Will iMac Attack?

One day back in 2000, Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) shares increased 10% on word that The Wall Street Journal's tech reviewer/guru Walter Mossberg had dubbed the company's Cube product "the most gorgeous personal computer I've ever seen or used." Yesterday, Mossberg struck again with a favorable review of Apple's new iMac, but this time, there was little stock-related fanfare.

Mossberg is well known for his reviews -- and, sometimes, scathing critiques -- of consumer electronics. A May 2004 article in Wired (where I gleaned the above historical tidbit), described him as a technology "kingmaker," who is highly respected in the field -- and can make or break a product's future. (Case in point: The beginning of the article talks about a shouting match between Mossberg and XM Satellite Radio's (Nasdaq: XMSR  ) Hugh Panero over an older version of the technology that Mossberg panned, for example.)

At any rate, Mossberg released a sparkling review of the G5 iMac yesterday (remember -- the machine made news when it was released a tad late for the back-to-school season). His headline read, "Apple's Latest iMac is Elegant, Powerful, Surprisingly Affordable." (Needless to say, as far as existing Apple loyalists go, Mossberg's preaching to the choir.)

Now, I really can't condone a significant stock move solely on a product review, as positive a sign as it may be, and I'm glad investors didn't pump the stock price higher. However, the review does pop a big question. Given the iMac's "power and elegance," will Apple's computers begin to break into the Windows world?

Maybe. Apple addicts have always contended they're tops in elegance and design, while critics harped on price. However, I've increasingly joined the school of thought that Apple computers could get promoted high on consumer wish lists because of a set of powerful variables.

These include consumers' increasing frustration with the security problems that have plagued Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) operating system, and the infectious popularity of the iPod, particularly with the young and tech-savvy.

Also interesting, Mossberg offered up the idea that the new iMac is a cost-effective machine, even if the $1,000+ price tag makes some shoppers shudder. He pointed out its cost favorably compared to machines from both Gateway (NYSE: GTW  ) and Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) that offer comparable features.

Apple investors should be relieved Mossberg didn't pan the machine. However, this time around, it's a good thing that would-be investors didn't party like it's 1999 (er, 2000) on word of the high-profile iMac enthusiasm. (Of course, my Foolish neighbor, Seth Jayson, has just informed me he had problems with printing photos with a G5, so perhaps soon he will take on Mossberg's punditry.) Trading at 57 times forward earnings, there's already a whole bushel of enthusiasm grown into Apple's stock price.

Talk about iPods, iMacs, and all things "i" on the Apple discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned, though she feels the need to disclose being part of Apple's loyal user base, if not investor base.


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