Mac mini: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Apple Store

by Chris Howard Mar 14, 2006

The dust is settling, the zomboids who never intended to buy a Mac mini in the first place, and yet had the audacity to say the graphics on the new Intel based mini are crap, have had their say and returned to their dual-core G5s or Yonahs. The others, who for some reason thought, since Apple never put a decent gaming chip in the PPC Mac mini that it would all of a sudden put something special in the Intel mini, have wandered off muttering: they’re never going to buy a Mac mini. And they never were.

And now the nonsense has gone, sensibility is entering the arena.

Reports are showing these new minis are quick, much quicker than their PowerPC parents - even the base model with it’s Core Solo CPU and only 432MB RAM available to the system. There have been some odd quirks in the hardware reporting and over at TUAW, testing of the Solo has identified some issues with FrontRow when accessing content on other Macs via Bonjour. But at the end of the day, these new minis are - surprise, surprise - significantly better than their predecessors. And, yes, even the graphics - which can now run elements of Tiger’s Core Image that the PPC minis couldn’t, such as the ripple effect on the Dashboard.

Here’s a few links to Intel Mac mini reviews:

A funny thing happened on the way to…

I’ve been waiting six months for the Intel-based Mac mini to replace my kids’ aging Ruby G3 iMac. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Apple Store.

Now I want two.

One for the kids to use as a computer, and one for the TV entertainment unit-just to use for media content. With VNC, I could drive it from any computer in the house, so I don’t even need another mouse and keyboard.

Hands up all those with DVDs? Hands up all those with VHS tapes? Hands up all those who have to be more careful with DVDs than tapes? They’re not as robust are they? One half decent scratch can ruin an entire DVD. Now I’m not suggesting you do anything that is illegal in your part of the woods, but if you could copy your DVDs to hard disk and then put the originals away for safe keeping… you would wouldn’t you.

And if you could download movies from say…oh…um.. the iTunes Music Store you would wouldn’t you? (BTW, I don’t give a brass razoo what it’s called - I buy plenty of videos from music stores, and have for years.)

And what might you manage and play all this content with? The new Mac mini looks good to me!

But what say, I just buy one of these Mac minis? A small dilemma - I’ve got four kids. That’s up to four hours per day that the computer’s not available. (We run the excellent MacMinder, which limits them each to 1hr per day.) Assuming TV viewing window is 4pm to 11pm, that’s more than 50% wiped out if I want to run movies off the mini.

Hence, I wish for two.

It’s not going to happen in a hurry given my financial status, although at least I already have a big HDD to load up with movies. With some careful use of compression tools, I should be able to make the most of the drive I already have, but with all the miniDV tapes I have of the kids doing stuff that could only interest their parents, I will have to get a second big external HDD sometime in the future.

Fill ‘er up

It’s ironic isn’t it? I’ve worked in computers for 20 years and we never stop saying of HDDs, “You’ll never fill that!” My Dad got laughed at by his friends when his first computer had a 10MB (ten megabyte for you young ‘uns who mighta miss read that). Everyone else was buying 5MB. “You’ll never fill that!” they all laughed.

I personally thought we’d finally plateaued when we got to about 40GB to 60GB. I mean that’s a lot of Word documents, photos and even MP3s. And we had for a while. But the flood gates are about to burst open like never before.

I’ve got a 250GB external HDD but I could fill it with 1/3 of my DVD collection, 1/4 of my miniDV tapes. Until now I’d never really needed to because I wasn’t connected to the living room TV.

But give me a Mac mini and I’m gonna fill that sucker up in no time. I’m going to need at least a terabyte. Probably two. Not only is Apple going to really kick off the media center revolution, (as it did with the MP3 player market), it is going to kick off an absolute boom in HDD size expansion.

Apple made a huge huge mistake with the original Mac. It was first to market with a GUI. Steve seems to have learned his lesson and now waits for the market to get rolling and then get messy as it starts to collapse under the weight of brainless design. Then he steps up to the plate and belts the ball out of the park. But that home run is dependent on a second factor. Online content distribution.

What was the story of the iPod’s success? When did it really take off? When the iTunes Music Store came along.

The same is going to happen with the mini, it’ll coast along for a few months and then boom - Steve will announce iTMS trades in feature films.

All halo the Mac mini

The Mac mini will soon be sold not as a computer but a media center. And then it will create it’s own halo effect. At first people won’t switch. Just like they didn’t at first when they bought iPods. But then as they load all their media on the mini, they’ll get familiar with it. And familiarity breeds content (just ask Microsoft! It also breeds contempt - just ask Microsoft - but that’s another story).

Once the barriers are broken down and people no longer see the Mac as something alien - and their photos and music and movies are on it - how long before they start replacing their PCs with computers that are compatible with their media center computer, their Mac mini?

And you thought it was just a Mac mini with Intel inside, that the launch was a disappointment because nothing radical was released?

Apple just gets smarter every day.


  • Beeblebrox: “You want an ‘intelligent discussion’ but you can’t even comprehend the difference between a limited selection of pay-per-view downloads and a TV tuner with PVR;”

    I know the difference fully well - as you recall, I said I was speculating, not commenting on the current reality. You continue to compare the idea to iTunes’ current implementation as if it has any bearing. I know it doesn’t stream content, and I know it doesn’t try to replace TV. That’s not the point.

    The point is, you suggested they incorporate a tuner and PVR, and I suggested that they may end up going another route. I doubt they care either way, since they’re in it for the hardware sales. But if IPTV does to the tube what VoIP is doing to the phone, perhaps Apple would be smart to get there first rather than follow the normal route.

    Oskar had this to say on Mar 15, 2006 Posts: 86
  • The point is, you suggested they incorporate a tuner and PVR, and I suggested that they may end up going another route.

    You didn’t just suggest they’d go a different route.  You suggested that they would make iTMS a show for show replacement of cable TV.  And that’s about as unrealistic as if you’d suggested that they would produce a shot-for-shot remake of every show on TV and just stream that instead of providing a PVR.  In other words, it’s not going to happen so why suggest that it might?  We just end up going around and around on something that’s not going to happen.

    They MIGHT at some point, however, provide a PVR.  There are implications there for iTMS, of course, but I don’t feel they are insurmountable.

    IPTV is worth considering as a replacement to conventional media altogether.  But I think that’s a different discussion.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 15, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Beeblebrox: “And that’s about as unrealistic as if you’d suggested that they would produce a shot-for-shot remake of every show on TV and just stream that instead of providing a PVR.”

    You’re groping to make sense here but I’ll ignore it. I’ve seen enough several-hour Google Videos streamed to my computer without interruption to know that it is technologically feasible. The question is whether the content providers like it, and I think as TiVo becomes mainstream their advertisers will clamor for it.

    Oskar had this to say on Mar 15, 2006 Posts: 86
  • Again, I don’t think you really comprehend the magnitude of what we’re talking about in practical terms.  And it’s just that, a comprehension problem. 

    You haven’t understood it from the beginning and no amount of my pointing out the sheer lunacy of your comparison (“I watched a movie on Google Video so why can’t Apple just put the entire country’s cable line-up on iTMS?) is going to fix this.  So by all means, ignore me.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 15, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Congratulations on yet another great discussion inspiring article Chris.  The Mac Mini media center is in my opinion a significant new product release from Apple, as significant a new release as the iPod or the iTunes Music Store.  Read where I think Apple is going with this here:


    Jim Caruthers had this to say on Mar 15, 2006 Posts: 13
  • That’s “great, discussion-inspiring”, not “great-discussion inspiring”, right?

    Just checking.

    Benji had this to say on Mar 15, 2006 Posts: 927
  • Benji had this to say on Mar 16, 2006 Posts: 927
  • Thanks Ben, that was very entertaining. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 17, 2006 Posts: 1209
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