An untimely obituary for the Mac mini?

by Giles Turnbull

Dan Knight at Low End Mac has written an obituary for the Mac mini, basing his assumption of its death on the lack of updates since September 2006.



Dan’s theory boils down to this:




If Apple still considered the Mac mini a viable model, at the very least they would have upgraded it to 1.66 and 1.83 GHz Core2 CPUs or 1.83 and 2.0 GHz Core Duos by now. The fact that they have allowed the Mac mini to languish when an upgrade requires nothing more than plugging in a better CPU tells us that the Mac mini really has reached the end of its road.




The mini’s lack of easy expandability was the main thing that made people hesitate, Dan asserts.



I’m inclined to think that the reason was even simpler than that. Dan writes:




All the Mac mini really had going for it was offering a decent amount of power in a very compact package. It wasn’t enough.




Right, because there was another Apple computer offering the more power, in an even more compact package: the MacBook. Yes, it costs a bit more, but as many reviewers have said, it represents superb value for money. As demonstrated by rocketing sales. I suspect that the MacBook has ended up taking a lot of sales from the Mac mini.



I rather hope that Dan’s wrong, and that the Mac mini has years of life left. I think it’s a great little machine, well-suited to use as a basic family PC, or a geek’s tinkering playground, or even a dedicated server. For the time being, I hope that reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.


15 Comments

Randy Stewart
2007-07-26 08:46:21
Based on the lack of update, looks like we'll be putting the iMac out to pasture too. This unloved machine hasn't elicited an update since September of 2006 either.


Ok, that doesn't seem likely, now does it? While the Mini isn't as popular as the iMac, Apple's lack of updates reflects its new name, Apple, Inc. They're doing consumer electronics now and the product cycles are going to be more spread out.


That said, it's kind of unreal that this device is so out of date.., is does make me wonder about a Apple's commitment to keeping it around.


Cheers,
Randy

Taylor
2007-07-26 08:53:54
I don't see the Mac mini coming to an end. It's a low profit product for Apple so adding the more expensive chip would really have an impact on that profit.


There is definitely still a market for the Mac minis. I have a lot of family and friends who have purchased one.


My guess is that we'll see an update to the line as the school shopping ramps up.


PS, there's a Mac mini hosting company here in the states as well. I have a mini with them and it works great. macminicolo.net

Alexander v. Below
2007-07-26 09:00:01
As a developer I really hope the Mac mini is here to stay. It is an extremely interesting machine for a variety of applications, not the least Mac based Kiosk Systems (Place Of Information or Place Of Sale).
We have implemented quite a number of solutions based on the mini, either headless or with a custom screen.


A MacBook would not be an alternative, neither would be a MacPro.


Alex

Donald Hays
2007-07-26 09:07:04
I hope that the Mac mini doesn't go away any time soon. It was the first Mac I ever bought, I chose to buy it to see what Macs were like and because it was fairly cheap. Since then I've bought an iPod nano, an iMac, a MacBook, and an iPhone. I know someone else who had a very similar experience, buying a mini and having bought several other machines since then. I know another person who is tempted to buy his first Mac and the machine that he's looking at is the mini. It's a great 'gateway drug.' If Apple does decide to can it, I hope they at least fill its shoes with another low-priced machine to entice potential new buyers.
Simon Hibbs
2007-07-26 09:10:19
The only way to know the likely fate of the Mini is to know the sales numbers. Since we have no idea, we can only guess.


I think it's useful to Apple to have a budget headless system. I'm sure it was the test bed for the Apple TV concept, and Apple will likely have plans at some stage to offer a media center device with more capabilities than the Apple TV. The Mini with an upgraded Front Row could be it.


Killing the Mini would hurt hobbyists, hurt developers and reduce the flexibility of the Apple lineup. People who by Minis now will have no choice but to by shuttle PCs running Windows or Linux, and I think Apple would prefer to keep those sales in-house or even draw in more hobbyist sales rather than force loyal customer elsewhere. Apple wants to provide a complete offering, and dropping the Mini would leave a hole in their lineup that was painfully obvious before the Mini came out. I think such a hole would be even more painfully obvious now, not less.


Simon Hibbs


Todd Ogasawara
2007-07-26 09:13:15
I really hope Apple keeps the Mac mini line around. It was my reintroduction to the Mac after years of a "perception" that Macs were too expensive. It was playing with the 1st generation Mac mini that corrected that perception and prompted me to buy an iBook a few months later and a MacBook when it became available. I'm still hesitant to spend the money for an iMac (w/2GB RAM) with a integrated LCD when I have a perfectly good LCD attached to my current mini that could be used with a new mini. And, the Mac Pro is just way out of my budget range. I was just considering buying a current generation mini to replace the 1st generation workhorse (which still runs fine although a bit sluggish compared to my MacBook).
James O'Hagan
2007-07-26 09:15:37
I love the MacMini. I know in talking with Apple Technicians there are some who love it and some who wish it would die. I am using three of them with upgraded 250GB SATA drives and 2GB of RAM as FileWave Booster servers and they are compact and awesome. AND QUIET!


If they had put an HDMI output on the thing it would have been the Apple TV before Apple TV.


I am running two student labs of MacMinis. The footprint is small, which is great for compact lab space. At one time I had a lab that recycled old PowerPC monitors, and Bondi Blue iMac keyboards and mice. The cost for that lab was just the MacMini. With the death of the eMac, it really put a crimp in my education budget. The MacMini was the answer. Now, Apple is working to get people over to the base model 17" iMac (which runs $899 for schools, but is very underpowered in the base configuration). Throw in the extra RAM and AppleCare and that $899 iMac is now more like $1100.


sigh. Please be wrong, but I think the MacMini is on life support.

Jay Elmore
2007-07-26 09:18:33
As demonstrated by rocketing sales. I suspect that the MacBook has ended up taking a lot of sales from the Mac mini.


This is purely anecdotal, but I have two reasons why I haven't bought my wife a Mac Mini to replace her G4 iMac:


1) No Core 2 Duo
2) No 802.11n


If Apple would add that minimal level of improvment to the Mac Mini, I know they'll make at least one more sale.

Steve Chambers
2007-07-26 09:25:46
Anyone want to put two and two together and risk coming up with five? Something in Apple's quarterly statement seemed interesting:

[...] why Apple is guiding lower-than-expected earnings for next quarter (65 cents a share versus a consensus of 82 cents), Oppenheimer said that there are three expected factors: rising prices for components like NAND flash memory used in the iPhone and iPod, the high cost of back-to-school promotions, and a "product transition"

Emphasis is mine, quote from MacNN.com.


One wonders if the lowered than expected earnings for the upcoming quarter and the "product transition" might suggest a low cost "entry level" Mac similar to the seemingly abandoned Mac Mini. Perhaps some speculation to keep in mind during the current quarter?

JulesLt
2007-07-26 11:55:05
I'm going with the last one - there are the rumours of the new iMac echoing iPhone stylings, there's also the fact that the MacBook hasn't really changed appearance from the iBook, and also the fact everyone else has got on the Apple White bandwagon, it feels like it may be time for a 'new look' that will re-brand the whole range.


Dare I say that not updating the existing machines will allow them to then market the new ones as X-times faster, rather than just a new case.


I figure there's still a market for a cheap headless Mac (look at the number of people crying out for an iMac/MacBookPro spec machine) that we may be saying 'The Mac Mini is dead, long live the Mac Mini' sometime soon. I could quite easily imagine an AppleTV sized device, glossy black top?

Mike
2007-07-26 12:43:19
We use a lot of minis. Mostly as headless automatons at a colo facility. The can be servers or workstations. The low price makes it practical to use them as throwaway computers, if we get a year form one it has made a profit for us. The small form-factor allows a lot of them to be placed in a small space. They don't have as much power as the other family members but we are not after power at the individual level. We use the collection of power together with XGrid and some proprietary applications to serve our purpose.
Bill
2007-07-26 14:21:15
I agree with the one of the predictions that the Apple TV will morph into some kind of mini.
Simdude
2007-07-27 05:27:59
I really think Apple NEEDS the mac mini. I have bought 2, one for me and one for my sister. Several die-hard pc fans at work bought mini's. They wanted to check out OS X and didn't want to get one with a screen or pay the higher cost of a Pro.


This is a machine that fills several important rolls. Getting users to start out with OS X and special applications. I use it as my iTunes server, DVR, Home automation control. It looks great in my A/V cabinet too. There is not other mac that will do this. Can't stick a Macbook there. A Mac Pro? Don't think so.


I would prefer the original starting price of $499 as somehow the under $500 price gets more people in the door. Even if they load it up and walk out with a $700 final price. At the very least, the entry level model needs 1 GB memory so users don't have a bad experience with their first mac.


Has Apple ever had a TV commercial for the Mac Mini? It's such a nice little machine they should have a commercial showing it next to your standard ugly entry level PC.


Dan Knight
2007-07-27 08:28:23
I agree with you. I hope I'm wrong. The Mac mini (especially the G4 incarnation) was a great little computer, and most people don't need expansion slots or additional drive bays - but they think they do. That perception and the pedestrian integrated graphics with "vampire video" on the Intel Mac mini really undermined a great little computer for browsing the Web, doing email, instant messaging, word processing, etc. No, it's not a great 3D gaming machine or a powerhouse video machine, but it's good enough. But the market suffers from featuritis, and with almost no expansion options, it's easy to rule out the Mac mini without seriously considering how much it already comes with.
Red
2007-07-28 14:45:57
Wow, I really hope they keep the mini around. We have a core solo running as a fully enabled workgroup server. I've been putting togeter paint-by-number details on setting up your own macmini server: http://www.redstoyland.com/Projects/coding/serversetup/serversetupindex.html


It has been the perfect server for a small company on a budget -- a MacBook would not have been the same and would have cost even more. The Mini is wonderful for shoving in a closet and letting run 24/7/365. We have had no problems with it, and it's been plenty fast.