Whither the mini?

The tender flowers of the Mac web are all a-twitter (not to be confused with the popular social networking site of the same name) over an Apple Insider report claiming that the Mac mini will soon be pushing daisies (not to be confused with the much-anticipated ABC series of the same name, coming this fall, check your local listings).

The Macalope doesn’t doubt this could be true, but he did find it amusing that in trying to bolster their argument that “Apple just doesn’t like the mini darn it!”, Apple Insider cites as evidence the fact that a rumored enhancement of the mini they pimped failed to materialize. It’s the theory of Apple rumor site infallibility in action.

But on the face of it, it seems unlikely that Apple would completely do away with the mini or, rather, decide to abandon the market it targets.

Now, what is that market? The Macalope doubts anyone outside Apple knows for sure as they don’t release that kind of data. The mini was introduced ostensibly for the switcher (“Bring your own monitor, keyboard and mouse!”) but the Macalope doubts that’s who’s really buying them. It’s anecdotal, of course, but the switchers the Macalope knows have all bought either iMacs or MacBooks. The horny one does hear that the smallest Mac of them all is popular with developers and, possibly just by definition, people who already own a bunch of other Macs. For some it temporarily filled the niche that’s now filled by the Apple TV. And then there are the schools. And the businesses.

There’s two ways of looking at that. Either the low price of the mini is allowing people who already own a Mac to buy another, or it’s eating into sales of Macs with higher margins.

Unlike Apple Insider, the Macalope doesn’t think the mini is analogous to the G4 Cube or the 12-inch PowerBook, both of which, while lovely, probably did not generate sales like the mini. It seems unlikely to this furry Macophile that even if Apple drops the mini it won’t be replaced with something cooler.

So, killing the Mac mini is not to be confused with, well, killing the Mac mini.

  • Clint:

    The Macalope is right!

    I have to agree with The Macalope that the speculation about the demise of the Mac mini are just that—speculation. I am glad that someone had the horns to say it!

    I want to disagree, though with The Macalope’s contention that the 12-inch PowerBook was a sales flop. Although I am not privy to Apple’s sales figures, it seems that, of the dozen-or-so people at my work who have PowerBooks or MacBooks, nine of them have 12-inch PowerBooks. For people who work while traveling, especially on airplanes, the 12-inch PowerBook is unbeatable.

    Best wishes,

  • Jaydub:

    Your horniness, it’s “bolster” not “boulster”.

    Care to speculate on the rumored axing of the 17 inch iMac? Is there some space for a even cheaper lower-end to replace the mini and the 17 inch iMac?

  • John Muir:

    My first Mac: a 12″ PowerBook
    My second Mac: an Intel Mini
    Spot the trend!

    Now all right, I own one of each, but I’m with you Macalope in thinking the Mini sells well. I just happen to think the 12″ PB moved plenty enough too … come on, surely more than the 17″. Apple nixed the sweetest of PowerBooks because (for whatever hopefully *tablet* related reason in future) they considered the MacBook its natural replacement. Fair enough, it almost is. But what would replace the Mini? Every sucker who says “Apple TV” can poke his screwdriver where the sun don’t shine because that’s not a serious answer.

    When I bought my PowerBook, there were only G3’s in the iBooks of the time so I had an obvious reason to go aluminum. If I were buying a laptop today it would very likely be the MacBook, which I suppose sets me aside from the bulk of the PB12 contingent who seem hung up on there being a style differential between their PowerBooks and the iBook G4’s they consciously spurned. Ho hum. If Apple want to sell one laptop per screen size it’s fine enough by me. Though of course I still lust for something under the MacBook’s 13.

    Anyway, as much as I like AI (for a laugh) I don’t like this story. You’re quite right about implied rumour infallibility! Leaving the Mini on Core Duo is hardly a death knell … isn’t it the low end Mac after all? I remember the mixed reception the original Intel model received when Steve’s intro prompted a “ho hum” from the media who were expecting the MacBook or some other model already. I also remember the rumour that the MacBook was eating up Apple’s Core Duo supplies and (due to its fatter profit margin) was being prioritised in production. Where were the Mini shortages then? And the cancellation? Sounds hokum to me.

    The Mini is a switcher machine for some (my folks for a start) and a budget desktop Mac for others. That’s the strength of it: it’s a machine which serves many purposes. I think it’ll stay. What would it say for Steve’s love of cube(oids) if it didn’t!?

  • rodney:

    I bought a Mini for code development, it fit the bill perfectly: small, relatively cheap, and most importantly, quiet. I know a lot of people that bought them for the same reasons. It seems that many of the Mini-haters out there are bummed out that it doesn’t have a quad core Xeon with dual graphics cards, in the same size package, for $600 or less. Whatever.

  • @JayDub: Caught that typo shortly after posting.

    Also, he of the spikey head likes the way you think. If the 17-inch iMac is discontinued, Apple needs another offering in that space. The Macalope thinks there are at least a fair number of people who simply don’t have the physical space for a 20-inch. Now, whether Apple provides the monitor or not is still debatable, but “20-inch or the highway” doesn’t seem reasonable.

  • It’s fun to speculate, but the answers are just around the corner. With the WWDC only a few days away, it’s a good time for all of us slobbering fanboys to buy a few extra shares of AAPL for the portfolio, buckle up, and get ready for a fun show.

    I’m going to run home early from work on 6/11 to download and watch the keynote.

    I’m going to try to be like a guy who tapes the Superbowl while he’s at work: I’m going to avoid all media until I get to watch it. I don’t want to know how it comes out in advance.

    Is that just pathetic or what?

  • John Muir:

    More like just impractical.

    Ah live stream, where did you go?

  • KenC:

    a Mac nano to replace the Mac mini?

  • Tom:

    There may be practical realities at work that make discontinuing the Mini a logical move:


  • Dave:

    I love my Mac Mini on my TV. Wireless mouse, wireless keyboard. It also answers the phone (Parliant PhoneValet) home automation is next (Indigo) it is a perfect home companion for those who own MacBooks and MacBook Pros for each family member.

  • I bought the mini as my first Mac since an SE 30 to run off of a KVM with my my jumbo tower PC. After 6 months, I realized that I was never using my KVM switch and spending all of my time on the mini. Even with its puny 1.42GHz processor, it was so much faster than my beast of a PC running XP.

    So I gave my PC to my son, and in the next year bought an iMac for my daughter, an iMac for my wife and a MacBook for myself. Toss in the selection of iPods and Apple has made a killing off of my family, all because the mini made it so convenient for me to switch.

    I’m not saying that I’m the typical mini buyer, but the mini-for-switchers argument worked at least once.

  • Deadguy:

    There’s a big market for the Mini, of my friends’ and family’s reactions, and the hard time I had finding one in stock to buy last fall show anything. My Mini has gotten reactions ranging from “Where’s the rest of it?” to “Man, that thing is quiet!” to “Holy sh**! Front Row is amazing! It kills anything on Windows or Linux!” Because of the low price, the two friends I showed Front Row on my TV (via the handy DVI-S-VHS adaptor) on the weekend are buying Mac Minis ASAP.

  • Tulse:

    The mini is also a heck of a low-end server. Our organization has seven that we use for various external and internal server tasks. They’re cheap, they’re quiet, and they’re tiny — it’s great to be able to fit all your servers into a shoebox. I would be tremendously disappointed if a product like the mini were not available from Apple.

  • Sigivald:

    I bought my Mini to replace my previous “desktop” Mac ( a Yikes! G4/350), so I don’t know from switchers.

    I do like that it’s tiny and quiet and doesn’t saddle me with a specific monitor.

    (I’ve never really liked all-in-ones, and my first Mac was a Classic.

    I’m kinda paranoid about combining the entire computer with the relatively fragile monitor.)

  • Ben:

    I’m a switcher. I bought a mini because even after buying a 19″ 3rd-party monitor and Apple keyboard and mouse it was significantly cheaper (AUD$300-ish) than a 17″ iMac.

  • hywel:

    I’m testing digital signage applications at the moment. We use minis as networked playout devices. They’re popular due to the size (can be hidden behind a plasma / next to a projector). I have three on my desk, and there’s one on every developer’s desk too. One customer is looking to buy 400 of them to run their signs.

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