But Apple seems determined to keep desktops in its portfolio. The new iMacs featured the company's first deployment of "Fusion Drive," an option that combines flash storage with a standard hard drive to boost startup, application launches and file copying chores. And the company redesigned the case to make it thinner, a move that left the smaller 21.5.-in. iMac practically impossible to upgrade after purchase.
Analysts have maintained that desktops, Apple's included, still have a market, primarily as the shared computer in homes where each family member has a more mobile device, like a notebook or tablet.
Windows PC sales bear that out. According to the NPD Group, between 20% and 30% of early Windows 8 systems have been of all-in-one machines, many of them very similar in appearance to the iMac.
Steven Baker, of NPD, noted that in the Windows market, "desktops have done better all year" in terms of sales gains, or if they've slipped, they've done so by lower margins than PC notebooks.
Baker was optimistic about Windows desktops' chances, in part because OEMs are starting to equip them with touch-sensitive screens, something Apple has refused to do on any of its Macs. "All-in-one [desktops] make great touch devices," Baker argued in an interview two weeks ago.
That's not what Apple's former CEO, Steve Jobs, thought. In October 2010, Jobs dismissed touch on desktops.
"Touch surfaces don't want to be vertical," Jobs said then. "It gives great demo but after a short period of time, you start to fatigue and after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off. It doesn't work.... It's ergonomically terrible."
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 email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.