"It sure is great to get out of that bag!" - Mac (1984)

Apple Comes Full-Circle

Wednesday, January 12, 2005 by Zoomba | Discussion: Macintosh

Yesterday was the kick-off of the annual MacWorld Expo. As is tradition, Apple Guru Steve Jobs starts it off with a keynote speech talking about many things Mac-related, with the most anticipated part being the announcement of new products for the upcoming year. In 2001 we saw the iPod and iTunes explode onto the market, taking the MP3 market by storm. 2002 was the new iMac with the monitor on an arm. 2003 was the new line of Powerbooks... sleek, fast, sexy.

2004 was big though... maybe bigger than any other year for new product announcements. This year, Apple finally achieved with the Mac something it had been trying to do since 1982. Make the Macintosh affordable. They did this with the Mac mini, a tiny 2.9lbs machine that has everything you could want in a mini computer... and it's only $499. Yes that's right, Apple, the company known for selling hardware only the richest of the rich could consider owning, has released a full-featured computer for just a hair under $500.

Personally, I think this is the best business decision Apple has ever made, especially now considering how well they did with OS X. I'm a closet Mac fan. Though I am too young to remember the momentous launch of the Mac (I was 2 years old in 1984), by the time I was 5, I was crashing my dad's Mac that he brought back from work every night with great glee (I accidentally formatted his hard drive once too). I used Macs almost exclusively from 1987 until 1997 when our aging Mac LC3 (25MHz baby!) was just too sluggish and outdated (not to mention at this point in time, the Mac was at deaths door and no one was releasing software for it). Then we bought a 200MHz HP. This thing did stuff I could only dream of when using the Mac... plus it had a command line interface! I could salvage the computer even after the user interface went to hell! This shift in computing mindset was amazing, and for a time I discarded my mac roots altogether, becoming a PC snob. Linux, Windows, anything with a CLI that could run on x86 architecture was all I cared about. The Mac was a dieing brand in my mind. Sure, I supported them at school and at work for years (you wouldn't believe how rare it was, and in some cases still is, to be equally comfortable troubleshooting under both MacOS and Windows), but I didn't use them if I didn't have to. Then came MacOS X. It was UNIX, only it looked damn good. It just oozed the good design Apple is known for (the first generation iMac and the hockey puck mouse being the exception). But most importantly, IT HAD A CLI!!! I had direct access to the system for the first time on Apple hardware. Rejoice! I wanted one sooo badly now, but there was no way a poor college student could afford one.

This past year, after graduating and finding myself a job that pays a fair bit, I found I could finally afford one. So I bought a 15" Powerbook with a bit of extra RAM for about $2500. Pricey, but worth every penny IMO. I use it as a secondary machine (my Dell XPS is still my main since I do a LOT of gaming) and for whenever I travel anywhere for more than a few days. It's especially great now that I have my parents house setup with wireless connected to their cablemodem. Whenever I have to visit now, I have high-speed Internet from anywhere in their house... it's nice being able to play World of Warcraft (bless you Blizzard for making all of your games cross-platform) while sitting in bed.

Now, you can get one for pennies practically! No more will people be able to say "Well, I'd love to own one, but I just can't afford it." It's 6.5" (L) x 6.5" (W) x 2" (H) and weighs in at 2.9lbs. True it doesn't come with a monitor or anything like that, but with a $10 DVI -> VGA converter, you can use whatever monitor you currently have, or pick up a cheap CRT at WalMart.

Combine the Mac mini with iPod/iTunes and the music broadcast ability from the higher-end AirPort (wireless router) and what you have is a stylish and very powerful home media solution. Now you can either have an ugly beige tower hidden behind your TV and stereo system, or you can have a polished, shiny Mac sitting in front, glowing and looking all impressive. I think this is going to be the next big home computer appliance to have.

The original Macintosh was supposed to cost $500, but as design went on and they realized that to pull off what they wanted to (i.e a completely GUI driven system) the base cost of the hardware pushed it well beyond that price point (at the time, the Sony 3.5" disk drive that came in the Mac cost $30 each at bulk... now you can get one individually for $10 most places). Now, 20 years later, they've finally done it. They've made a computer that is powerful, user friendly, and within the price range of anyone looking to buy a computer.

I think this product may launch Apple back into the PC market with a real bang. I'd love to see them gain some serious market share from this move over the next few years.

"
c242
Reply #1 Wednesday, January 12, 2005 1:57 PM
I don't see how a machine with a 32MB graphics card and 256 MB RAM should do that. I don't understand the hype about this at at all.
Hawkeye666
Reply #2 Wednesday, January 12, 2005 3:13 PM
I have wanted a MAC for years. Now with this price point, and the fact that my laptop is a 3.2 G P4 with DVD-RW etc., I think I can come close to justifying it. And there is every chance it will be connected to my 65" Mitsubishi HDTV and a wireless mouse and keyboard. Wonder if it does 16x9 aspect in 1080I resolution.
Zoomba
Reply #3 Wednesday, January 12, 2005 3:19 PM
How does a 32mb graphics card impact this sort of computer? It's not going to be a gaming rig, it's not supposed to be. It's a computer at a budget price-point aimed at the nonhardcore computer user. And you can upgrade the RAM to a full gig. Most of the default Macs come with too little memory so you have to pop some in anyway.

This is big because it brings the Mac to a price that the average person can afford. Heck, it's so cheap now it could almost be an impulse buy for someone who's just curious about the platform.
BlueDev
Reply #4 Wednesday, January 12, 2005 3:56 PM
I too am a closet Mac fan. Our first desktop PC was a Mac. It was one of the original Mackintoshes. I don't recall if it was a128k or 512k model. Gray scale monitor, mouse, GUI that was miles above and beyond anything my friends could dream of on their PCs. I played and typed on that thing for so long. Imagine the horror of trying to use WordPerfect 5 (I think it was) after being used to the word processing program on our Mac. Me, I knew something was bold because it showed up in bold. I knew something was underlined or in italics because I could see it. No guessing which function key to press, what the color or highlight meant. Nope, I could type and draw and see exactly what would be printed. I loved that old box.

Today I prefer Windows based PCs, mainly because I like to game. But someday I have vowed that I will have a Mac. This Mac mini is a brilliant idea that will hopefully help Mac still be around when I can finally afford the type of Mac I want.
Zoomba
Reply #5 Wednesday, January 12, 2005 4:03 PM
Yeah, the gaming thing is what keeps me glued to the Windows platform... though at least companies like Blizzard release for both platforms simultaneously. I play WoW on my powerbook whenever I travel now, it's great
Shotgun989
Reply #6 Thursday, January 13, 2005 12:59 AM
Being myself a "pc snob" I feel a bit guilty defending the plastic clad demons known as Macs. But with the new OS chocked full of eye candy and the progressively more capable machines (still waiting for a right click), the Mac is coming away from the dark side. Those people at Apple are wiley. The processors can skip steps, so a 1.3GH Mac can keep up with a 2.4GH PC. Clock cycles aren't everything, so don't let stats fool you.
Eroticus Prime
Reply #7 Thursday, January 13, 2005 4:23 AM
(still waiting for a right click)


Try plugging in a two button mouse.
Zoomba
Reply #8 Thursday, January 13, 2005 7:24 AM
Yup, I use a 2-button PC mouse with my Powerbook. I hate the one-button thing Apple continues to push, but at least they give me the alternative finally
Action_Jay
Reply #9 Thursday, January 13, 2005 12:48 PM
I've got extensible and customizable eye candy on my PC thanks to Object Desktop Last time I sat down at a mac I seriously had no idea what was going on. It's been a long time since I 'learned' PCs, but I do believe it was somewhat intuitive at least. Useability factor = my butt. Kudos to those who do use them, however. It's good to be different.

I might have to look into these new cheap macs and learning the ins and outs of their shiny interface.
Zoomba
Reply #10 Thursday, January 13, 2005 2:10 PM
Usability is a very subjective thing if you've been using computers for any length of time. Whatever platform you're used to using, it becomes the "easy" and "user friendly" one and anything different is kludgy and confusing. I know people who think the command line interface is easy and the height of user friendly, that GUIs just complicate the whole mess by making you click through layer after layer of visual junk. Most computer saavy people I know who have trouble transitioning between platforms have trouble because they are pretty close-minded on learning anything new in terms of OS.

That said, Apple still reigns supreme for computer n00bs. Grandmothers and your old neighbor down the street who still view technology with a twinge of fear. The default MacOS UI is clean, and clear as to what things do. The default Windows UI however is not easy to use, not clean, not clear. You say you have all the bells and whistles due to Object Desktop... but to get that and install it, you need to know a bit more about your PC than the average user... the ones who need more user friendliness.

Not knocking OD in any way, great product that I use on my home PC... but it's not a good thing to compare to OS X when talking about visual style and user friendliness.
joeKnowledge
Reply #11 Thursday, January 13, 2005 10:27 PM
Since we are talking bout Mac's and PC's, does anyone know if you can have both on a network and see files?
joeKnowledge
Reply #12 Thursday, January 13, 2005 10:28 PM
Oh and you might want to read this

Interesting...
cactoblasta
Reply #13 Friday, January 14, 2005 12:50 AM
Yeah you can have both on the same network. At my house we have 4 PCs hooked up to a wireless network and one iBook as well. They all swap files etc with ease, although it has to be said it took a lot of effort to get the PCs working properly. The Mac was a lot easier; within about 5 mins it was all linked in properly, compared to the 3 hours it took to set up the PCs.
Zoomba
Reply #14 Friday, January 14, 2005 7:59 AM
Yup, just enable windows file sharing in the control panel and make sure everyone's on the same workgroup and subnet and you're good to go.
paxx
Reply #15 Sunday, January 16, 2005 2:36 AM
OSX comes with Samba, which is how Linux machines connect to Windows machines.

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