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Desktops (Apple) Hardware

Will Mac mini Lead the Charge to Smaller Desktops? 1084

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 garcia ( 6573 ) * on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:47AM (#11492479)
    "What we found was, at least at that time (before HP bought Compaq), that people were still concerned about expandability," Anderson said. "It's been an important feature of the PC for the last 20 years, but as the PC has gone mainstream, it's been something that people liked but that they haven't used."

    Will it make a shift to smaller sized desktops? Maybe. Most people never need to open their case for a memory upgrade or some other piece of hardware being added but a lot of people do enjoy the ability to do that. As long as these small form factor machines are still able to be upgraded fairly easily I don't see why they wouldn't be popular... Personally I am rearranging my computer desk to accommodate the Mini. Not because of its size but because I want to show off the fact that I have this sleek, little, quiet, box sitting on my desk (BTW - I took Slashdotter advice from yesterday's article about the Mini and hardware upgrades and went with 512MB. I couldn't justify the $210 for 1GB when 512 was only $80). I am not looking forward to using two thin putty knives to open my brand new machine though. Why couldn't they have just made it user serviceable for RAM?

    For the first time since I was 12 I am nervous about opening a computer case and swapping out some stuff inside. To me, that's just wrong.

    Most buyers tend to purchase PCs based more on price and quality of technical support than on design, analysts said. Yet executives such as HP's Anderson see a market for unobtrusive desktops that consumers would purchase as second or third computers and use in settings such as kitchens, where large desktops are impractical.

    Ok, I'm a geek and I love to have the Internet wherever I am but why in the kitchen? Like I don't have enough shit on my crappy counter space... Why not do something like those failed Motorola wireless AIM clients and have a docking station and wlan? Why do we have to have a small form factor machine in the kitchen? Most people here seem to be using this machine in the media room because it's small, quiet, and has DVI. That makes more sense to me.

    Building in 120GB, 160GB or higher capacity drives, for example, will mean miniature PCs able to match larger machines in storing large numbers of MP3 files or even digital photos.

    Oh come on. Not many people have enough photos and MP3s to fill even 10GB nevermind 120GB or 160GB. I am still using a 10GB HD in my XP machine. Yeah, my music is stored elsewhere but it's still less than 7GB of MP3s and 10GB more for SHN/FLAC (which most people aren't into). I want to know how many regular computer userse have 100GB of music and photos. Geeks are in the minority when it comes to computer purchases from major vendors that would be hurt by this "gamble". I'm sure it won't be anything for them to worry about.

    I didn't get the Mini because it was small, quiet, or good looking. I got it because OS X is not Windows, is built on BSD, is now affordable, and isn't as susceptible to all the bullshit that my Windows machines are. If anything the Mini might open the door to more users for Apple which may or may not be a good thing ;)
    • Firewire and USB2 give the expandability of peripherals, and they're bundling video and sound chipsets that don't suck. RAM and internal drives can be upgraded (although the optical drive would be a trick I'm sure), so that leaves the cpu and mainboard. Non-geeks aren't going to attempt to upgrade those.

      Someone needs to just say it: Apple got it really really really right this time.
      • Wow (Score:3, Funny)

        by delmoi ( 26744 )
        Someone needs to just say it: Apple got it really really really right this time.

        And I'm sure the first one to do it, too!
      • Re:Form factor (Score:3, Interesting)

        by davecb ( 6526 ) *
        Say to yourself "component stereo".
        (Idea courtesy Drew Sullivan)

        --dave

    • by wezzul ( 813900 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:04PM (#11492734) Homepage
      Not many people have enough photos and MP3s to fill even 10GB nevermind 120GB or 160GB

      What about video? Small form factor boxes could easily be the new Tivo, without a monthly fee. Running something like MythTV or (cringe) Windows MC. Having a computer in the living room wouldn't be so bad if it was little and quiet, and if it was marketed correctly, could easily become something that not just for geeks...
    • by daBass ( 56811 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:04PM (#11492737)
      I can just imagine it, another small fanless box with 250GB to 1TB in disks and just enough CPU power to serve it up to the network and play internet gateway, maybe even run some print queues.

      This time not only no monitor, but not even a video out; Rendezous makes it easily available to all computers in the house.

      Add "iVision", a dumb MPEG4 playback box for next to your television (plays just audio too!), the HDTV downloads predicted by Robert X. Cringely and you have the home multimedia promise delivered.
    • Building in 120GB, 160GB or higher capacity drives, for example, will mean miniature PCs able to match larger machines in storing large numbers of MP3 files or even digital photos.

      Oh come on. Not many people have enough photos and MP3s to fill even 10GB nevermind 120GB or 160GB

      One home use where you do need stacks of HD space is editing home videos. The DV format is not compressed very much and so it doesn't take many DV tapes of the family holiday to suddenly devour 50~100GBs of disk space.

    • by gilesjuk ( 604902 )
      Laptops are expandable and hatches reveal the slots for RAM and other optional extras like wifi modules. Why this cannot be done for a small form factor PC I don't know.
    • by hether ( 101201 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:19PM (#11492951)
      Ok, I'm a geek and I love to have the Internet wherever I am but why in the kitchen?

      Because in many households with families the kitchen is the hub of the house. They spend a lot of their time hanging out there, ie: kids do their homework while mom makes dinner.

      Also, some people have their computer in this area because it's not a comfy place to hang out and veg all night watching DVDs, surfing or playing games, but rather a productive place to do homework, pay bills, etc. And for younger kids using computers, a place where their usage can always be monitored to some extent.
  • No (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:48AM (#11492492)
    People like big things. Big TVs, big SUVs, big houses... big computers. Size still matters. I bet if they started selling room-size computers again, people would be buying them.
    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tbone1 ( 309237 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:58AM (#11492642) Homepage
      People like big things. Big TVs, big SUVs, big houses... big computers. Size still matters. I bet if they started selling room-size computers again, people would be buying them.

      It all depends, really. People like some things bigger. Pizzas, for instance, because it means more bready-cheesy-tomato-saucy goodness. Bigger homes mean more space AND a (perceived or true) better return on investment. Big SUVs are great in the winter weather, and they have a lot of room for hauling stuff.

      However, they don't always prefer bigger. People love the small size of the iPod. They love smaller, slimmer cell phones. They prefer babies to teenagers. You don't see too many huge women as centerfolds. Huge bazooms, yes; land whales, no. Middle-aged-crazy men prefer sports cars to minivans. I myself prefer women who require small maintenance to those who require a lot. And you can bet that taxpayers prefer small government to big. People love laptops that are smaller and lighter.

      So maybe there is a market for this, which will be helped along by the Mac mini being stylish and from a company that's considered cool. Maybe it won't start a trend. The market will decide, as the market always does.

      • Re:No (Score:3, Funny)

        by Leo McGarry ( 843676 )
        Unfortunately, technology has not yet allowed Apple to hook the 30" Cinema Display up to the Mac mini. So the possibility of combining the largest computer monitor in the world with the smallest Mac in the world is still just out of reach.
  • Newton? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cutriss ( 262920 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:48AM (#11492497) Homepage
    How was the Newton wrong? It may not have taken off, but it definitely had an impact. Palm would likely never have existed if Apple hadn't tried the Newton.
    • Re:Newton? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Codger ( 96717 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:48PM (#11493360)
      I have an old Newton 110 sitting in a desk drawer somewhere. The only reason I stopped using it is because it's too big to easily carry with me.

      I now have a PocketPC (wouldn't have bought it, got it free). Even though it has somthing like 100 times the memory and 50 times the processor power, and is 10 years newer, it doesn't work nearly as well as the Newton. The Newton's handwriting recognition is far better, the built-in apps work better, the UI is infinitely better, etc. It's even faster at most things (probably because it's not pushing a lot of color around).

      The Newton was way ahead of the game. Its designers recognized that the new form factor also required a new user interface paradigm - the WIMP/desktop metaphor doesn't work in that form factor. They came up with something revolutionary that worked beautifully in a handheld, pen-driven device. Microsoft seems to think that everything has to look like Windows - they just don't get it.

      I wish Jobs hadn't killed the Newton. Imagine a Newton with a fast StrongArm, lots of memory, color, etc., in a Palm form factor. It would put Palm and Microsoft PPC to shame.
    • Re:Newton? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Refrag ( 145266 )
      The one-button mouse is also not wrong. Apple is right to ship computers with them (when they ship a mouse). Just because some people eventually graduate to competently using a multi-button mouse doesn't mean Apple should bundle them with their computers.
      • Re:Newton? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gotih ( 167327 )
        for a long time i thought apple's one button mouse was the most stupid thing ever. then i borrowed a powerbook. it didn't take long to discover that "option + click" is the same as "right click". on a PC my left hand never leaves the keyboard -- always ready to click shift or ctrl or alt. now, with a mac, it's there to press shift or ctrl, option (alt) or the apple key.

        i think the only REAL reason to have more than one button is to play video games. 3D modleing needs a special mouse but that's not w
  • by rjrjr ( 28310 ) <rjrjr AT pobox DOT com> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:48AM (#11492502) Homepage
    Let's get this out of the way right now. Please make all your valuable n-button-mouse replies to this post.
  • Size DOES Matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cyngus ( 753668 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:49AM (#11492506)
    Perhaps the title should be that size does matter. Rather, being small is becoming more important. Perhaps we can think of this as Maslow's Hierarchy of Computer Needs. First we just want a machine that has enough power to do what we want. Then we want a machine that is small and unobtrusive and with enough power to do what we want.
  • Maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geoffspear ( 692508 ) * on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:51AM (#11492535) Homepage
    If the Mac Mini sells well, everyone will copy the idea. If not, it will disappear like the Cube and no one will ever build anything like it again.

    Of course, the cube's problem wasn't the design, it was the price tag. If they'd sold the cube for $500, it would have been a big hit, and you'd see grey cubes everywhere, from other computer manufacturers to George Foreman CubeGrills.

    • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tji ( 74570 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:02PM (#11492700)
      > If the Mac Mini sells well, everyone will copy the idea. If not, it will disappear like the Cube and no one will ever build anything like it again.

      The PowerMac G4 Cube kicked off a whole industry of PCs. It was the reason the Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs, the most successful of which are from Shuttle. When they first came out (not too long after the Mac Cube) people were calling them PC Cubes.

      Of course the SFF PCs are nothing like the G4 Cube in its simple, quiet, elegant design. I guess the SFF box was the best they could do when accomodating PC requirements (HOT running CPU needed a huge heat sink + fan, internal ATX power supply to meet the high wattage requirements, and PCI/AGP slots to satisfy PC tweakers).

      If the PC manufacturers do copy the mini, expect it to be another design full of compromises and lacking the style of a Mac.
    • Re:Maybe (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OverlordQ ( 264228 )
      If the Mac Mini sells well, everyone will copy the idea. If not, it will disappear like the Cube and no one will ever build anything like it again.

      Dont you mean if the mini/micro-atx market didn't sell well, Mac woudln't of copied them?
    • Re:Maybe (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Steve525 ( 236741 )
      As you said, if the Mac Mini is successful, its success will be, to a large extent, due to its price. To add to this, one quote in the article says a lot...

      HP found that pricing its small PCs even as little as $50 more than standard machines turned buyers off, Anderson said.

      To some extent this is why cool looking/small PC's fail. If a PC looks good but costs more than a similar PC, most people will just skip it. However, Apple's only competition comes from PC's which are a somewhat different product.
  • One button mice... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DavidLeblond ( 267211 ) <(me) (at) (davidleblond.com)> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:52AM (#11492550) Homepage
    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)

    God will you people PLEASE come up with something more original to pick at Apple with than the One Button Mouse. They obviously weren't THAT wrong about the one button mouse, they still use them. And they like it!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      God will you people PLEASE come up with something more original to pick at Apple with than the One Button Mouse. They obviously weren't THAT wrong about the one button mouse, they still use them. And they like it!

      God, will you people PLEASE come up with something more original to pick at Microsoft with than the poor security implementation of Internet Explorer. They obviously weren't THAT wrong about the poor security implementation of Internet Explorer, they still use it. And they like it!

  • shhhh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by .Spyder78. ( 453998 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:52AM (#11492559)
    Smaller is cool. Saves you having to buy a desk with one of those PC tower compartments.

    But you know what I'd like to see more of? Quieter PC's. Everything seems to be getting faster and/or smaller, but quieter would be nice.
  • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) * on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:54AM (#11492583)
    The cube was a brilliant design, and people I know that have it love it.

    Only problem was that it was too frickin expensive.
  • I think (Score:4, Interesting)

    by computerme ( 655703 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:56AM (#11492605)
    I think its important to point out that size is lower on the list of reasons why the mini has been selling like hot cakes to all users (mac and pc)

    For the simple fact that had the mini been 6x6 inches or 66x66 inches, the mini does not get infected with ad-ware spyware etc...

    I think we are at a point in history, when a large number of people are finnaly just "getting sick" of dealing with windows... its almost that some have forgotten that they bought a computer to DO stuff with it NOT maintain it....

    currently, support of windows is spiraling out of control..hatred of its inefficiencies is at an all time high.

    people (especially that have bought ipods) are now realizing there is a better way. a way that simply let's them DO the things they really want to do with a computer...
  • Wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Damek ( 515688 ) <adam@dame[ ]rg ['k.o' in gap]> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @11:56AM (#11492610) Homepage
    Just because a product flops or isn't the mainstream flagship product of its type doesn't mean it's wrong.

    Arguably, Apple was right with the Newton and the Cube - they were just a few years early on both counts. Arguably, Apple is right with the one-button mouse; just not right for everybody.

    Within the context of pushing paradigm shifts, you could argue that these three were unsuccessful, but you can hardly argue they were "wrong."
  • 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.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:03PM (#11492720)
    they have been wrong at times too...the one button mouse

    Two big problems with the One Button Mouse:

    1: They continue to refuse to admit that it is a mistake, instead touting it as the supposed superiority of Mac over PC. (Note: Every time I sit down at my Mac to work with Maya, the first thing I do is plug in a three-button mouse with scroll wheel -- and so does everybody else.)

    2: It is all a Big Lie to start with! Mouse click, mouse double-click, mouse click and drag, mouse+alt, mouse+option, mouse+shift, mouse+Apple, mouse+control, mouse+every combination of the above!

    It has never been a single button mouse. It's just that the rest of the buttons are exceptionally inconveniently located on the keyboard, most of them in the lower left quadrant! It's all style over substance crap that doesn't endear me to Apple!!

    • It's just that the rest of the buttons are exceptionally inconveniently located on the keyboard, most of them in the lower left quadrant!

      Would you prefer that they be in the lower right quadrant? Putting them in the lower left quadrant makes it easy to use those button combos with your non-mousing hand without moving it across the keyboard. It's a reasonable thing to do if your mouse only has one button. And you couldn't reasonably expect them to release a mouse with 8 buttons and call it a machine for th
      • >Would you prefer that they be in the lower right quadrant?

        If you were left-handed, HELL YES.
    • 1. The fact that you are using Maya already puts you well above the average user. Just ask everyone who has ever tried to do tech support over the phone how often they've had to say "Just click- no, the OTHER button..."

      2. None of those operations are ambiguous in the way that two featureless buttons on the mouse are. There's no way anyone could confuse the actions of pressing shift and pressing option, or lose track of how many times in a row they had clicked the mouse.

      Apple had to choose between conf

      • 2. None of those operations are ambiguous in the way that two featureless buttons on the mouse are. There's no way anyone could confuse the actions of pressing shift and pressing option, or lose track of how many times in a row they had clicked the mouse.


        You've done tech support, but somehow not noticed how thousands of people go through life double clicking on start, double clicking on links, double clicking on the "B" to make words appear bold (and wondering why it doesn't work), double clicking on fi
    • by dema ( 103780 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:24PM (#11493020) Homepage
      (Note: Every time I sit down at my Mac to work with Maya, the first thing I do is plug in a three-button mouse with scroll wheel -- and so does everybody else.)

      And the fact that you can do that 99% of the time with zero hassle from drivers or legacy or yadda yadda is why I (as an Apple customer) don't really care what mouse Apple chooses to ship with my shinny new computer (:
      • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:38PM (#11493968)
        And the fact that you can do that 99% of the time with zero hassle from drivers

        Funny you should mention that. I've shifted Macs lately, and the d@mn new one doesn't handle it correctly. I plug in the 3-button scroll-wheel mouse, the latest MouseWare driver loads (I know it's the latest, I've checked their update site - v5.2.1) and it refuses to let me set the middle button as Middle Button. The option doesn't allow itself to be changed in Preferences. And this is a major navigation tool in Maya. Some identical (as identical as our Sys Admin can make them) Macs next to mine work fine, but some others don't in this regard. SA still doesn't know what the problem is.

        So don't tell me how hassle free this is compared to a PC. Chances are good if I was running Windows Maya with a stardard scroll-wheel mouse permanently installed and used for all Windows work including Maya, I wouldn't be having this problem.

        The real truth in Windows vs Mac is: Once you're inside the application, be it Maya, Photoshop, Microsoft Office, or anything else that runs similar versions on both platforms, it's all the same because the application's interface is the one you're using.

    • by SPYvSPY ( 166790 )
      If I understand you correctly, you are upset that the mouse that is bundled with most Macs only has one button. And yet, you seem to be aware that the operating system performs all the functions of multibutton mice, either by using the keyboard, or by allowing you to plug in a third party multibutton mouse.

      Are you just upset that Apple won't sell you a multibutton mouse? I'm trying to understand whether you are a total moron, or just a slow learner.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:27PM (#11493060)

      Every time I sit down at my Mac to work with Maya, the first thing I do is plug in a three-button mouse with scroll wheel

      Maybe you should leave the three-button mouse plugged in. That way, you wouldn't have to keep plugging it in again every time you sit down.
  • by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:09PM (#11492807)
    We've all wanted to see MS's dominance challenged. We've been working hard to make Linux a viable candidate and it is. We've always known Mac's were a better GUI experience and really a better desktop than Windows. We've always known if they would just bring it to the masses it would go far. Well, now Apple is doing just that.
  • by asv108 ( 141455 ) <.asv. .at. .ivoss.com.> on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:12PM (#11492856) Homepage Journal
    From what I tell, that charge has already taken place. Desktops now are a lot smaller that they were 10 years ago. Sure, Dell is not mass marketing a mini-itx model to consumers, but thats because of price considerations. The majority of people in the market would rather by a laptop than a small desktop.

    The other consideration is psychological, consumers tend to gravitate towards big things because they think their more powerful. I've seen so many people by the 17in powerbook for absolutely no logical reason whatsoever. Yes, people doing video editing, sound editing, and graphics work can make us of a 17in, but the vast majority of buyers are normal users. I joke around with my one 17in wielding coworker, and call it the SUV laptop phenomenon. People are buying 17in powerbooks much in the manner that others buy hummer H2s.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:13PM (#11492866) Homepage
    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.

    All of these points can of course be debated depending on how you count "introduced on a large scale" and "when," but...

    --Introducing the Sony 3.5" floppy in the first place
    --Screens with black text on a white background
    --Easy-to-use workgroup-strength plug-and-play networking
    --Laser printers
    --SCSI interface
    --DROPPING floppies as standard equipment
    --USB ports (!)
    --Optical mice as standard equipment

    Of course, the standard PC answer is to any Mac innovation is "Who cares? If it's of any real importance PCs will have it in a year anyway. And it will be cheaper." To which the Mac answer is, "Yeah, and it won't work as well."

    • by Big_Al_B ( 743369 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:46PM (#11493333)
      Of course, the standard PC answer is to any Mac innovation is "Who cares? If it's of any real importance PCs will have it in a year anyway. And it will be cheaper." To which the Mac answer is, "Yeah, and it won't work as well."

      As a lifelong Apple customer, I say this without a hint of troll:

      Apple often miscalculates the value delta between "cheaper" and "won't work as well". People will find a way to deal with the latter, if the former is significantly true.

      The "as well" chasm must be wide and painful before most people will throw money at it.

      For my money Macs are a great value. But I don't suspect that's true for everyone.
      • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @03:28PM (#11495325) Homepage Journal

        A perfect example of the "as well" chasm is Linux. It's significantly cheaper than Windows, yet for most folks, doesn't work as well.

        I do run Linux, and I'm not trying to troll, but Linux has a long way to go when it comes to some things. Compare installing a new piece of hardware in Linux vs. Windows*:

        • Linux: Lookup hardware compatibility info on web. (30 minutes)
        • Windows: Buy hardware, bring home.(30 minutes)
        • Linux: Go to store.(30 minutes)
        • Windows: Install hardware. (15 minutes)
        • Linux: Go to a different store because 1st store doesn't have the model you need.(another 30 minutes)
        • Windows: insert drivers CD and install drivers. (15 minutes)
        • Linux: Buy hardware, bring it home.
        • Windows: Reboot machine, confirm hardware works.(4 minutes)
        • Linux: Install hardware.(15 minutes)
        • Linux: Download drivers from internet. (5 minutes..)
        • Linux: ./configure; make install. (5 minutes)
        • Linux: Fix broken headers so that drivers will compile under your architecture. (0 - 60 minutes, depending on hardware vendor)
        • Linux: make install (5 minutes)
        • Linux: reboot.(2 minutes)
        • Linux: Hardware doesn't work. Turns out, you need an updated kernel. Download latest kernel (~150 MB) (30 minutes)
        • Linux: Configure kernel (10 minutes)
        • Linux: Recompile kernel (45 minutes)
        • Linux: Install kernel, update bootloader (10 minutes)
        • Linux: Reboot. (4 minutes)
        • Linux: Your device now works! But now, for some reason, sound no longer works...

        And I haven't even covered the cases where the drivers won't compile, or the vendor changes chipsets and the device won't work with Linux at all.

        Granted, you only have to setup Linux once. But I've found that installing Linux and getting the hardware to work typically takes between two and three times what it would take under Windows, if it is supported at all. I can talk someone through reinstalling Windows over the phone, but I wouldn't dare try that with Linux. (Of course, you might never have to do the latter, so it might be a moot point).

        * - based on a true story...

  • Apple's failures? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TangoCharlie ( 113383 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:13PM (#11492874) Homepage Journal
    Apples failure with the Newton, Cube etc. haven't been because the innovation was wrong... The Newton concept lead to Palm and then to PocketPC. The Cube beat Shuttle to the SFF. Apple's failures in these cases were due mainly to a lack of conviction... (and possibly money)... and maybe coming to market too early. Have they learned thier lesson? They got the iPod spot on... they didn't invent MP3 players... but they pitched thier product at eactly the right time to capture the imagination. I'm sure the Mac mini will do well... for a start it's soo much cheaper than the other Macs... and sooo small. I'm buying one for my mother-in-law...
    I always laugh at HP's moto... HP invent. Do they? Naa...
    I hope the Mac mini will encourage people to think small.
    • by gobbo ( 567674 )
      While you're wrong about HP (well, OK, they don't 'invent' much in the consumer space, but elsewhere...), you raise an interesting point about what Apple may have learned from Newton/Cube/iPod sales--timing.

      I wondered why it took Apple so long to do the Mini; I don't think it was because of design challenges alone. I suspect that they were waiting for a number of factors to line up first: iPod market saturation, cheap laptop HD's & G4's, and the market momentum shift towards computers as an appliance..
    • The Newton concept lead to Palm and then to PocketPC
      This is a skewed view of things. For one thing Psion had handheld PDAs out there since 1984. Diary, text editor, contact database. All there. And the whole touch sensitive tablet concept was straight out of Star Trek (I'm not kidding here!). Even if the Newton hadn't existed the basic design for the Palm had pretty well already been specified.
  • by slcdb ( 317433 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:15PM (#11492901) Homepage
    ... is that they still need some work in the cooling arena. Unless it's an under-powered machine, of course (which the Mac mini appears to be).

    I tried the mini PC thing for a while, and now I've gone back to a regular sized mid-tower, and am much happier. The reason? Cooling. From the moment I bought my first mini PC, I suspected that it would run a bit hot. And it did with a 3.06GHz Pentium 4 in it. The CPU temperature was always running near the limit and occasionally on warmer days the temperature alarm would go off. So I added an additional fan and, since it seemed stable, I just ran with it that way for a long time. Then one day I remembered that Pentium 4 processors had a thermal throttling feature that inserts idle cycles when the temperature gets too high. So I did some searching and quickly found a utility that could tell me if the Pentium 4 in my mini PC was throttling. Sure enough, it was. All this time I had basically been running a crippled machine because the tiny case simply couldn't adequately ventilate the high-performance hardware. I tried a second model of mini PC, but returned it because it too had this same problem.

    I moved the CPU and all the other hardware (except the mobo of course, since they're always proprietary in these mini PCs) into a normal sized mid-tower case. Now that same processor with the same heatsink/cooler runs well below the Pentium 4's thermal limits. And it never throttles itself.

    And if you're thinking, "Well Mr. Smarty Pants, I'll just buy a mini PC and soup it up with the sweetest CPU cooler I can find!", then think again. These cases are far too small for your typical enthusiast to install a fancier cooling system. Someone with a lot of skill and specialized tools might be able to engineer a proper solution, but you won't find anything off-the-shelf anywhere.

    The moral of the story? Mini PCs are for the weak. If you want performance in a mini PC case, they're just not there yet. And the Mac mini does not appear to be an exception. It too comes fairly weakly equipped.
  • by copponex ( 13876 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:21PM (#11492982) Homepage
    I think one new thing with computers getting so cheap will be the distribution of machines with software. When per-seat costs are $1500 and up, machines like the Mini Mac start to look very affordable, considering the cost of supporting unknown hardware.

    People said Bill Gates was crazy when he said hardware will be free, but I can see it happening now.
  • Maxi Tower Cases (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:23PM (#11493004)
    I maximize my desktop space by putting the computer case on the floor. I like my cases to resemble the layout of a '56 Ford pickup engine compartment... room to climb in and walk around. If I want to change out a drive, it shouldn't be necessary to route my screwdriver through an alternate unverse to reach the screws. I don't want to disconnect the IDE ribbons to see the memory chips. I don't want to worry about the audio cables getting sucked into the CPU fan. For those times when a small form factor is important, such as hotel room microdesks or college dorms, there are notebook computers. They work great.
  • 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.
  • Dont' mock the Mouse (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nullhero ( 2983 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:51PM (#11493418) Journal
    I hate one-button mice - their terriable and disgusting. But my Mom bought her iMac three years ago and guess what she loves the one-button mouse compared to my Dad's three button mouse on her PC. In fact so does my Dad because he was conned into buying the PC (I told him to buy an iMac but he was told that Mac's were harder to learn and run?!?!?) with the three button and he hasn't used his Dell in 3 years - a waste of $599. Of course he likes my Mom's iMac with it's one button mouse even thought she paid $1199. And he liked that everything he needs is in the dock - now they fight over using the iMac - and he wonders why I never told him to buy an iMac.

    My point is that the Mac mini - which he has already ordered since his Dell monitor will work with it - is not for the poweruser but for the everyday consumer who knows nothing about computers, and doesn't want to, but just wants it to work and use it and not feel like the first computer was a total waste of their time. He's already auctioned it off on eBay (the CPU and mouse) and I got him a one-button mouse like Mom's!
  • by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:56PM (#11493481) Journal
    are a system where the users files, applications and settings are stored in in a hdd thats independent of the base system. like say i can remove it from the desktop at home, plug it into the laptop and bring it to work, remove it from the laptop and plug it into the desktop at work and so on. the os however would follow the terminal, not the users storage device. this to handle drivers and so on.

    it can in theory be done allready but the desktop guis needs to support it so that one can locate the apps and present them in the menu for the user and so on. it would in many ways change the idea of licences as then the licence can follow the user, not the system its installed on.
  • by amichalo ( 132545 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:11PM (#11493642)
    It is interesting to me that the Mac Mini uses a Laptop hard drive. The Mac Mini and iMac G5 also share the same laptop slot-loading drive as the PowerBooks. Airport cards in desktops and laptops are identical too. The Mac Mini does NOT use laptop ram but the iMac line does. Obviously the iPod is using some small hard drive, perhaps one also used in laptops, but I am only guessing.

    The point is that Apple is enjoying some economies of scale. By buying larger quantities of laptop parts, they not only get better per unit pricing, but also reduce inventories, support costs, engineering overhead, etc.

    If they are smart, the big PC makers will follow suite inroder to reduce costs for their laptops as well as provide cooler desktops.

    Apple recognized with the iMac that the computer needed to move from boxy to foxy. Dell, Gateway, and others tried but couldn't think outside the box. They just used black cases or rounded some edges. The Mac mini is really an evolution from the original iMac and is no smaller than the iMac G4's housing and no more an engineering wonder than the iMac G5 behind the monitor.
  • Support (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Enrique1218 ( 603187 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @01:30PM (#11493880) Journal

    I just read another article [nytimes.com] (reg. required) that describes how Apple with their Genius Bars give person to person tech support for free. With this computer being so light weight, it is convenient just to carry it over to an Apple store when there is a problem. That is much better than Dell's approach which relies on wasting time having an automated system diagnose your problem before a technician will talk to you.

    Also, I don't think the cube was such a failure in light of the Mac Mini. I am sure whatever Apple learned from designing the Cube was apply to designing the Mini. The first thing I thought when the Mini was introduced was that it is the Cube was reborn. Also, one button mouse is debateable. Apple still ships computers with them. Moreover, I have never really needed a second button.

  • by dr.badass ( 25287 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @02:00PM (#11494251) Homepage
    I don't understand why there have been so many comments about the one-button mouse.

    The Mac mini doesn't even come with one of them.

    What, really, is the gripe? There is nothing stopping you from using a multi-button mouse. There isn't even the disincentive of having the machine come with a mouse that you'd won't use. Is it really that offensive that Apple doesn't want to sell you something that you can get elsewhere, or that you might already own?
  • It'll happen (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gone.fishing ( 213219 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @02:10PM (#11494365) Journal
    Smaller desktops will happen and here's why:

    1. It costs less in raw matterials to busild something smaller.
    2. It costs less to ship smaller, lighter devices.
    3. The devices can be built to accomidate a larger market by adding features that offer extra value without costing a lot to build in.

    3A. By offering a feature laden product that can't be internally accessorized easily, they build a market that will want to replace their computers more frequently. Building future market for the manufacturer (planned obsolecence). Note: this will also create a market for USB style accessories.

    4. Less space for retailer's stock.

    Look for computers to evolve into machines that don't have sockets to add RAM (it will be soldered on the motherboard) and are fabricated more like the new PS/2 from Sony. All the ports will be USB and or Firewire. Much of the design will be borrowed from Notebooks and use "mobile technology" including power-bricks, 2.5" HDD's, and thin style accessories. Things like internal speakers and fans will go away. The CPU heat sink will be a large aluminum panel which will double as a part of the case.

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