The Five Flavors

Last time, we looked at the original iMac introduction that took place in 1998.

Just a year later, Apple discontinued the Bondi Blue iMac and replaced it with something far more colorful.

The 1999 iMacs came in five colors:

  • Lime
  • Grape
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Tangerine

(Blueberry is very similar to the Bondi before it, but was a little richer and slightly less teal. It’s hard to tell them apart unless you have them next to each other.)

Five Flavor iMacs

Under the covers, these iMacs weren’t drastically different from the Bondi before them. The mysterious mezzanine slot was removed, as was the IRDA port. The processor was bumped to 266 MHz, but the rest of the specs matched.1

In short, this update was just a yearly speed bump, with a lot of flash.

Here’s a quote from Jobs’ keynote address:

In our consumer surveys, [color] is far more important than most of the mumbo-jumbo associated with buying a consumer computer. Megabytes, Megahertz, Gigabytes, people don’t care about that stuff. They want to trust us to give them a really great computer … They want to express themselves and pick the color [they] want.

This marks Apple’s first efforts to offer a wide range of options to its customers in terms of how a product looked. All five iMacs were the same; customers got to pick their color. This strategy would play out for years to come, in products like the iPod mini, iPod nano and even iPhone and now the MacBook.

Jobs — and Apple today — understand that people want their purchases to say something about them. It’s a huge reason the company’s brand equity is what it is. Carrying a gold iPhone or a blue iPod nano back in the day made a statement.

That’s what these iMacs introduced to the world for the first time. This generation of iMac is a lot of fun, and it was an important step for Apple to make.

  1. Like the Bondi’s silent “Rev. B” before this, the Five Flavors would get a small spec bump just a few months after going on sale. Starting in April 1999, these machines would ship with a 333 MHz G3 and a 6 GB hard drive.