Apple Sneaking up on Linux, Windows

InfoWorlds Tom Yager has done another superb job of interpreting events in the computing hardware world – his assesment of the new Apple mini is broad stroked but essentially right on Denmark. Read the copy for yourself – but what Tom is arguing is that Apple is targeting the Apple Mini to be is the delivery vehicle in the home media centre market which Microsoft has spent 2-3 years dancing around with the Tablet PC and Media Center OS extensions, but clearly has not cracked. Ditto for Linux on the desktop.

So now comes Apple on the desktop, more secure, more media savvy, with loads of free media software and able to click onto PC keyoards and mice with USB connections and any video console that will greet the ATI Radeon 9200 with 32MB of display memory for $499 and $699. Here are the other specs:
computer chips and speed: 1.25GHz PowerPC G4 (1.49GHz G4 for $699) on 167MHz bus
memory: 256MB expandable to 1GB maximum (but must be swapped)
hard drive: 40GB (80GB for $699)
media drive: DVD-ROM/CD-RW
graphics card: ATI Radeon 9200 with 32MB of DDR SDRAM with AGP 4X support
ports: One FireWire 400 port; two USB 2.0 ports; DVI output; VGA output
Built-in 10/100BASE-T Ethernet and 56K V.92 modem
AirPort Extreme option (based on 802.11g specification; IEEE 802.11b Wi-Fi certified)4; internal Bluetooth module available as build-to-order option; Headphone/audio line out
software: Mac OS X version 10.3 “Panther,” includes Classic environment, Mail, iChat AV, Safari, Sherlock, Address Book, QuickTime, iSync, iCal, iLife ‘05 (includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and GarageBand), AppleWorks, Quicken 2005 for Mac, Nanosaur 2, Marble Blast Gold and Apple Hardware Test
This is a fairly impressive list.

The potential show stoppers are the memory allotment, CPU power, and low USB port provision. On PCs, CPU intensive software like video editing, graphics processing, animations, and the like – all balk at 256MB of RAM or less than a 800Mhz processor. Even a PC with a 2.5GHz processor at 512MB is slow on graphics and visual editing until bumped to 1GB. Will the Power PC4 have enough oomph at 256MB ? We will have to wait and see. And probably have to wait until mid February because of the secretiveness of Apple on this announcement and the gutted state of the Mac (and PC) trade press.

But lets assume that Apple makes good on a decent display, delivery and medium scale rich media editing environ. What does this do ? This puts Apple, which already has great cache through iPod et al with youth through creative sets, as the leading candidate for becoming the home media centre must have controller purchase. With its Wifi and ethernet connectivity (but certainly not its 56Kmodem),Apple Mac Mini has the opportunity to become the broadband point of interface of choice. And given the stability, reliability and security of OS/X Panther+Safari versus Windows XP+IE in the home Apple has the best chance in a long time of persuading mass switching from Windows PCs to Macs – people are that fed up with the reliability and security hassles plus premium prices of Windows OS and app software. And the PC vendors have been absolutely desultory in their desktop Linux offerings. So into the Gap goes Mini Mac. Tom Yager is more positive than I; but he may have a lot more hands on time than me. So I will be from Missouri and wait for the february comprehensive hardware and software reviews.

By the way – this is what Apple is selling – an integrated package for media and Internet control which will happen to help its hardware, software and services sales. Who else in the computing business commands such a perch – IBM used to on the desktop, but now only as an interested CPU chip supplier to Apple. Very, very, interesting.


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