David Coursey gives Apple’s new ‘Mac mini’ an ‘A’ grade and ‘iPod shuffle’ a ‘C-’

“A $499 Mac ought to be the ultimate ‘switcher’ box. Not that most Windows users actually switch to Macintosh, but many have bought a Mac for use at home. Buy a KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) switch, and the Mac mini can share mouse, keyboard and screen with your PC. This gets users a Mac without a lot of work and for a minimal investment,” David Coursey writes for eWeek. “Having this machine in the Apple product line allows Mac fanatics to tell their Windows friends that instead of upgrading their Windows machine, they should add a Mac to their desktop or home—and save money in the process.”

“The downside of the Mac mini may be performance in the graphics-intensive applications toward which Mac users tend to gravitate. I want to see an independent, hands-on review before committing to a final score, but as a preliminary grade, I think a [letter grade of] ‘A’ is right on target. I’m about ready to pull out my credit card for this one,” Coursey writes.

Coursey also grade Apple’s other Macworld Expo product intoductions, giving a B+ for iWork, a C+ for iLife ’05, and a C- for the iPod shuffle, expliang, ” I am sure they will sell a zillion of these—just not to me.” Find out Coursey’s reasons for his grading in the full article here.

17 Comments

  1. The fact that so many people who write about computers for a living are so dismally bad–witness David Coursey’s C- grade for the iPod shuffle–at correctly predicting anything about how consumer-electronics are going to do and what makes them appealing seems significant, somehow.

    If everyone’s really right that we’re moving into a new era, where computer companies become consumer-electronics companies in search of new revenue, maybe we need a new generation of pundits, too!

    I am sort of optimistic about this new era, because I think Jobs understands it better than almost anyone out there–better than any computer-industry analyst currently writing, since he now keeps proving them wrong every couple of months, and certainly better than any of his rivals in the industry.

    Some examples: Kevin Rollins thinks music players aren’t a ‘solid business model.’ (Wow!) Bill Gates is committed to complex, PC-centric experiences for everything–rather than to simple, elegant consumer-electronics experiences–in not just a casual way but actually as a fundamental part of his being (see his recent expression of faith that nothing, nothing will ever replace the ‘2-foot experience’ of using a desktop computer here: http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/gates-interview-part-two-windows-postlonghorn-and-apples-office-suite-029272.php).

    Jobs, meanwhile, seems to have had some sort of revelation in this regard. He understands that what most people, unlike us geeks, most want is to buy things that extremely well for particular purposes–not to have, for instance, general-purpose computers that don’t work extremely well for any single thing. So he’s making computers work extremely well for particular purposes (managing digital media, especially) through software; he’s making iPods that work extremely well for the single purpose of listening to music (following a path that is the exact opposite of the Swiss-army-knife approach exemplified by Palm devices in their late, baroque phase, despite all the geeks’ having begged Apple to make a PDA); and so on. He is Keeping It Simple, Stupid, though I don’t think that phrase quite sums up what’s going on here.

    I think his 2002 interview with Wired about the joys of Miele washing machines (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.02/jobs.html?pg=8&topic;=) as nearly perfect objects for doing one thing very well–and how using one gave him more of a thrill “than I have [gotten] out of any piece of high tech in years”!–pretty much sums up this late, mature stage in his thinking.

    It’s a way of thinking that seems to me to be leading directly to Apple’s kicking ass in the consumer space, and that will continue to be a big competitive advantage for Apple until Microsoft, Dell, and their ilk succeed in reorienting their thinking, or get new, less dyed-in-the-wool management.

  2. It may not be for Coursey, but if he can’t apply some objectivity and see that it is brilliantly attractive to many, many people then he’s a twit. I don’t understand his rating of the iPod shuffle whatsoever. Let me just say that thank God he’s not directing Apple’s product strategy.

  3. Whoops–that interview is from 1996, during Jobs’s wilderness years, not 2002.

    It makes sense that you’d rethink the fundamentals of the computer industry during a time when you’re failing to make any impact on it. Anyway, whatever happened, it worked.

  4. I should also have mentioned Creative’s CEO as someone who has a computer-industry mindset rather than a consumer-electronics one, and who is being hampered by it. Judging by his public statements, he genuinely thinks that he’s in a ‘war’ with Apple over *features*, rather than the total experience of using his device and how understandable it is. Which is why he’s getting shredded.

    (Sorry to have so many afterthoughts.)

  5. I give him an “E” for effort. He’s one of the first to include the use of a KVM switch in his article. I was in Wal-Mart *gasp* the other day and saw that the had a cable that took a PS/2 mouse and keyboard and plugged them both into One USB port. Don’t know how well it would work but it was definately worth noting.

  6. Actually he said that he thought they will sell a zillion of these, so he recognizes that it will have widespread appeal. His letter grade was a personal one and so I think legitimate. Personally I think I will get a shuffle because it has that iPod-like appeal of filling a very specific need, very very well. I will use it for short trips to the store and exercising when its very small, solid state form factor come into play at great advantage.

  7. His reasoning is actually quite good. I figure most people will have problems with a C- for the iPod shuffle. But I think his review is right on target. While Apple is quick to say “oh random is good now…”, I don’t usually make playlists. I instead say, “What am I in the mood for at this very moment” and select accordingly. Maybe I don’t get the full batterly life out of my iPod, but it suits my needs much better.

    But I have to admit, Apple has done a very good marketing job in creating this. Firstly, $99 is very cheap for a player, so anybody just looking for something cheap will buy that. The $149 is not likely to sell as well, because it is more expensive and most people will have difficulty justifying this. But when they want more space and a screen, they make the jump to the mini. From there it’s REALLY easy to say “oh my, 16 GB more for only $50!” And suddenly they’re skipping the mini and on to the real stuff.

    Gotta give it to Apple. They’re good…

  8. Huck – Good insight. Most people here just say widoze sucks, so dumb it down ok? I don’t get all this oracle in the washing machine stuff. Woot Apple rules!

    I got a iPod shuffle 512 for one reason: It is simple and small and safe. Perfect companion when sculpting my incredible bod.

    Magic word: dark.

    Huck, I completely agree that Apple will win as long as they keep the focus on the elegant purpose of their products.

    Oh and the iPod shuffle is for my wife’s sculpting of her bod while I sit and drink beer and watch the kids while they bop around to the iPod G3 – based stereo.

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