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  • The Apple Hardware Report: Aren’t You Ready for a New Mac Yet?

    June 26th, 2007

    It has to be frustrating. Every single day, there are hundreds of newarticles written about the iPhone, about what it is, what it isn’t, and lots of stuff way in between. About the only news that actually concerns Apple’s former “main” product line, personal computers, is the recent report that sales of MacBooks and MacBook Pros have topped 14% in the U.S. retail market. That would be unheard of just a year or two ago.

    Sure, Apple’s note-books just got minor speed bump enhancements, so they are current with Intel’s state of the art; well at least the MacBook Pros, which sport the new Santa Rosa chipsets and all. So it’s not as if Apple hasn’t been lying low.

    Then again, there hasn’t been any action on the iMac front in months, and I have several friends and clients that are looking to buy one once they’re assured that the model they choose won’t become obsolete the very next day. But other than enhancing the processors, graphic chips and maybe adding more drive storage and RAM, what is Apple to do? Make the white case brushed aluminum? Does that really make all that much of a difference, except to those of who feel that externals need to be upgraded every so often to stay relevant?

    There’s also the Mac mini that some suggest is due for the closeout bin any day now, because not an awful lot are being sold. This would be unfortunate, because I think the mini is an excellent computer for the small business environment. In fact, I gather they’re even being used as cheap Web servers, which argues strongly in favor of their reliability. On the other hand, I suppose this model has been Apple’s reluctant stepchild. I suspect they were pushed kicking and screaming into entering the cheap PC arena, and it tends to be ignored more than it should.

    But everyone I know who has purchased a Mac mini absolutely loves it. From the tiny form factor to generally good performance — if you’re not into playing computer games  of running 3D rendering operations of course — it can definitely get the job done. It’s also a wonderful way to leverage the display and input devices you may have salvaged from the last PC.

    I can’t say much more than you know about the Mac Pro. I haven’t added one to my roster yet, but the folks I know who use them say they are superb professional workstations, capable of absolutely blistering performance even if you don’t possess the cash to upgrade to eight cores.

    But there is still something missing in Apple’s lineup, and it’s a model I’ve argued for previously, and others have as well.

    It’s an expandable desktop computer with, say, the guts of the iMac, but without the built-in display. Now I realize Apple made its reputation on all-in-one computers, and certainly a note-book fits into that category. But if you want a full-blown desktop with easy expandability beyond a memory chip or two, you’re forced to go with a Mac Pro, and is probably too much of a computer for most of you.

    So what does Apple offer to fill this market? No, the Mac mini won’t cut it. It’s not that a computer with the innards of the MacBook is necessarily a bad thing. But it’s not built for simple expansion. Even adding RAM requires flexibility with a putty knife, and that strikes me as an awfully silly design choice.

    But what about a middle-of-the-road expandable box with, say, two internal slots (one for the graphic card of course), a second hard drive and maybe half the RAM slots of the Mac Pro? Equip it with the same processors as the iMac, from the Intel Core 2 Duo family, and sell it for, say, $999.

    I can, of course, see the arguments against such a box. It will cannibalize sales of the iMac, and thus work against Apple’s profit margin. But a sale is a sale, and I can see legitimate reasons why the iMac won’t be suitable for a particular purpose, and the Mac Pro would be gross overkill, just as the Mac mini would be severely underpowered.

    Of course, having a logical solution doesn’t mean Apple is going to listen. One of the pleasing aspects of their product lineup is that it remains simple across the board. They don’t enter every niche, and it’s pretty easy to figure out which is which. You don’t have to cope with a thousand and one meaningless model names and configurations to figure out the differences. I can even see the sensitivity against the proliferation of products after the Performa debacle of the 1990s.

    But I also see where Apple is not offering sufficient choices for their customers, and don’t get me started about a thin and light note-book.



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    17 Responses to “The Apple Hardware Report: Aren’t You Ready for a New Mac Yet?”

    1. John Fallon says:

      I only got started with OS X when Apple briefly offered a single processor G5 PowerMac. I’m one of a lot of people who think of a computer and a monitor as two separate purchases. I’d never buy an all-in-one like an iMac, and I’ve seen too many broken laptops to trust one as my only computer. The Mac Pro is simply too big and uses too much power.

      I want an Intel-based Mac, and Apple has nothing I want.

    2. George Berger says:

      I have to slightly disagree with John. Some of us “old folk” live in space-restricted surroundings, and the iMac’s built-in display and its all-in-one form/function makes eminent sense for us.

    3. David Thompson says:

      Ya know, I’d buy one of these today. Surely Mr Ive could come up with such a design. Maybe the reason the Mini isn’t selling well is that it is too underpowered in several respects. Take a look at Shuttle.com’s X-series; only a little larger than the Mini, yet it would seem to fit the bill.

    4. Norman Brooks says:

      I agree that I want a desktop processor with a separate screen and that the Mac Pro is much too large and has much more power than I need, but I’m still using my G5 tower (which is much too large and has at least some more power than I need), because I’m not going to buy a 32-bit mini.

      When Apple puts a Core2 processor in the mini, I’ll give up my G5 tower in a heartbeat.

      If they cease producing the mini, I suppose I’ll have to buy a used one and put a T7200 in it myself.

    5. Ya know, I’d buy one of these today. Surely Mr Ive could come up with such a design. Maybe the reason the Mini isn’t selling well is that it is too underpowered in several respects. Take a look at Shuttle.com’s X-series; only a little larger than the Mini, yet it would seem to fit the bill.

      Except for the update to the MacBook, the mini was on pretty similar ground. I wouldn’t call it necessarily underpowered for most home and small business users. In fact, I think it can do rather decently overall.

      But Apple doesn’t really promote it that much, and that may be a big factor in its apparently underwhelming sales performance.

      Peace,
      Gene

    6. Richard Taylor says:

      Gene,

      First of all, don’t you know this is “i” week? It is Apple blasphemy for you to write substantively about anything other than the iPhone. Please say three “hail Steves” and go forth and sin no more.

      But being a sinner myself, let me throw my two cents in.

      Apple should keep the current iMac form factor, or make a minor adjustment to the chin, and change the color. A rich burgundy or forrest green would add class and panache to the iMac and retain what is a perfect design.

      The Mac Mini as a form factor should be expanded up through the product line with higher models getting expansion bays and bigger, better CPUs.

      How about a new version of the old Duo (I had several of those babies). The New Duo would have a docking bay with a DVD burner and a hard drive, while the Duo itself would have flash ram as storage. It would of course be lighter than a feather, a true road/roam/write/surf machine.

      As for the iPhone, I am dazzled by its technology, but really I will probably never own one. No need.

    7. RobInNZ says:

      I only got started with OS X when Apple briefly offered a single processor G5 PowerMac. I’m one of a lot of people who think of a computer and a monitor as two separate purchases. I’d never buy an all-in-one like an iMac, and I’ve seen too many broken laptops to trust one as my only computer. The Mac Pro is simply too big and uses too much power.

      I want an Intel-based Mac, and Apple has nothing I want.

      Exactly the same for me. I didnt buy one before that because there was no model that suited me.

      And the only reason I got the PowerMac G5 1.8 SP was due to managing to get it cheap when it was being phased out, very similar price to what was then the top end lampshade G4 iMac. Now I still have a relatively competent machine, not a boat-anchor, and the next step is to upgrade the 19″ CRT to a 24″ w/s LCD.

      I resent being forced to either pay for underpowered machinery (mini), or a display which I cant reuse (iMac), or the Pro where I cant afford or justify the stratospheric pricing, or comparatively expensive laptops with low resolution LCD’s and useless graphics cards in any of the more affordable laptops.

      Where is our Mac Midi, the Apple computer that will appeal to the propeller-head and those of us who stagger their upgrades and dont believe that they should be having to upgrade their computer to upgrade their display, or upgrade their display to upgrade their computer!!!

    8. Norman Brooks says:

      Where is our Mac Midi, the Apple computer that will appeal to the propeller-head and those of us who stagger their upgrades and dont believe that they should be having to upgrade their computer to upgrade their display, or upgrade their display to upgrade their computer!!!

      That’s it exactly! When it’s offered, I’ll hasten to buy one.

    9. I’m just waiting for Leopard’s release, then I’ll spring for a new iMac.

    10. Dan says:

      I’ve been wanting a Mac Midi ever since the Pro was announced. Apple has models for the Budget, Home and Industry markets, but nothing for the Pro-sumer.

      I want an enclosure that will take at least 2 HDs, if only so that I can have safe backups. I want to be able to put lots of RAM in there. I want to be able to fit extra firewire and USB ports. I want to be able to move to beefier graphics if necessary.

      But Apple just don’t do it.

    11. Dave Barnes says:

      I am waiting/hoping for a Midi.
      I would easily pay $1499 for one.
      I want to replace my PowerMac G5 1.8 SP and the Mac Pro is just too much power and way too much money.

    12. John Fallon says:

      For me, the cost of a Mac Pro is not just the extravagant price, but the power usage and the heat output. Our boiler works just fine; I don’t need an aluminum space heater. Our Gateway Core2Duo mid-tower desktop runs much quieter and cooler than the Mac Pro/Power Mac (and for about $875). I’d be willing to go to $1500 to $2000 for the Apple version of it, which would leave Apple a decent profit margin.

    13. Roger says:

      I so agree with you about Apple offering a middle of the road computer.

      “But what about a middle-of-the-road expandable box with, say, two internal
      slots (one for the graphic card of course), a second hard drive and maybe
      half the RAM slots of the Mac Pro? Equip it with the same processors as the
      iMac, from the Intel Core 2 Duo family, and sell it for, say, $999.”

      It’s a wonderful idea. Apple shouldn’t be worried about hurting iMac sales.
      Look at how many models each auto manufacturer makes. Some make multiple
      models of vans, SUVs, sedans and trucks and are still in business.

    14. Norman Brooks says:

      I so agree with you about Apple offering a middle of the road computer.

      “But what about a middle-of-the-road expandable box with, say, two internal
      slots (one for the graphic card of course), a second hard drive and maybe
      half the RAM slots of the Mac Pro? Equip it with the same processors as the
      iMac, from the Intel Core 2 Duo family, and sell it for, say, $999.”

      It’s a wonderful idea. Apple shouldn’t be worried about hurting iMac sales.
      Look at how many models each auto manufacturer makes. Some make multiple
      models of vans, SUVs, sedans and trucks and are still in business.

      If Apple is really serious about attracting PC crossovers, it’ll have to exhibit some flexibility in its offerings in this area. Many PC users are very happy with their current keyboards and monitors and will be reluctant to part with them. So am I, even though my current computer is a Mac tower. I’m not happy with its size and want something smaller, and like the PC users I will not give up my current monitor. I’m very happy with my monitor, which is a 37″ 1080p HDTV that has 2 DVI inputs. Apple doesn’t offer anything that’s competitive with it, as far as I’m concerned, because I have no need for a resolution above 1920 by 1080. I do like the big 37″ screen.

      I could be very happy with the guts of an iMac stuck into a Mac mini, but it would be nice to have a box that offers easier access to its internals.

    15. John B says:

      I recently started a thread over at MacNN about this very same “missing Mac.” I’d like to see it called the miniPro(TM), but I’d be happy with it whatever they decide to call it. It seems that many people want this machine, which is basically an updated Cube priced about like an iMac. How is it possible that Apple is unaware of the clamor to fill this gaping hole in their desktop line up? I don’t think it is.

    16. Dana Sutton says:

      The iMac is a beautiful piece of industrial design, but it has two major problems: 1.) if you already have a great monitor you like, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to walk away from it and 2.) the iMac is reasonably cheap if you can live with 1 gb. RAM. It becomes a bit expensive if you need 2 gb. (and for optimum performance you really do), and it becomes a lot expensive if you opt for 3 gb.) The Pro is, well, for pros, or at least for people who want such things as RAID arrays, multiple monitors, multiple optical drives, and humongous amounts of memory. Which when you come down to it probably not a huge number of users. In addition it’s bulky, heavy, and you can either love or hate its lab-equipment type aluminum case. But admittedly its tower design does have some great benefits that can appeal to many SOHO users (such as those ports on the front of the case — if, for example, you regularly download images from a camera, this is a godsend). So yes, I think there is a place in the lineup for a mini-tower using the same processor options as the Pro, and that has a more limited amount of flexibility (maybe 1 optic and 2 hd. bays, two pairs of RAM slots rather than 4, a couple of card slots including one oversized ones) and of course the ability, in due time, to have its processors replaced with upgrades, and make it smaller, lighter, and maybe not so industrial-looking. Such a model would presumably be cheaper to make, and (economics to the side) many SOHO users would probably feel it more appropriate to their needs. For them, the iMac doesn’t quite cut it, but the Pro is overkill.

    17. I recently started a thread over at MacNN about this very same “missing Mac.” I’d like to see it called the miniPro(TM), but I’d be happy with it whatever they decide to call it. It seems that many people want this machine, which is basically an updated Cube priced about like an iMac. How is it possible that Apple is unaware of the clamor to fill this gaping hole in their desktop line up? I don’t think it is.

      Another name for this box is MMMM, according to my friend Dan Frakes.

      Peace,
      Gene

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