All of the major Windows PC vendors have improved their desktop designs lately, but after today's iMac redesign announcement, Apple has distanced itself even further from its competition. The trimmer, sleeker iMac, and especially its new keyboard, cut a cleaner profile than any of this year's new PCs from Dell, Gateway, HP, or Sony.
Looks matter of course, but so does value. And with this update, Apple appears to have shed its reputation for going beyond its competition in terms of price. If you compare component for component, you'll find that Dell and Gateway, in particular, offer competitive configs to Apple's new lineup. You lose an aesthetic step or two with those traditional Windows desktops, but worse, you also miss out on the iMac's strong iLife '08 software suite, which eliminates the PCs' price advantage.
Thanks to the various virtualization apps and Apple's own Boot Camp, you also can't really argue that by going with a Mac you're locked into the Apple ecosystem. The new iMacs and their all-in-one design don't solve the lack of upgradability, but we're willing to bet that doesn't effect that many mainstream computer buyers. Our bigger concern is the upgrade path to Leopard, Apple's OS X update later this Fall. Apple has not said whether it will charge new or existing Mac owners to upgrade to the new operating system. That would make us extracautious about purchasing a new Mac now, knowing that we might save $129 or so on an OS upgrade if we wait a few months.