will be even more outstanding when the $999 pricing becomes generally available. It is designed for the home user, but is clearly adaptable for other settings, including many school settings. It's limitations include a non-upgradable CPU (Who knows what could be introduced, considering some of the ingenious G3 upgrades now available.), a small keyboard and unusually shaped-mouse (both might serve elementary students quite well), no PCI slots, and its incompatibility with existing SCSI peripherals without an adapter.

The iMac's lack of a floppy disk drive is a two-edged sword. One iMac advocate pointed out that in school labs, there would be "no more floppy drives to fix after kids jam stuff in them." Good point, but the guy lost his credibility with me when he added, "teachers/administrators (will) HAVE to use that networking infrastructure that the district just payed (sic) tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to install." I really hope he gets to teach primary children somewhere how to save and retrieve from a server! And, the lack of a floppy blows the all-in-one idea when you add a SuperDisk. Some folks just like to have it all in one package.

What sets the Artemis apart is that it is a mid-range computer in an all-in-one enclosure. It is as capable and adaptable as a desktop or minitower G3, with the exception of the internal monitor. The chip is upgradeable. It sports 3 easily accessible RAM slots. It has 3 PCI slots for whatever you wish to add--OrangeMicro PC card, video capture card, TV Tuner, or an advanced graphics card (beyond the soldered Rage accelerator). There is an extra bay that can be used for an internal Zip drive. It has an internal floppy drive. And, it even has the capacity to drive an external monitor.

Apple's Education Pricelist carried the following description of the 266 MHz version:

M6321LL/APower Macintosh G3 (All-in-one/266MHz/512KL2/32MB/4GB/24CD/AV)   $1799.00
Powered by PowerPC G3 at 266MHz.
Includes built-in Multiple-scan 15" display (13.8" diagonal viewable image size), 2MB SGRAM, built-in Twisted Pair (10Base-T) Ethernet, audio input/output, S-Video and composite video input/output, NTSC out video software.

I actually enlisted the help of Tom McKenna's The G3 All-in-one Stop Shop, trying to find a few horror stories about the AIO. As I wrote Jonah Jones, my editor, "I've just about stood on my head trying to get someone to say something negative about the AIO. The only ones doing so are the Apple reps and techs. Users universally love them!" Other than software glitches, the only criticism I heard was that one user's All-in-one tended to run a little hot at times!

What happened to the All-in-one is the subject of quite a bit of secrecy and dispute. It did disappear from Apple's Education Pricelists. There was no official comment about it. When I wrote our school's Apple representative, there was no answer, although one of his colleagues chose to answer the previous article with a flaming personal attack. (Engaging sales technique, huh?)

A reliable Apple Education representative from another district commented:

Unfortunately, Steve Jobs feels strongly about the need not to disclose information to the field sales force, so I do not have information that can help you at this time.

An Apple authorized service and repair site administrator said:

The Iowa Apple Rep says he can't get even a hint of what's coming for K-12. He does say that some national educators have been invited in to Apple, but no dealers or sales reps.

Don Crabb made a couple of comments on the AIO, first about its demise on MacCentral, and later about a possible redesign and re-release on ZDNet. Other rumors about a release of an AIO business version with a 17" display also surface from time-to-time. Apple hasn't as yet pulled its All-in-one page, but the rumor mill has definitely slowed down lately.

With such success from a product line, production pressure easing on the iMac (but certainly not on PowerBooks and G3's), Apple might have the capacity to ramp up production of an improved AIO. So, if the product line is dead, why the secrecy? Why not just say it's dead?

Stay with me here! Remember when you were a kid and hoped for something totally unobtainable for Christmas--a pony when you lived in the middle of New York, or a basketball court when you lived in an apartment with no yard? That's what I'm doing here, I think. I'm stringing almost zero information together here in some speculation or way-out hope that there may be another Artemis-like all-in-one. I can't imagine the iMac as the end outcome of the AIO linage. Could there be a bondi blue AIO with a 17" monitor in the offing? Possibly one for education and for the business user? And, if there is, will it retain the original advantages of the AIO?

Maybe there will be answers at MacWorld Expo...maybe...I hope...

This is another one of those columns that has sat on my hard drive in development for some time. With the few hints and rumors, it was originally entitled "Return of the All-in-One: Artemis Lives!" I do hope I can use that title soon, as at the present, the column title should really read, "Giant Hole in Apple's Educational Lineup Sends Schools to WinTel." While some Apple reps would dispute this, many educators aren't buying the idea that the iMac will fill all their needs.

I recently read somewhere or another that the iMac is taking Apple back to its roots, the all-in-one Macintosh. When I thought about it a bit, I realized that the author was really right. Whatever the future of Artemis, it appears destined to be considered as another Macintosh classic all-in-one of the genre of the original Macintosh, the SE/30, the Performa/LC 570 series, and the iMac.

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updated and reposted to the new MATH DITTOS 2 site 6/18/2000
©1998 Steven L. Wood