Hoping to recapture the lead in sales to the school field, Apple Computer Inc. on April 29 introduced a new line of Macintosh computers designed exclusively for schools.

The new “eMac” computer, an all-white, one-piece desktop unit that looks like the original iMac, features a 17-inch cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor and 700-megahertz G4 processor and is priced at $999—or $400 less than the flat-panel iMac that Apple introduced in January. The eMac will be sold only to educators and students.

“Our education customers asked us to design a desktop computer specifically for them,” said Apple chief executive Steve Jobs in a statement. The eMac offers the increased computing power of the new iMac, while “preserving the all-in-one, compact enclosure that educators love,” Jobs said.

Though shaped like the first iMacs unveiled in 1998, the eMac is about a third of an inch shorter from front to back—despite a screen size that is two inches longer diagonally. It also includes 16-watt stereo speakers and a CD-recordable drive.

A DVD drive is available on a more expensive $1,199 model.

The eMac comes with five USB ports and two FireWire ports, so students can connect digital video and still cameras, printers, and scanners easily. It’s made of fire-retardant polycarbonate plastic, so it’s durable and easy to keep clean, Apple said.

The new computer is intended to appeal to educators who have abandoned Macintosh computers in recent years for lower-priced, more powerful PCs that run the Windows operating system.

Though Apple still has the largest installed base of computers in schools, the company has seen its share of new sales in the education market decline in recent years, according to market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC).

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2001, Apple’s share of the education market fell to 14.7 percent, IDC said. Dell Computer Corp., meanwhile, saw its education share increase from 36.8 percent in the third quarter to 39 percent in the fourth.

Apple still sells older versions of its iMac computers for $799, but they lack the speed and power of the newer iMac. Yet, these new iMacs—which feature a flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD) screen attached by a chrome swivel bar to a white base that holds the guts of the computer—were deemed too expensive by educators.

The cost of LCD technology has been rising, forcing Apple to jack up the base price of its new iMac by $100 in March. The eMac represents a compromise between the faster speeds of the new iMac and the old iMac’s lower cost and integrated design.

Educators who spoke with eSchool News had mostly favorable responses to the move.

Chris Mahoney, director of technology for Lake Hamilton Schools in Arkansas, said that by making more affordable computers and targeting the needs of students, Apple is proving its renewed interest in K-12 education.

Sandra Becker, director of technology for the Governor Mifflin School District in Pennsylvania and a former Apple Distinguished Educator, said she thought Apple’s new iMac was too expensive and fragile for education use: “It’s good to have a model geared [more toward education].”

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