If we assume they have 40% gross margins on the iMac, that means the $2200 model costs $1320. The $999 Cinema Display would be $599 but we know that includes the chassis and parts so the panel itself would only be a part of that. I'd say $400 is a fair estimate for the panel cost.
That would mean costs for the mid-range headless i7 machine would be $920 and to make the same margin, sold at $1533 or rounded to $1599. That's what they used to sell the G4 towers at.
The problem here is beyond what you mentioned. You have a greater level of conflict with the imacs in price point, and you've isolated the dual socket version on components. The margins on that are likely huge for little extra R&D. On the windows side it's the same. The return on the dual models is much higher. Apple is always trying to reuse components, so the current strategy seems better aligned with that. You might remember they used to ship dual socket versions at $2300-2500. Unless their costs skyrocketed or margins there were pathetic, they must be extremely high now. If they wanted to placate the xMac crowd, they could have solved that problem when they redesigned the imac by making it a little less hostile to customization and using extra space to contain storage rather than thin out the edges. This would make more sense to me than trying to morph the mac pro into a consumer box that bisects the imac pricing tiers. On displays, there's a lot Apple could do there. Since you mentioned NEC and Eizo, they engineer around certain panel deficiencies whenever possible. They also seem to bin things based on performance. That is likely not feasible for Apple as they don't have the tiered markets or corporate display sales to sink cheaper units with panels that didn't make the specs necessary for their most expensive lines. Intelligent compensation for drift based on panel hours, methods of blocking to improve edge to edge uniformity (see colorcomp and due) are things that would be practical. Apple likes things that are done behind the scenes, and these two vendors are largely that way. Their software involves setting targets and pressing a couple buttons. Uniformity compensation on Eizo is handled without user input. I think NEC went this way as of 2010 as well (not 100% on that). Anyway my point being that there's a weird desire to shoehorn one thing into another due to the lack of an updated model. I don't see them homogenizing to that degree, especially when it represents one of their slower growth points.
I think it's a good idea for them to use the Xeon as it gives them the option to go to 12-core chips with the same motherboard. If they go with a $2499 6-core, they could maybe have an entry quad-core at the old $2199 price. It does seem like poor value next to the $2199 iMac but you'd be getting the option for more RAM, possibly a half-length PCIe 3 expansion slot or two, a replaceable GPU and easy access to storage.
This seems really silly to me. If they stuck to the same margins, you'd still see a quad core at $2500. If you split it into the X79/i7 route, you'd lose the ability to reuse parts with the current daughterboard setup. Half-length makes even less sense unless a lot of what is currently used fits into that factor. It's a smaller market, so manufacturers aren't that likely to heavily refactor things. It's also not what they've used in gpus.
I'm just going to add that if the imac was better aligned for me in a few areas, I would probably go that route (as in the top one).
Edited by hmm - 2/7/13 at 6:59pm