Apple unveils $999 iMac for schools, colleges

21.5-in. system sports dual-core processor, 2GB RAM

Apple today quietly added a $999 iMac to the purchase options for K-12 schools and universities.

The custom model is priced $200 less than the entry-level desktop iMac available to the general public, and $149 under the price of that same system when sold to K-12 faculty and higher education students.

It cannot be ordered by K-12 teachers, faculty and staff, or by college students or their parents.

Equipped with a 21.5-in. screen, 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive, the educational iMac also sports a slower processor -- a 3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 -- than the current model available to the public, which boasts a 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5.

The $999 iMac includes half the graphics memory, half the hard drive storage space and half the RAM of the $1,199 iMac.

And unlike the recent refreshed iMacs -- Apple revamped the line in May -- the educational-only iMac does not provide a Thunderbolt port, opting instead for the older DisplayPort technology.

According to Apple's specifications for the machine, RAM can be boosted to up to 8GB, but only at the time of purchase, hinting that user-done upgrades aren't possible.

Over the years, Apple has regularly offered cut-rate iMacs to educational buyers at prices as low as $899. In fact, the previous-generation deal -- a circa-2009 20-in. model with the older Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and 1GB of RAM -- remains available at that price.

While the $999 21.-5-in. iMac comes with Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, the $899 20-in. machine is bundled with one of two older operating systems, Leopard or Snow Leopard.

The $999 iMac can be purchased only by eligible K-12 schools, colleges and universities direct from Apple through their authorized agents.

Education iMacs
Custom iMacs for colleges start at $899 for the 20-in. desktop, $999 for the 21.5-in. model. (Graphic: Apple.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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