Cringely: the full story about Apple Mac mini’s purpose has not yet been told

“Steve Jobs is so enigmatic. A couple weeks ago at MacWorld, he introduced the 2.9 lb. Mac Mini and the reaction was so great it was like he had re-invented the PC. Readers are all excited by the little box and have been asking me for my take on it. Like everyone else, I had to scratch my head a bit and ponder what this thing is really for. I know, I know, it is for all those PC drivers who bought an iPod and are now supposed to trash their Windows PC for a Mac Mini. Yeah, but what’s it REALLY for? Movies,” Robert X. Cringely writes for PBS.

“The Mac Mini is one of Apple’s trademark technology repackaging jobs. There ought to be nothing inherently exciting about the little box. It isn’t especially powerful. You can buy smaller Windows and Linux machines. You can buy cheaper Windows machines from all the big brands. Yet the Mac Mini has people excited and those other PCs mainly don’t. Some of it is industrial design — it just looks cool. Some of it is commercial psychology: by forgetting the keyboard and mouse Apple not only saved money, it invented a whole new computer configuration between a barebones box and a complete system. Other keyboard-and-mouseless systems will soon appear from other vendors, I promise you, but they’ll just be seen as copies,” Cringely writes.

“I’ll buy one. I have an old 400 MHz iMac in the kitchen that is begging to be replaced. Lots of Mac users will buy a Mini just to have one, which is why Jobs didn’t really have to tell a big story to explain the little box, nor did he (yet) have to follow the aggressive pricing plan I suggested in my 2005 predictions. He’ll sell the first half million just on exuberant inertia. But then sales might drop off as they did with the original Mac. THAT’s when we’ll get the real story on what this thing is for,’ Cringely writes. “Everyone seems to think the Mini is a media PC, yet it has few characteristics of most media PCs. The box has no TV tuner and no place for one, and no analog TV output. You can’t even burn a DVD with it, at least not yet. But there were hints in that MacWorld presentation, hints of what’s coming, and the Mac Mini is a big part of that.”

Full article here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Report: Apple’s Mac mini power connector hints at upcoming add-ons – January 20, 2005
Cringely predicts $249 Macintosh, would make Apple the world’s number one PC company – January 10, 2005
Robert X. Cringely: Steve Jobs ‘is proud of being an a**hole’ – April 30, 2004


  1. And no, you can’t find a PC smaller than the Mac Mini. You can find Small PCs, you can even build a Micro PC, but it’s still about 8″x8″x9″ (or so).

  2. The DVD comment is pretty stupid.

    On the other hand, unless you do a special BTO order from the online store, it can’t burn DVDs. And since Apple bunged by online order, I’m stuck with retail unless I want to wait a month.

    Private whine: I ordered a BTO mini with Superdrive on the day they were announced. I then was reminded by my wife that Apple uses UPS for a lot of deliveries, that at least our area doesn’t deliver after 5 p.m. and won’t drop off without a signature–tough when someone’s at the house only after 5. So I called to switch the delivery address to my wife’s job, and the genius on the phone somehow recoded my Mac mini into a PowerMac G4. When I informed Apple that I in fact wanted a mini, they recoded it again–with late February delivery.

    MDN’s eerie code word is “get”

  3. good article. and an intersting idea about the future of the mini. though I think his problem with quicktime not playing trailers for a while was a fluke, not a harbinger. quicktime is a core component of iTunes, so if it’ll play in iTunes it’ll play in quicktime.

  4. It’s all about QT 7 and H264! I reckon that’s when we’ll see what Apple’s real video strategy is. The scalable codec of H264 will enable a credible range of video products in the same way that AAC enabled iTunes/iPod etc….

  5. I agree with Jay, quit whining. You’re missing the point.

    The article, I believe is completely on target. It’s the dawning of the virtual cable company completely independent of DVD standards or distribution channels. Of course one does not need a Mac mini (any Mac would do), but to do it with mass appeal, you need an inexpensive device. And considering some iPods cost at least as much and the mini, I can’t imagine people balking at $500 or so to download HD movies long before we have the DVD standards in play (and long before BlockBuster, et al, can get into the fray). The new players will be at least $500 initially. The movie houses don’t even have to start producing discs yet to take advantage!

    What an end run!

    However, I wonder if you’ll be able to burn the download content to DVD with any semblance of quality?…. Converting your ACC to MP3 isn’t exactly preserving audio fidelity.

  6. There are smaller PCs.

    the OQO UPC comes to mind… comes with a screen too, and docks to become a fully blown PC running XP.

    the FLipstart as well.

    These are “Pocket PC” size units that run XP.

  7. MacOS X is highly scriptable. If you were to develop a bluetooth “remote” for the Mac with preprogrammed scripts for various media tasks (as well as user programmable features), then that would work very well for controlling the recording and playback of digital audio and video content. Any auxiliary devices that could attach to the Mac via USB or Firewire could potentially be controlled through the Mac, as well. If the auxiliary components also include bluetooth then they could be directly controlled from the remote, as well, given the proper firmware.

    P.S. What’s with the “magic word” anyway? What purpose does it serve?

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