|In a sure sign that production of the difficult-to-manufacture latest iMac has now stabilized and is meeting demand, Apple on Thursday added the unit to its own Employees Purchase Program (EPP). Apple employees (including retail employees) are allowed to purchase the unit for 25 percent off its retail price, said to be a small loss for the company. Long-term employees of Apple also receive an allowance of $500 towards a new Mac product every three years, which could cut the cost of a new unit by 50 percent or more.
Word of the addition to the EPP program came from Apple employees themselves, many seeming very excited to finally be able to order the unit they have been selling -- in very constrained quantities -- since December. Because of some new production techniques and manufacturing issues, the latest version of the iMac -- particularly the 27-inch model -- was practically unseen in quantity in the wild (beyond review models lent to journalists) until late last month.
Since then, Apple has apparently cleared all issues and added a stripped-down educational model and even a new VESA-mount accessory option. In addition, shipping times for the iMac both in the US and internationally have been steadily dropping, and are now listed as "in stock" on "in 24 hours" for ship times on Apple's web site in most major countries. Apple CEO Tim Cook had mentioned to financial analysts in a conference call last month that the company had overcome production issues and would "achieve balance" between supply and demand sometime this quarter.
Both models have won consistent praise -- particularly from publications aimed at Windows users -- for their superior display, 25 percent on average improved performance and the elegance of the Fusion Drive technology. The latter moves the OS and frequently-accessed files onto a 128GB SSD "partition" but stores most files on a conventional hard drive, providing both large amounts of storage (up to 3TB) while giving users the much faster feel of SSD performance. The 27-inch, however, is the only one of the two models that is able to have its RAM upgraded through a user-accessible service door.