The iPhone Feeding Frenzy Report: Safe to Talk About Macs Again?

July 2nd, 2007

After all the heightened anticipation, and this past weekend’s excitement, it’s clear that, despite a few blips along the way from AT&T in handling online provisioning, the vast majority of new iPhone owners absolutely love their new gadget. When was the last time you saw that level of excitement focused on a mobile phone — smart or otherwise?

It’s clear that this feeding frenzy isn’t going to end any time soon. With estimates of initial sales ranging from 200,000 to over 700,000, I suppose you might wonder if the initial demand for the iPhone is akin to that of a summer movie. The first week, box office is spectacular, but there’s a rapid fall-off in the weeks to come.

However, the iPhone resides in a totally different universe. Not only is it expensive to acquire one, but you must sign a two-year contract with AT&T’s wireless service, or add the iPhone to an existing plan. So it’s definitely not a casual purchase, and unless something changes in the public’s attitude, it’s on the road to remaining a smashing success.

But I’m here to talk, however briefly, about a different Apple product line, one that has been forgotten in recent months. Yes, Macs, of course.

After suggesting that Apple needed to add a mid-priced expandable Mac, I see that others have entered the game with similar ideas. Take a recent column from Macworld’s Dan Frakes, where he refers to this suggested product as the “Mythical Midrange Mac Minitower—MMMM for short.” Nice appellation, so I, too, will also call my pet product the MMMM.

Dan suggests a price between $1,499 and $1,599, but I think that brings it far too close to the cheapest Mac Pro. The product I envision contains the guts of an iMac without the display, so I would expect the selling price to come in around $999 for the entry-level version. Otherwise, I agree with Dan that there should be two expansion slots, one for the standard graphics card, the other for a second graphics card or another type of expansion, such as an additional network port. There would also be a second hard drive slot.

As with the Mac Pro, you should be able to add memory, select a different graphics card, and the size of the first and optional second hard drive. That should cover what most of you will need.

I suppose Apple might fear that the MMMM’s marketing positioning and features will somehow cannibalize sales of the Mac Pro, and they might be right, in part. It might also steal sales from the iMac, from folks who already have a display, or choose to buy a different screen from a third-party manufacturer.

However, I consider a sale is a sale, and there is a wide gulf between the Mac mini and Mac Pro that could serve a large number of customers, particularly those switching from the Windows platform. What’s more, Apple could serve the display market better by cutting prices on the existing line and adding a smaller version, perhaps a 17 inches widescreen, for those on a tight budget, or perhaps for people who don’t really need expansive screen real estate.

Now I understand why Apple prefers a simplified model line. No doubt they learned from the Performa debacle that having far too many similar models only confuses customers, who might just give up in disgust and buy nothing at all. Or choose a PC box. No, not that, because Dell and HP and the rest of the pack suffer from the very same severe bout of that insidious model proliferation disease.

I’m also sure Apple picks and chooses its product lines with special care. They don’t want to have unsold boxes sitting in warehouses, just to tout a wider product selection and a higher number of units shipped. If they can’t make a good case for designing and marketing a product, it doesn’t get produced, period.

However, I do see where the MMMM has great market potential. I know a few people who’d buy one from the get-go, rather than, say, a used G5 in order to save some money. Remember, Apple gains nothing from the sale of used Macs, other than the occasional refurbished model that occasionally shows up in their stores or online.

I can also see, based on the initial reaction from you readers, that most of you agree with me — and of course Dan Frakes — about this. Does that mean you’re ready to vote with your dollars if the MMMM actually appears?

That’s the biggest question of all, and Apple will have to believe that you will say yes if it does decide to offer such a model. Otherwise, the MMMM will remain first and foremost an unfulfilled fantasy.

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7 Responses to “The iPhone Feeding Frenzy Report: Safe to Talk About Macs Again?”

  1. Norman Brooks says:

    I say "mmmm, mmmm" to the MMMM!  I'd buy one right now!

  2. Michael says:

    There's another emerging story, too: "Steven P. Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, is an emerging force in the mobile phone business, thanks to the snaking lines of gadget fans who queued up last week to buy the iPhone. But now he faces a headache in an industry Apple already dominates — digital music."Maybe I'm missing something, but I can't see a huge problem for Apple, or for users, here. If Universal picks up its ball and goes home, people will simply play with someone else's. Those people in the snaking lines the NYT itself points to aren't going to throw their new devices in the bin, because they can't get downloads licensed from Universal on them. Either that, or people will obtain Universal tracks in other (legal or illegal) ways and rip/import them into iTunes. What I don't envisage is many (any?) people stopping using iPods and syncing them via iTunes.

  3. Steve says:

    MMMM… Sounds good, but all I want is an updated Mac mini so I can have a TV/Web/basic apps computer in my living room that's also tiny and quiet as a mouse.
    I've been using an aging PowerPC version for a year now and it works beautifully (much better than an AppleTV since we can also go online with it if we need to… or write a letter… or play a game…).
    I so hope that the rumours of the Mac mini's demise aren't true… unless it's to make room for the Mac nano 😉

  4. David Thompson says:

    I don't think that the MMMM would need to be a tower, per se.  Given the desired upgradability, what is the smallest, most elegant box that could be designed?  It certainly needn't look like the typical Dell!

  5. David W says:

    Sign me up for an MMMM. I'm still using the "archaic" combination of G5 and separate PC. My KVM switch started doing weird things so I'm back to separate keyboards and mice making it a real PITA when I need to run a Windows app (thankfully rarely).

    I know what Apple fears, that those of us who have grown accustomed to buying used desktop/tower Macs will continue to do so even if they come out with an MMMM. I can only speak for myself, but I usually buy high end used Macs so I'm in the MMMM price range already. In order to get the ability to upgrade components I make do with a computer that's at least 2 years old. The MMMM would make that sacrifice unnecessary.

  6. demiphonic says:

    Yeah I saw that article by Dan. I mentioned I'd love to see the "MMMM" though I think the name Mac Mid-Tower or Mac Mini-Tower (MMT) would sound better 🙂

    People say the MMMM would not only take sales away from the Mac Pro.. but more so from the iMac line. As for the iMac line.. why have so many? I say just keep one offering for that. If it is an all in one, then it is geared for the lower budget consumer anyway.
    Therefore just make one 17 OR 20 inch model with pretty decent specs alone.

    So the new line up would be:

    Mac Mini (provided they don’t discontinue this)

    iMac (17 OR 20 inch) (just one version)

    MMMM / MMT

    Mac Pro

    I see no problem in getting rid of the higher end iMacs especially the 24 inch version. Why pay so much money for a system you cannot upgrade? Honestly I don't get it.

    Everyone from the nerd who is fed up of viruses to the amateur graphic artist will appreciate the MMMM. Not everyone needs the power (or size) of the Mac Pro.

    I'd buy the MMMM tomorrow… man, I really need one.  🙁

  7. Aaron says:

    I fully agree with the idea of a mid range tower, Myself I would prefer the bigger quad tower since I do Video/Audio work. And Apple should also expand the Video card line up for current and future Tower models

    And Thanks for getting back to what we like most about Apple….. Computers.

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