Windows-based iMac copy one-ups its inspiration

Computer: The eOne shares many of the Apple's attributes, but puts its owners in the software mainstream.

August 23, 1999|By James Coates | James Coates,Chicago Tribune

I have found the computer of my dreams.

And because this is my worst time of year -- the back-to-school season, when everybody seems to be asking what computer they should buy to send Dick and/or Jane off to the dorm with -- I am delighted to tell you about eOne, a dream come true, the very essence of The Computer, the machine that I would have designed if they ever put me in charge down at the factory.

"Settle down, old-timer," you say. "Catch your breath and tell me in a few sentences shorter than that one why you are so agitated."

OK, here goes.

Irvine, Calif.-based eMachines Inc. ( has blatantly copied Apple Computer Inc.'s Steve Jobs and produced eOne, a virtual carbon copy of the glorious iMac, with one superlative difference.

It runs Windows 98 rather than the Macintosh operating system, and thus puts a buyer in the consumer software mainstream, rather than in the software-lacking Macintosh minority.

Best of all, at least while now making its debut at the Circuit City chain, the eOne costs about $800, compared with the $1,200 sticker price on an iMac.

For openers, the eOne offers 64 megabytes of RAM, a 433-megahertz Intel Celeron processor with a 128-kilobyte cache and 66-megahertz bus speed, which rivals the speed of the iMac and runs Windows software lightning fast.

The CD-ROM player pops out of the front of the box just below the 15-inch monitor. The monitor delivers resolution up to 1024 x 768 pixels and a dot pitch of .28, which matches virtually every high-quality monitor now being sold separately.

Below the CD tray is a set of buttons like those on CD music player that lets you play music CDs without booting up the computer.

Like the iMac, the eOne relies heavily on the new universal serial bus (USB) technology to connect peripherals like printers, scanners and TV cameras. But while Apple's interim-CEO-for-life Steve Jobs stunned critics by making USB the only way to hook peripherals to the iMac, the eOne also offers conventional PC ports including a parallel port for printers, a serial port for Palm hand-helds and a game port for joysticks.

The eOne outdoes the iMac in networking by including both an Ethernet port and a connector allowing users to network eOnes or other Wintel machines with the the Intel AnyPoint system. This uses a home's telephone wires to carry data between machines.

I still haven't covered it all. The eOne has a video-in port that lets you connect a VCR and receive broadcasts through its tuner. The video system is based on the powerful ATI All-In-Wonder board, which also allows a user to capture still pictures or moving video from the family's camcorder. Video-in ports also handle Sega or Nintendo game machines.

EOne is a wonderful simplifier for gadget-weary gearheads who tire of the clutter of power cords, monitor cables and transformers. It might be particularly welcome for millions of parents sending their kids off to school with a new computer because its built-in modem and Ethernet guarantees that it can be used on college networks.

Negatives? Since the monitor and the CPU are in the same box, if one gets ruined, then both are ruined and you're out $800 unless you send the whole thing in for repairs.

The keyboard is a bit too small and the cursor keys are tiny and terrible.

The Ethernet card conflicts with the Intel AnyPoint telephone networking, so you can't use the eOne as a server to share high-speed Internet connections from DSL or cable modems.

The case is sealed and, thus, there is no expansion board to allow an eOne to add traditional boards.

Ain't love grand? For $800, it makes these shortcomings seem almost cute.

Apple Sues

Apple Computer Inc. is suing eMachines Inc. for copyright infringement, claiming the design of the company's new eOne computer is a copy of Apple's popular iMac. Apple is seeking an injunction in U.S. District Court to prevent eMachines from selling the new $799 PC, as well as unspecified damages.

A spokeswoman for eMachines declined to comment on the suit, but analysts expected the action. In July, Apple sued Future Power Technologies, accusing it of stealing the iMac design for its new E-Power PC.

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