Of Mac and Mini

Cheaper than any Apple II, more powerful than a Pentium, bundled with iLife, able to avoid most viruses in a singe bound — look on the desk, it’s a white coaster, it’s a squashed cube, no it’s mini-Mac — er Mac mini.

For 30 years of computer history, I’ve seen cheap repeatedly beat out cool, better, better value, more reliable, and so on. The entire PC history can be summed up as follows; most people pick cheap over good because it takes too much work to know the difference, so they go with cheap. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re not going to look for reasons why you’re wrong. Viola.

Apple already has most of the people that don’t think that way, those that researched or valued good over cheap; but now the other 97% of the market gets a chance to get a Mac.

Apple’s first consumer Mac. Damn that has a nice ring to it. This is the Mac I’ve always wanted since 1984. Not that I wanted a low end headless Mac as my primary machine, I either went for a high end laptop or desktop for myself, but I wanted a cheap but powerful little Mac for hobbies, little projects, or for other people that wouldn’t invest as much in a machine as I would. Not a neutered Performa, or Classic with a tumorous CRT, just a cheap little headless entry machine that just worked, and people would be willing to try.

I did Apple’s demo-days for years, showing Macs to walk-in’s and was constantly hit with people that liked the Mac but just wouldn’t fork out a 10-20% premium for one and they’d walk away because they wanted a bare bones machine without a monitor (or LCD), keyboard or mouse because Apple wouldn’t give them that choice. Now they can get their wish, for less than most PC’s.

This machine is fantastic in that it gets Apple over the psychological barrier to entry, “Macs are too expensive”. Try one at $499, heck at that price get 3 and make your own cluster. That’s before any discounts, used, or refurbs, with those, these things are rapidly approaching free. Buy one for every room in the house. Put one in your car, use it as a game machine or a PVR, or a production machine for your music, video, pictures, and so on. While a 1.2 GHz machine isn’t exactly the top of the line, it is useful for thousands of applications. Create a simple UNIX based server for all sorts of little projects. Make a kiosk out of one, a little device controller, a simple terminal with a good interface, and a thousand other uses that you can’t get people to spring for $1,000 or $1,500 apiece for. Enterprises and schools can slap one on every desk. The Mac mini fills may niches and brings the Mac into a hundred new markets.

This is what the Cube should have been, but wasn’t. Back then people were begging for this, and for a decade before, but Apple was too scared to do it. Now with the success of the iPod, their stock, their stability in the market, they are willing to take the risk, and I think it will be rewarded. Some people are concerned with the Mac mini because they think “it will
pirate sales from higher end Macs”, but they are just being myopic. Yes, it will do that a little — but far more often it will bring the Mac in places that it could never go before. It will also be used far more often as a way to augment machines that they already have. It will get people into a Mac, and then they’ll see how easy it is to replace their unreliable, buggy and virus ridden PC with something that works better. Apple has ways to upsell you and make more for their bottom line, either with overpriced RAM or AppleCare or top of the line but expensive accessories, and so on — but that won’t stop consumers, and will help Apple’s bottom line. I can’t stop repeating myself, Apple finally has something for people who want to try a Mac, without a major investment.

Apple had great products in their segments, with a critical hole in the low end. They plugged that hole. A lot of cheap beating out good was because people wanted to play it safe. Now they can have both. They can get better, for less — or at least competitive. And for the first time, ever, the Mac users have a full spectrum of choices. You can start on the very low end, and go way up the food chain, with few gaps in between. This will likely not only stop the erosion of Macs market share, but even reverse the trend. Throw in IBM’s G5’s, the progress of OSX, that computers are becoming so fast and cheap that they are near disposable, and that Apple is getting more data ubiquity (the ability for many programs to exchange the same files), and Apple and the Mac is in the right place and right time. This reality distortion field is really altering the reality of the market. I only wish that I could afford to own more Apple stock.

Apple will sell more seats (machines), and each one is more justification for more applications. More Applications means more users. And more users sell more seats. January 24th, 1984 might have been the intro of the Mac — but January 11th, 2005 is the date when the future of the Mac as a platform totally turned around. Add this to the raging success of the iPod, Steve Jobs marketing and Apple and the Mac are going to continue to grow explosively for the next few years. Viva Apple and finally coming out with the long overdue Mac Mini.

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