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Desktops (Apple) Hardware

Will Mac mini Lead the Charge to Smaller Desktops? 1084

Posted by michael
from the half-a-league-onward dept.
elecngnr writes "Maybe size doesn't matter. ZDNet has a story about how the Mac mini may shift consumers away from the larger tower style desktops to smaller ones. Other computer makers, such as HP, have so far been unsuccessful in marketing small computers to consumers. However, Apple does have a history of leading the charge in paradigm shifts in certain aspects of consumer products (e.g. GUI's, color changes, the iPod, and the list goes on). It is also important to recognize that they have been wrong at times too (e.g. the Cube, the Newton, and the one button mouse). Time will tell which list the Mini will belong to."
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Will Mac mini Lead the Charge to Smaller Desktops?

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  • by renderhead (206057) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:01PM (#11492689)
    Although it wasn't well worded, I don't think the OP was trying to say that all of those ideas from Apple were failures in the sense that they don't work or are bad ideas, but rather that they failed to inspire industry-wide trends. The one-button mouse works just fine for the Mac because it was designed with a one-button mouse in mind, so they continue to use it. Nobody else picked up on it, though.

    This small form factor could turn out the same way, but I doubt it. Small seems to be the way to go, especially now that upgrades are getting less and less significant to most users (is 4 GHz really going to be better than 3.5?) If you can't make them faster, or if the consumers stop caring whether or not their computer is faster, form factor is a reasonable direction to push research.
  • Re:eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:03PM (#11492714) Journal
    You can plug a Microsoft Intellimouse with scroll wheel into a Mac OS X machine, and it works perfectly. What people get tired of is the implication that the Mac OS is LIMITED to one button. Multibutton support is built into Mac OS X, and before that you could buy any mouse with umpteen buttons, install the driver, and click away happily. Apple simply provides a one button mouse, but you can use multibutton mice no problem.

    Now I agree with the argument that maybe Apple should offer a better mouse out of the box, but, well, mice are pretty cheap.

  • by argent (18001) <peter AT slashdo ... taronga DOT com> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:03PM (#11492722) Homepage Journal
    what, do they just not realise it or something?

    They realise it. That's why OS X has 2- and 3- button support out of the box. The availability of cheap high-quality multi-button USB mice from the PC world lets them get away with pretending that the one-button mouse isn't a problem, and not including a mouse with the Mini is another way to dodge the bullet.
  • by toby (759) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:05PM (#11492751) Homepage Journal
    Just what was "wrong" about the Newton [splorp.com] and Cube? Don't mistake cancelled products for flaws. I am familiar with both - and there's nothing wrong with either product. In fact, both were long ahead of their time - the Newton by 10-15 years, and the Cube by several years: the powerful, compact, fanless mini unit.

    Cubes hold their value better than probably any other Power Mac model - how's that for "wrong"? Nobody I know ever thought of a good explanation for the cancellation of the Cube; it certainly wasn't technical failings - the most likely reason was low margins. The Mini is another low margin product but the engineering is much less ambitious I suspect.

  • by sgant (178166) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:07PM (#11492784) Homepage Journal
    You won't void your warranty by upgrading your RAM by yourself.

    I'm not an Apple guy and even I notice many people like you who enjoy spreading this FUD around. I mean, come on. Hack about it's power or low system specs or anything else, but don't spread FUD like this.

    It's more effective to go after real issues and not create un-true ones.

    From another site:

    I spoke with the product manager for the Mac mini today to clarify a few facts.

    1. Yes, it will boot headless, meaning with no display or video device connected, enabling you to have what I like to call an iServe.
    2. While it is strongly recommended that you only have an Apple Authorized Service Provider crack it open and install RAM, hard drives, Airport and Bluetooth, it will NOT void your warranty if you do it yourself. As is standard operating procedure, however, anything you break while attempting anything on your own is not Apple's responsibility and will not be covered under warranty. I think that is pretty much common sense.
    3. Airport and Bluetooth can, in fact, be added after purchase. AirPort Extreme card and Bluetooth module attach to the Mac mini's motherboard via a special connector and will be sold together as a kit for $129.mac mini insides
    4. RAM is the most accessible upgrade once you get the case off. That much is clear from the picture.
    5. All upgrades other than RAM are not as accessible, but accessing them won't void your warranty, with list item #2 above in mind.
  • by Cecil (37810) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:14PM (#11492881) Homepage
    So the question is, why hasn't anyone invented this yet?

    Psst. They have. [apple.com]

    Flat panel with built in computer... check.
    Wireless capability... check.
    Plays music, connects to Internet... check.
    Bluetooth Wireless keyboard... check.
  • by Cylix (55374) * on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:20PM (#11492955) Homepage Journal
    Not true...

    Let's take Dell for example.

    I had a friend worried about performing a RAM upgrade so he decided to call Dell and ask. Turns out, his warranty is only void if he upgrades the motherboard or processor. (I'm asumming the case would have to stay the same too).

    When it comes to PC's... most companies understand the case will get cracked. In fact, I usually recommend dusting every six months... do that with the case sealed.
  • by CallFinalClass (801589) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:25PM (#11493040)
    Confirmed - iDVD 05 does play nicely with external DVD burners, I've done it myself.
  • by berj (754323) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:30PM (#11493099)
    No, you don't. Or at least that was the predominant interpretation last time I looked. Got any reference to back that up?

    Umm.. how about straight from the horse's mouth (er.. keyboard):

    http://www.apple.com/ca/macmini/specs.html [apple.com]

    Look at footnote number 5 down at the bottom:

    Memory upgrade must be performed by an Apple Authorized Service Provider.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:31PM (#11493118)
    Disclaimer: I am a long-time Mac user, and I use a two-button (+ scroll wheel) mouse about 99% o the time when I am on a Mac.

    That said, replies to each of your points:

    1) The design of a one-button mouse *OS* is superior to Windows and Linux. Steve Jobs's point is that with the MacOS, you never *need* that right mouse button. Look through instruction books that describe how to do things under MacOS and under Windows. The Mac instructions are significantly shorter and easier. Plug in a two-button, scroll mouse and it works out of the box. It allows for short-cuts for power-users without relying on that second mouse button.

    As soon as Apple includes a mouse with more than one button, instructions on how to do things involve "right-click on [object]". Steve, and Apple, do not want to see that. I tend to agree with them on that.

    2) As I said, all of these are simple shortcuts that you do not have to use to use the MacOS. If you are a power-user, simply plug in a nice two-button, scroll mouse. It will work out of the box!

    In addition, I think it is wonderful that all the modifier buttons are in the bottom corners of the keyboard. My right hand can sit on the mouse and my left hand can sit on those three buttons (control, option, command) and modify the clicks easily. Would you rather spread them out so that they are hard to find when you need them?
  • by adzoox (615327) * on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:34PM (#11493179) Journal
    The Mac Mini is FAR smaller than ANY mini-ITX I have seen and also WAY more powerful. Most small form factor PCs use low power processors that are weak at best - the G4 in the Mac Mini is throwing out some impressive results.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:41PM (#11493267)
    As I said, what Apple do, they do well and with style. I just dispute the fanboy claim that it's either novel or groundbreaking.

    Also, not all SFF PC's run crappy processors. My SN95G5 runs a socket 939 Athlon64 just fine. Top end, not too hot. WAY more powerful than the Mac Mini, to use your terms.

    It's not as small, it's _almost_ as stylish (IMHO), but it is powerful, and it is sleek.

    The Mac Mini does look fantastic, I'm very tempted to get one and I've been a PC guy up until now - But I really don't think it's groundbreaking.
  • The "why" is easy... (Score:4, Informative)

    by chill (34294) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:41PM (#11493269) Journal
    ...because all the mini-itx stuff hangs on so tightly to legacy crap.

    I have been looking for YEARS for a legacy-free mini-itx type (SFF) motherboard and have yet to see one.

    By legacy-free I mean: no PS/2, no parallel, no VGA, no serial (9-pin or 25-pin). I want USB 2.0, DVI, and gigE. Give it a mini-PCI and/or mini-AGP and I'd be happy.

    I've seen Via *announce* a line with just VGA/USB/Ethernet and the rest as headers, but nothing else that fits the bill.

    My only "issue" with the mini Mac is the 10/100 Ethernet instead of 10/100/1000. That, however, is what I consider a very minor flaw in what otherwise is my dream machine.

    The only other Apple product I owned was the Newton, so it isn't a Mac fan-boy thing.

    The mini-itx industry was just too damn hung up on legacy crap for me to ever really be more than just mildly interested in their products.

    -Charles
  • Firewire and USB. (Score:3, Informative)

    by jellomizer (103300) * on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:42PM (#11493286)
    With Firewire and USB many hardware upgrades are now much easier. Unlike the old days where most external devices were connected with SCSI, Parallel, and Serial. Parallel and Serial Devices the computer needed a Port for each Device. So if you had 3 External Modems you needed 3 Serial Ports, or if you had 2 Printers you needed 2 Parallel Ports. SCSI stuff as always been expensive and the never really standardized it much so you had to check to see what type of external scsi drive you have and see if it matches your system and they were hooked up in a chain so if you removed one device you would need to rewire the one above it and the one below it. So with all these devices in order to upgrade you will still need expansion ports for the extra scsi cards, Serial, and Parallel cards. So you were better off saving money for internal equipment because you will fill up the space anyways, and will need to get into your system.
    Now with USB and FireWire (The topic of this post) you can add a USB or FireWire hubs to your system and expand the ability without opening your system and adding new cards. Plus if you unplug one device you don't need to rewire the others. Plus the cost of these external devices are getting close to the same price as internal devices. Not 2 to 3 times the cost like in the old days. So we don't need 10 open PCI Slots anymore because external is much easier.
  • by The Spoonman (634311) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:48PM (#11493366) Homepage
    Firewire and USB external DVD writers are not supported natively by iDVD

    That may just not be true anymore. [macosxhints.com] It would make sense if it weren't true, as consumers might not be so quick to buy the SuperDrive option when buying a Mini ("When will I ever have need to burn a DVD?"), but then find out later down the line how ridiculously easy it is on a Mac and decided to go get one. It wouldn't surprise me, Apple has so very totally gotten everything right with this box, such a minor detail (and major forward-thinking) wouldn't be out of the question.

    On a lighter note, while browsing through CompUOverpay yesterday, I finally got to meet a Mini "in person". Holy crap! I'd seen the pics, but it really and totally doesn't hit you how small this thing is untill you hold one in your hand (singular!)
  • by mmkkbb (816035) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:54PM (#11493459) Homepage Journal
    What are you talking about? Any Mac with a PCI slot has upgradeable sound. Echo makes several nice PCMCIA cards with a variety of options, including 24bit/96kHz input and output. Plus, the best quality will come from a FireWire breakout box anyway, which all recent Macs support!
  • by jht (5006) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:55PM (#11493469) Homepage Journal
    When they say that, they are saying that if you buy an Apple memory upgrade that's the only way they will sell it to you. However, if you feel like installing your own memory in the system, you will not void your warranty by installing the third-party memory provided you don't break the mini when doing so .

    That's an important distinction. Once you've installed the memory, that memory is not covered by the Apple warranty, and if you break the mini while installing it you can void the mini's warranty. But let's say you install your own 1GB DIMM and all goes swimmingly well. Then, a couple of months later, the hard drive dies.

    That hard drive repair is covered by Apple's warranty. They have to - there's a handy law that says so. But if the DIMM you installed is causing the Mac to crash, well, you better hope your RAM provider gave you a warranty for the DIMM - because Apple won't replace it (duh).
  • Firewire and USB external DVD writers are not supported natively by iDVD and you have to use a third party "patch" to get it to work. Doesn't seem very useful there.

    They don't work with iDVD 04, but the Mac mini ships with iDVD 05 which does support external writers (and even if you find one that it won't work with directly, iDVD 05 can now create a disk image which you can then burn using whatever software you want).

    Yaz.

  • by amichalo (132545) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:02PM (#11493543)
    We are renovating our kitchen and are putting in just such a device. It's called an 17" iMac G5 [apple.com].
  • by Rev Wally (814101) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:17PM (#11493712) Homepage
    That would make sense. When I worked worked for gateway (curse them for closing their retail stores!) the rule was that we would cover anything that we put in the box. If the video card your 14-year-old nephew burns out your motherboard, too bad, so sad. YMMV.
  • by jargoone (166102) * on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:17PM (#11493716)
    Other companies have tried "appliances" like you describe, and failed. The market just isn't there.

    You can still get the hardware, and if you like to tinker, get it doing most of what you ask. Search for "3com audrey". They're cheap, and apart from having a mouse (touch-screen instead), can do everything you mention.
  • by Refrag (145266) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:19PM (#11493739) Homepage
    iDVD 5 can create DVD image files which can easily be burned with third party DVD burners -- or even a Linux or Windows box on the network. I haven't got a third-party DVD burner so I can't check whether or not it now supports them.
  • by MattHaffner (101554) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:20PM (#11493743)
    ... but the single button that forces her to memorize somekey+mouseclick to do basic things the rest of us do with the right mouse button and, in the case of us Linux/*BSD folks, the middle mouse button. ...

    So yes, it is a FLAW, a big, huge, honking flaw the designers and their apologists steadfastly refuse to admit, probably for reasons of pride and irrational fandom.

    No, it is not a flaw. It is built into the design of the OS and to the interface guidelines from day one. What you may not realize is that everything that is accessible from a right click contextual menu on OS X apps is (or should be in the case of 3rd parties) completely accessible by some other method that does not require a multi-button mouse. The menu is optional for those that get used to using control-click often (and it's just control--nothing else!) or who choose to have a multi-button mouse.

    This is not the case for Windows or X11. For those of us that do use those systems regularly (myself included), a multi-button mouse make more sense because we've been forced to use it to access complete functionality of applications. The mind-share of the one-button mouse users are even smaller than those of us devoted to OS X, but the design of that mouse and it's use in OS X is most definitely not "flawed". Just different. Maybe too different these days, but there you go...

    I get along fine with my PB when I don't have the space to attach an extra mouse. The thing that bugs me more than having to use control is the fact that the function key is where my finger wants control to be, but that's a problem with many more laptops than just Apple's.
  • by TheWama (793038) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:25PM (#11493832)
    Actually, Mini Macs don't ship with a mouse at all...
    The mouse of your choice can likely be found for around $20
    So you're either quite petty, or out of reasons to complain.
  • by jurv!s (688306) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:46PM (#11494070) Journal
    MS Office on the Mac is *not* the same as its Windows counterpart. The MS Mac Business Unit wrote it for the Mac specifically and hence for a one-button mouse. Don't forget that Word was a Mac app originally.

    You've brought attention to another sophisticated program that thought long and hard and decided to break with the Apple Human Interface Guidelines wrt mice. I'm sure they didn't take this decision lightly and that it greatly improves the usability of their program. However, this is not a reason to include multi-button mice by default. Imagine the untold number of apps that would start shunting off functionality onto those other buttons rather than implement it in a clearer manner. The consistency of functionality across Mac applications that I hold in the highest regard would be severely compromised if I had to click three ways on ever UI element in new programs to figure out just what a program does. I believe that programs which require multi-button mice should be the exception and not the rule.

    OTOH, I can control click with one hand very easily on my PB. If your gf's hands are too small to do even that, maybe Sticky Keys would help her out. I find them invaluable when I have to use the computer single-handed ;-D They can be turned on in System Preferences - Universal Access - Keyboard. With a PB, there is very little reason for your hands to be further than three inches from the keyboard at all times.

    The one thing the Mac mouse is really missing is a scroll wheel. I admit that I do have a 2-button scroll wheel mouse on my desktop. But I rarely use the right button. I probably shift click or command click just as often or more than I need to right [control] click. Perhaps I should just get a five button mouse to cover those other types of clicks... Nah- I just want my scroll wheel! Check out SideTrack that another poster mentioned. It's the reason I feel that my PB with the trackpad and button right there is in many ways better than my keyboard and separate two-button scroll wheel mouse. They're so close that I can't help but always have my fingers in proper position to do EVERYTHING.

  • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @02:00PM (#11494259) Homepage
    Maybe not even then.

    The Mac service guide specifically says that a dealer who opens a mac mini should use a 1.5 inch beveled putty knive (there's even an apple part number for it - 922-6761). Page two of that guide is how to sharpen the edges of a standard putty knife for this purpose.

    So if you break a clip (assuming that they're that flimsy) by performing the same procedure that a dealer would, how are they going to tell? You can just say the last dealer did it... not that they'd ask.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 27, 2005 @02:19PM (#11494474)
    i would interpret that as an indication that the cube was a flop and has become a collectors item.

    things that were never produced in huge numbers can become quite valuable after they are discontinued.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Thursday January 27, 2005 @02:21PM (#11494489)
    I play UT a lot, and have a 9200 in my G5 tower. It handles fairly high resolutions just fine.

    The Mac mini would handle most gaming (ESPECIALLY at TV or HDTV resolutions) just fine.
  • by cbiffle (211614) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @02:21PM (#11494508)
    The Mac Mini does NOT use laptop ram but the iMac line does.


    While I agree with most of your post, this is incorrect. The iMac G5s use standard 184-pin DDR DIMMs.

    The G4's might've used SO-DIMMs, but I haven't had one open.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @02:48PM (#11494866)

    The radeon 9200 chip they have is ok for playing basic mpg's or tetris but that's about it.

    Can you point out one shipping game for the mac that the mac mini does not meet the requirements for? I mean UT2004, WOW, Warcraft3, Neverwinter Nights, Halo, etc. all seem to have minimum requirements below its specs. I think Doom3 requires another .2 GHz of processor power, but it has not shipped yet as far as I know. Complaining that a shipping system has sub-par graphics for gaming when it will play any current game is a little premature. At least wait till there is a game it won't play, OK?

    *no* mac's have upgradable sound.

    USB. USB sound is pretty popular right now both among audio professionals and amateurs. There is a ton of USB audio gear available. Get a clue.

  • by cybrthng (22291) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @03:18PM (#11495210) Journal
    You are on crack.

    And i guess thats why you posted as an AC. Do you work for Dell? Have you bothered to seen what comes standard on the Mini vs anything dell offers?

    There is a world of difference in engineering, features, applications and perforance between Apple and Dell or Apple and any X86 offering.

  • Re:Support (Score:2, Informative)

    by Cheech Wizard (698728) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @03:52PM (#11495597)
    Good point re: support.

    I have had many Macs (and still do as a friend recently pointed out recently I have 4 in my closet and 3 'in use'). I bought a Titanium Powerbook 2 years ago and last fall the screen went out. I had a live tech on the phone within 5 minutes on a thursday, a shipping box arrived friday morning, I shipped it saturday morning and it arrived back the following tuesday moring with a new display.

    I used that powerbook so much (it replaced my old 8500 desktop tower) the keys started cracking (I slam keys, such as the shift and return keys pretty hard - big, clumbsy hands) and the print started coming off some of the keys last summer. Same deal - Live tech within minutes and the replacement keyboard arrived the next morning(!)

    My experiences with Apple tech support have been few, but have almost always very good and fast.
  • by tsangc (177574) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @08:41PM (#11498997)

    Steve Jobs obviously has good taste in sensing trends and managing to bring them to market just a little more quickly than others. You could make a list of things that were more or less in the air, that the Mac wasn't first to offer, but successfully offered on a large scale six to twelve months ahead of the PC world.


    You could also make a list of stupid nonstandard things the Macintosh has introduced which increased the cost of the system and made it much more proprietary:

    --NuBus expansion slots (which followed from 1988 onto early PowerPC models)
    --Apple AAUI transceiver plug for Ethernet
    --The ADC video connector
    --MiniVGA ports

    Most of these were ultimately retarded ideas with no basis other than milking Macintosh users with pricey addons. With your "innovation" you also get a lot of suspicious design choices.

    SCSI interface


    As a side note, if you read some of the backstory on the development of the Macintosh, Jobs was very much against the idea of a SCSI interface or for that matter, any expansion at all. That's why the introduction of a hard disk expandable Macintosh was delayed until the Mac Plus.

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