Will the Mac mini Get nano-ed?

by Chris Howard Oct 03, 2007

Apple launched the Mac mini a few years back to much fanfare, but hasn’t really taken it anywhere since. Maybe the time is ripe for a major refresh, and even a new moniker.

You know I get canned from time to time here by readers for being cynical, and rightly so. So this week I thought I’d “think positive” and proffer an exciting future product, the Mac nano. Because one thing we all enjoy in the Apple-verse is a good bit of speculation.

I saw an online banner ad for the Mac mini, and its curves, its texture, and its name made me think of another great mini, the iPod mini.

The iPod mini was cut down in its prime (as demonstrated by the shock and outcry) and replaced by the iPod nano. The nano is now so firmly entrenched, the mini seems eons ago.

The Mac mini, after a brief ride on a good wave, settled back into a bit of the also-ran status among Macs. If it’s ever replaced, there won’t be any shock.

Much speculation this year has been about it being dropped altogether. This seems unlikely. Because of Apple’s success with the iPod, the Intel-based Macs, particularly the iMacs and MacBooks, the iPhone, and even some small wins on the software front, including iLife, iWork, and soon Leopard, Apple can afford to look differently at the Mac mini. In some ways, it can be a bit of a play thing for Apple.

The Mac mini was, in the first place, an experiment. To build such a small device, one reliant on traditionally expensive laptop technology, bent a few rules. It’s not hard to imagine Apple did it, among other things, for the challenge.

It’s not unreasonable, therefore, to consider that Apple could again see what’s possible in the mini market.

And as the iPod mini was replaced by the iPod nano, could the Mac mini get replaced by the Mac nano? And what form would it take?

Another rumor circulating is that Apple is working on this in one form or another.

So Apple, with its recent experience of small devices and getting OS X working on them, could be nicely set for producing a Mac nano.

For instance, Apple, using micro hard drives like in the iPod classic, and with the smaller SODIMM memory, could halve the height of the current Mac mini.

On a tangent, the Mac nano could be a fully fledged Mac but the size of a large handheld, and still with multi-touch screen. It would sit in a cradle when you’re at your desk and connect to a full size screen and keyboard, but away from your desk, it’d be a UMPC that even our James R. Stoup might find useful. wink

Something will happen on the Mac mini front sooner or later. Will it be bigger? Smaller? Portable? Media center? Or just gone altogether?


  • Apple could indeed make a Mac Nano… actually, the AppleTV almost looks like a “Nano’d” Mac Mini.

    I suspect Apple is looking long and hard at both the MacMini and the AppleTV… trying to decide where to take it/them. Though the hardware may converge, I kind of expect them to stay different lines though.

    What I really want is a Mac Remote Desktop… something cheaper than an AppleTV that can run (over the network) as a 2nd user to any Intel Mac.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Oct 03, 2007 Posts: 228
  • Mac Mini is almost perfect the way it is.  All it needs is a little more 3D graphics power and you’d be able to sit back and watch those Windows users switch! 

    If Apple did beef up the graphics processor on the Mini and attracted the attention of game developers you could kiss the PS3 and X-Box goodbye.

    There’s a market out there full of confused consumers trying to pick PS3 or Wii or X-Box and I reckon a Mini with an ATI GPU would slot right in!

    Dgar had this to say on Oct 03, 2007 Posts: 3
  • Good to see an encouraging piece about the future of the Mini given the ones about its imminent demise.  I’ve got a G4 and an Intel, both hooked to TV’s. A definite Media Center.  Improved graphics capabilities might add the possibility of Game Console if Apple were interested.

    Carolina had this to say on Oct 03, 2007 Posts: 5
  • As Apple’s only entry into the low-end market, I do hope they stick by it.  It’s WAY under-powered for the money but it’s still a fairly solid machine.

    I’d concure with the idea that it needs more graphics capability.  And keep in mind that the form factor can only get so small so that it can accomadate an optical drive, which despite some rumors to the contrary, is still a necessity.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 03, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • The Mac mini is a bit of a disappointment. I have considered buying it, but the price is a bit high and it is probably underpowered. It is in a niche market in the same way the iMac is in a niche.

    Apple is all about form in the design of their computer. How about some practical considerations?

    I love Apple’s designs, but there needs to be more variety. I really think Apple should put out a computer in the under $1,000 range. Make it open to a certain extent. Allow users to install their own memory, graphics, and accessories. Apple shouldn’t make things so hard.

    TechGuy2 had this to say on Oct 03, 2007 Posts: 12
  • I suppose they could do it, but how much really is to be gained? Sounds like a solution in need of a problem.

    countach had this to say on Oct 04, 2007 Posts: 11
  • “Sounds like a solution in need of a problem.”

    An expandable, customizable Mac priced at less than $1000 is a solution in need of a problem?  Are you serious?  Yeah, who’d want that except EVERYONE.  It’s what many of us have been begging for from Apple for years.  Tragically, Apple has decided to go the other way, locking up their hardware tighter than Tom Thumb’s butt.  But here’s to hoping.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 04, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • first of all, as someone who takes mac minis apart alot, your info is wrong. SoDimm modules are flat, not standing up, so you wont gain anything. The height of the mac mini from ground up is motherboard, fan optical drive with the hard drive being underneath the optical drive. Not alot of room to shrink, and I hardly think size of mac mini is too large. its just big enough to cool a core2duo, which alot of people have been running long before apple put it in a mini. I think this computer should have a keyboard and mouse added to it for same price or close, say 649 and 849.

    Nikos Mac Attack on ebay had this to say on Oct 04, 2007 Posts: 3
  • Dgar, if you load windows using BootCamp, you can play just about any game you want using the intel 950 graphics if you have 2gb of system memory. Why? How? because windows drivers are superior to our mac drivers, and pull up to 256m of video memory, as opposed to 64 under os X. Try it, I played Madden 08, far cry, and a few others with textures turned all the way up and it played smoothly. I should have gotten some frame rate specs. Hard to believe, but the mac mini IS a gaming machine too.

    Nikos Mac Attack on ebay had this to say on Oct 04, 2007 Posts: 3
  • I have a better question… why doesn’t Steve Jobs get off his ego long enough to make a NOT ALL IN ONE desktop compter that sells for around $1000 instead of $2500!  For those of us who still use desktop computers?  and, until he does, no more Macs.

    kdaniel had this to say on Oct 04, 2007 Posts: 3
  • Nikos, I’m ordering a mini the day they release one with OSX 10.5 on it.  My only reseveration was the graphics chip.  No self-respecting PC gamer would have an Intel graphics chip in their rig, (although most won’t be seen without a Core2 processor now wink), but I wasn’t getting the mini to play games.  It is destined be a media center with an Elgato EyeTV Hybrid and I’m looking forward to exploring Garageband and the rest of iLife.  Because this will be my first Mac since 1988 (Macintosh II - System 7) smile I’m pretty excited about it and if what you tell me is true, I can’t wait to run Bootcamp through its paces with a few games!  Cheers!  Thanks for the info!

    Wasn’t the mini blessed with an Ati GPU once upon a time?

    Dgar had this to say on Oct 04, 2007 Posts: 3
  • Yes, Radeon 9200 w/ 32 or 62 MB dedicated memory.

    Honestly the current Intel integrated graphics are better, will be very interesting to see how they run Leopard. They’d still benefit from a modern dedicated graphics system though.

    In other news, the graphics in the new iMacs have turned out to be a better upgrade than people thought.

    Benji had this to say on Oct 04, 2007 Posts: 927
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Apple won’t beef up the Mini’s specs because it would eat into the sales of iMacs. The Mini will always be the weaker cousin to the iMac.

    Apple makes a thick revenue stream from Macintosh sales because they very carefully avoid product overlap. The Mini will always have on-board video and be slightly less capable than the iMac so that users who want more power will have to step up to the next price tier.

    Clearly, we’d all like a Mini with a capable video card—but then Apple would lose hundreds of dollars for every consumer who chose a Mini over an iMac, and that would be bad for shareholder value, so it won’t happen.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Oct 04, 2007 Posts: 243
  • Good point.

    Benji had this to say on Oct 04, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Clearly, we’d all like a Mini with a capable video card—but then Apple would lose hundreds of dollars for every consumer who chose a Mini over an iMac, and that would be bad for shareholder value, so it won’t happen.

    First, Apple already loses hundreds of dollars when consumers choose a mini over an iMac, and yet they still sell the mini.  Making the mini a little more expandable would not make the iMac any less appealing, especially if the argument put forth by Apple apologists is true that most users don’t really care about expandability.

    Second, Apple seems to have no particular aversion to product overlap.  The iPod Touch is basically a carbon copy of the iPhone, with a trade-off of phone calls for twice as much storage.  You telling me that neither of those products is going to eat into sales of the other?  And if that’s the case, which product do you suppose they should drop, since “shareholder value” dictates that they must.

    Maybe instead of opening up the mini, they could offer a $1200 beige box (but prettier).  Give up the monitor and get expandability.  Or give up the expandability for a nice built-in 20” screen and iSight camera.  That would be the same sort of trade off as between the iPhone and the Touch.  Consumers would get a little more choice and that should make the shareholders happy.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 05, 2007 Posts: 2220
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