Wednesday, January 12, 2005

AM I MISSING SOMETHING? I know that Apple's new Mac Mini is: a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse. It sells for about $500, which is supposed to place Apple squarely in the midst of the low-priced computer wars. But as this New York Times article points out, the all-in-one eMac can already be had for as little as $800. Can you really buy a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse for much less than the $300 difference? I don't think so. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you wound up spending more.

Both the Mini and the eMac are built around the speedy but not-quite-up-to-date G4 microprocessor. Granted, I haven't done spec-to-spec comparisons - maybe the Mini really is a better value. But at first glance, it looks like the cheap Mac of choice is still the eMac.


Anonymous said...

Hiawatha Bray's column in this morning's Boston Globe has a quote that you can get "some sort of monitor for $100" and mouse and keyboard for under $20 (each?), "so for $600 you're in business." Beyond that, though, Apple may be hoping to sell to people who have monitor, mouse and keyboard (and perhaps an aging PC) who've been interested in Macs but unwilling to pay the high price of admission. I haven't seen the specs on the Mini's video card yet, but it was described to me as underpowered. Those thinking seriously about getting a 30" Apple Cinema Display won't be tempted, but the Mini might be an ideal match for that old CRT gathering dust in the basement.

The small size of the thing could be an advantage for people who might want to run one of each platform but can't stand the thought of finding room on or under their desks for two towers, or two CPUs. Add a monitor/mouse/keyboard switch (so you don't have to unplug the cables all the time) and, say, an Ethernet cable for networking and you've got a small but elegant two-platform setup. Could be very handy indeed.

Those whose needs would be better met by an eMac will still buy an eMac, and the same goes for the iBook. I think Apple's trying to answer its critics who've been shouting for a $500 Mac. I think that "the cheap Mac of choice" really depends on the needs of the buyer, and that now there are three clearly distinct options.

--Th. Donaghey

Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard about the $100 monitor, I'll have to check into that... That aside, I think you are missing something here Dan. This is all about Apple wanting PC users to switch.

From reading some of Jobs' comments from the intro, I guess the idea is: you already have a monitor and keyboard with your old computer, so now you can just buy a Mac mini and hook 'em up.

That makes some sense, I guess, but I'm thinking it's pretty revolutionary in a sense that Apple is giving up some control on some serious 'user experience' by allowing other products in on it. They're clearly not going to get Mac mini buyers to buy Apple's cheapest monitor at $999 (amazing, isn't it?).

They're clearly going after PC users who love their iPod, and maybe are getting tired of viruses, etc, for whom buying components is nothing new. People who buy Macs for all the usual reasons will still buy iMacs.

Not to mention that the sometimes forgotten non-iMac Mac computers are basically big boxes too (slightly cooler looking than the Dell box), and appeal really to, I guess Mac power-user types (I think?)

Long story short, I guess, Apple is focusing the user experience to the OS now, rather than all on hardware. Though I don't expect them to start licensing the OS again any time soon…

Anonymous said...

well stated. it seems they're targeting the newly interested potential switchers who may have iPods and are using the iTunes store. in that sense, the mini could be a big seller. "power users" might even be tempted to buy one as a second system. the mini doesn't pretend to be anything more than a very small, convenient package. it's no screamer, but i'm sure the average home PC user would find it perfectly adequate for surfing the web and such.

i'd consider one for my mom just to get her off my back about eradicating all the spyware on her eMachines box.

- n8

John Farrell said...

You can get a CRT at BestBuy, nothing fancy, for about $110 as I recall. (I looked into it recently after I left my old job and needed to retool the home office.) Generic USb keyboard and mouse is probably what Bray said.

Anonymous said...

I think the lower price is important to get people's attention. $499 is more likely to get you interested that $799.

Kind of like the PC ads that have a large "$399!" and then "monitor not included" in unreadable type at the botom.

Chris Devers said...

Jobs may well be headed toward a giving the equipment away in order to sell more music.Doubtful. Apple employees have been widely quoted as saying that the iTunes Music Store does just barely well enough to make a slim profit, but that by far the point of the venture is to encourage people to keep buying iPods, which have a much wider profit margin. To quote a random, recent example, "the iTunes music store was slightly profitable in Dec, but Apple refused to provide specifics in this area."

They've inverted the old "handles & razorblades" model, by providing the songs/razorblades at just above cost, and getting a big profit on the iPods/handles. Were it not for pressure from the record companies, I'd almost expect them to give the songs away and sell more music players.

The same logic applies on the computer side of the business. Unlike Microsoft and most other software vendors today, OSX doesn't require license keys or product activation to use; there is no technical barrier to installing a single copy on as many Macs as you wish (though there are, of course, legal and ethical barriers). Apple can afford not to be draconian about this because having a slick operating system is just the incentive to get people to want to buy more of their highly profitable computers.

* * *

As for leaving out the peripherals, a lot of people are on their third or fourth computer by now, if not more than that, so we've already got closets full of old but perfectly useful keyboards & mice that are half a step away from the dumpster. When it comes time to upgrade, it's good to upgrade the CPU, hard drive, memory, and associated components, but the input/output components -- the keyboard, mouse, and monitor -- are usually perfectly usable for many years.

Even a Windows keyboard will work on any Mac, provided that it is USB or that you get a cheap (<$5) PS/2 to USB adapter. The bottom row of keys will act funny -- the Windows ALT key is where the Mac Option/Alt key is, and the Windows Win-logo key is where the Apple/cloverleaf key is -- but this should be easy enough for most people to adapt to if they don't want to shell out the $50 for a proper Mac-layout keyboard.

And as for the mouse, most people seem to prefer a two button model anyway, so this could be construed as Apple giving in by giving up.

It's true that Apple is making an unsual move here, but I think their reasoning makes sense. A lot of people don't really need yet another set of computer peripherals to go with their new computer, and if they do, they have more options just a little bit up the price scale.