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Apple Computer Inc. has confirmed that the iMac is to be replaced in September with an entirely new model. With few of the iMac models still on the shelves of distributors and dealers, the company faces two months with no mainstream consumer computer available.

In a statement, Apple confirmed it had stopped taking orders for the iMac on its online store. “We planned to have our next-generation iMac ready by the time the inventory of current iMacs runs out in the next few weeks, but our planning was obviously less than perfect,” it said.

Dealer sources indicated that supplies of the iMac are severely constrained, with some reporting that only 20-inch models remain available from distributors, and few in the channel. Although the company continues to sell the eMac, originally introduced as an education-only machine but now also available to consumers, it marks the first time since the release of the original iMac in 1998 that the company has had no serious offering to the home and small-office market.

To read PC Magazine’s review of the 20-inch iMac, click here.

Although the announcement will have no impact on the company’s third financial quarter, which ended Wednesday, it may affect its next quarter, which runs until the end of September.

However, recent years have seen the iMac take a back seat role in Apple’s finances: According to the company’s financial statements, in the second quarter of 2004, ended March 31, it sold only 217,000 iMacs and eMacs combined, down from a peak of 703,000 in the first quarter of 2001. However, this still meant the iMac and eMac accounted for close to 29 percent of Apple’s unit Mac sales last quarter. Without the iMac, it would have sold only 532,000 Macs—less than half the number it has hit in its most recent peak of the first quarter of 2000.

The decision may also mean the demise of the award-winning dome-shaped white design, which has proven markedly less popular than its all-in-one colored predecessor. Since its release in 2002, the LCD iMac sold an average of 289,000 units per quarter, compared with 430,000 for the previous model. However, the company is unlikely to ditch the iMac name in favor of anything else: With over 8 million sold in total, it remains a hugely recognizable brand, responsible for re-establishing Apple in the consumer market.

The September date mentioned by Apple will fuel speculation that the company will announce the new model at Apple Expo Paris, which takes place Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. Although the company has yet to confirm that Steve Jobs will attend the show, it has previously used Apple Expo to introduce new consumer models, including both updated iBooks and iMacs.

Apple did not return calls requesting comment on the reasons for the delay in the introduction of a new model. However, the move, coupled with IBM’s acknowledged inability to meet demand for the PowerPC 970-series processor in the Power Mac G5, is bound to fuel speculation that the new model will feature a G5 chip.

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