Commoditisation

34 Comments

I like to think that I am generally quite kind to Apple. Despite five logic board failures over two iBooks and a few too many bad experiences at the Genius Bar in Regent Street, I still use Macs and enthusiastically recommend them to others. But unquestioning fanboy I am not, and whilst I think the Intel transition is a good thing in principle, I am slightly perturbed by the current course it seems to be taking. It started with the MacBook Pro1 PowerBook Core and at first I thought it might just be something of a temporary aberration. But on looking through the specifications for the new Mac mini announced today, I realise that this is, alas, the shape of things to come.2


My beef with Apple can be summed up in one word: commoditisation.3 This is not a new thing for Apple – over the years, one thing after another – NuBus, internal SCSI4, ADB, to name but three – has given way to a generally cheaper alternative. The switch to IDE hard disks is perhaps the best example of this, sacrificing performance and reliability for the low-cost option that has been the mainstay of IBM-compatible PCs almost since the beginning.

Now, though, there is a new contender. Rather than designing the whole logic board itself, and the chipset to go with that – as it has done until the Intel switch – Apple seems to have handed that whole task to Intel. They simply slap an Intel motherboard in a PowerBook enclosure and the hardware magic ends there. Whither “Think Different”.

And with the Mac mini the situation appears to be even worse – rather than a decent (or at least semi-decent) ATI or NVIDIA chip, the Mac mini sports “integrated graphics” in the form of the Intel GMA950. My initial reaction was not positive, as I have an almost innate aversion to Intel’s onboard graphics chips – to put it bluntly, they really suck. But before mouthing off about it here, I thought that I ought to do a little research into this…this thing, at the very least for the sake of some kind of journalistic integrity.

My conclusion – after reading this ExtremeTech review – is that it does indeed really suck, which leaves me feeling rather pleased as it is always nice to have one’s prejudices validated. I mean, it uses shared memory, synonymous for so long with budget PCs running spyware-laden installs of Windows XP Home Edition. *sigh*

To be fair, it is clear that even Apple don’t think much of it – they describe it, in that diminutive side panel, as “an incredible value proposition“, which is perhaps the scariest bit. Once Apple start talking about incredible value propositions, you know something is seriously wrong with the universe. This is the marketing talk of the Dells of this world, certainly not of a premier brand like Apple. What on earth is going on?

I must confess that I am confused. As suggested above, I had hoped that the initial PowerBook Core configuration, lacking as it did a FireWire 800 port, was simply something of an aberration, that Apple wished to get a machine out as quickly as possible and was therefore content to leave the hardware to Intel. This of course made no sense, because there is no reason why they could not have waited a little longer to launch the first Intel-based PowerBook and make something which didn’t seem so half-arsed, but I was desperate to rationalise the move and try and find the cloud’s silver lining. As far as I can tell, there is none.

In the Mac mini we see the confirmation of a trend, confirmation of the emergence of a new era of Apple hardware, made by Intel and packaged up by Apple. It works, and it may mean that we have fewer iBook-logic-board-failure-like issues, because Intel’s hardware is generally pretty good, if not adventurous. But we are left with the realisation that there is now so little that differentiates the Mac from a soulless black box from the likes of Dell, and – for me at least – that leaves a rather bitter taste in the mouth. All in all I can’t help but feel that yet another little bit of the Apple difference has died this week.

A sad day indeed.

Footnotes
1. Over my dead body. See this article on c|net for more. Go Back
2. And perhaps in light of today’s announcement, the rumour sites will give up the idea that Jobs is going to turn the Mac mini into a DVR. It isn’t going to happen. Go Back
3. I realise that I may be playing a little fast and loose with English here, but the meaning of the term should become clear from what follows. Go Back
4. I stress the internal, as External SCSI is still with us, in the form of FireWire, although of course even that may now be under attack. Go Back

34 Comments

Ryan

“I do think that the Mac is losing some of its magic and I do think that MacBook Pro as a name sucks…”

It’s your right to say so. And I can appreciate that many may not think the name was the best choice. All I am trying to do is speculate that no matter what the name change was, everyone would be all hot and bothered anyway. So when I say ‘get used to it’ I don’t mean it like a flame (ie. too bad for you, haha, i win) but more to say that things have been changing significantly at apple since 1997 and things will continue to change as per steve’s magical ultimate plan (helped by the RDF no doubt) and there isn’t much that anyone can do to change it…

With that said, something like a name change is hardly important enough to argue about as much as we have (let alone articles like the c|net one linked). And that’s really all I was trying to say… err.. argue… because… I wanted to stop.. the… arguing… damn.

:)

I’d would be interested to see a poll, though… I’m sure there’s a wordpress plugin somewhere for polls… a-ha! Like this one.

Gareth Potter

Ryan,

I don’t think ‘linguistic fluency’ IS any measure of taste.

Agreed. I was being tongue in cheek anyway. :)

As to the name change, I am starting to see your angle, but I think you are conflating a couple of my points. I do think that the Mac is losing some of its magic and I do think that MacBook Pro as a name sucks, but I do not think that the Mac is losing its magic or selling its soul because of the name change. No, it is far simpler than that – the name just sucks.

Incidentally, it may be a British thing – and would any British readers care to chirp up at this point and prove me wrong – but I have yet to find someone on this verdant isle who likes the new name. I wonder if we can do polls on TAB…

Ryan

Gareth,

You make some good points, especially about the sodimms… That’s definitely my mistake, I could have sworn they used them at one point, but it’s also easy enough for me to be confused with some PC knock-off I came across a while ago.

However, I think you missed what I meant about the ‘power users’, no doubt due to my poor english (I am no journalist)… What I was getting at is that while a buyer of a mac mini could certainly want to burn a dvd or use their camera and iPhoto, download music from iTunes, burn cd’s, all that ‘etc etc etc’ stuff, it seems like they might not be especially inclined to do it all at once. My parents crappy PC can use iTunes, it can burn cd’s, it can do pretty much anything. The point is that if I were to upgrade their ram to 1GB (which windows machine do enjoy btw, it’s much past 1GB that makes next to no difference) they would hardly care. iTunes will receive negligible performance increase, etc. So I’m not saying that mac’s shouldn’t be ‘insanely great’ becuase they should, and are. All I’m saying is that they upgraded the ram so that they can sacrifice some and save on the video card, which in all truth isn’t really as bad as you make it out to be. It’s replacing, what, a radeon 9250 or some such other nonsense video card? All we’re losing is the onboard memory of the card really, and they’ve upgraded the ram on the machine, so it’s a wash, imo.

As far as the name, again… I’m sorry my english wasn’t good enough for you. I didn’t misunderstand your post, I just didn’t express myself very well in response since I have other things to do and my comment was admittedly too long already.

So I’ll just say this. I don’t think ‘linguistic fluency’ IS any measure of taste. I think people who bash the name are fanboys in the sense that every change apple makes is somehow ‘selling its soul’ or ‘losing its magic’. Why can’t they just make a name change? There’s nothing ‘sacred’ about apple and their products. It’s not a powerbook anymore, it’s a macbook. It’s their product to rename. My objection isn’t to not liking the name, it’s to rediculousness like:

“MacBook Pro(1) PowerBook Core

1. Over my dead body. See this article on c|net for more.”

You’re going to just call the macbook a powerbook core instead…? Sorry but ‘Powerbook Core’ is even worse! And the funny part is, if they actually DID call it the powerbook core you would just turn around and complain “powerbook core, ULTRAPowerBook… core over my dead body!” And you could just be joking around, sure, and that’s fine (and likely?). I’m not trying to say you can’t do that or shouldn’t do that or anything, of course. All I’m saying is that it’s stupid to get so hung up over just the name of the thing!

And since I’m getting hung up on you getting hung up on the name, I’m not going to mention it again, it’s your article so you can say what you want…

Gareth Potter

Racer,

Hear hear! I find myself thinking along similar lines these days too. Whilst it must be said that a larger (but not large) userbase is good for things like persuading developers of Windows-only software to target the Mac, I do wonder if all this chasing the PC-using crowd is a good thing.

Perhaps Apple will release a Ferrari Mac on their anniversary on 1 April, but I doubt it. It would be nice though – a machine with all the bells and whistles.

Chris,

Agreed about the damage to sales, so sooner rather than later makes sense. You may be right, and we may see Apple playing a greater role in hardware design in the future, but I can’t help but wonder if they’ll think it not worth the bother. We’ll see.

Frank,

Right, we agree on the principle that Apple shouldn’t enter the budget market. But by speccing out the the Mac mini with this awful video chip, it has created a machine fit for the budget market at above-budget-market prices! A sorry state of affairs indeed!

(I exaggerate, of course, because it comes with Bluetooth 2.0, wireless, combo drive or DVD writer as opposed to the CD-ROM drives Dell still ship. But the fact remains that this is a really, really lame graphics chip.)

Gareth Potter

Ryan,

As your intent is to provoke, I shall respond. :)

What is a Macintosh user if he is not, by your definition, a power user? A bold statement, I agree, and one that requires clarification, but – if you will permit me to explain – I think you may see my point.

You define power users as “[those] with 5000 photos who burn dvd’s (sic) and use iMovie and GarageBand and etc etc etc”. Forgive me if you will, but is this not the very definition of a Mac user? The whole point of the Mac (through Mac OS X) is to facilitate just these tasks – photo management, making home movies, making your own music, burning DVDs, etc. The Mac is the enabler that makes these hitherto impossible (or otherwise very difficult and/or requiring additional software and/or hardware) tasks possible. Not just possible, but in fact downright simple.

I will freely acknowledge that there are those who do not require this level of functionality. But for them, I would submit that the Mac is overkill, and that their needs would be far better served by a black box from Dell, which, if security and peace of mind are required, could usefully run a Linux distribution. It is cheaper, and would be more than adequate. Of course, if they use a Mac, then yes, they can probably sacrifice 128MB of system memory for video RAM (although I can personally attest that with the onset of Mac OS X 10.4, 384MB went from being “a reasonable amount” to “not really enough”, and responsiveness decreased). And yes, the system memory can be upgraded, although not particularly easily (I have done it) and, to nitpick, not with SODIMMs. But, like I say, should they really be using Macs in the first place? It is like using a sledgehammer to kill an ant, or something…

(Incidentally, I have 1.25GB in my PowerBook and I can highly recommend it. I am someone who fits the traditional definition of a power user – I have, for example, almost 20,000 photos in my iPhoto library – and the difference between 512MB and 1.25GB is breathtaking. You are right to state that that is not typical amongst PC users – it isn’t – and at least one of the reasons for that is Windows’s astonishingly poor memory management – there is very little gained in boosting a Windows box’s memory complement. Give Windows 1GB and it won’t do anything with it; give Mac OS X (or Linux, for that matter) 1GB and it will cache everything it can in it so your computer flies along. Anyway, I digress…)

I agree that Apple would not release a machine which was, say, that bad (although…), and the chip is clearly sufficient. My lament is founded in my belief that Apple’s products should not merely be sufficient, but that even the “budget” hardware should instead strive to be “insanely great“. I seem to have heard that somewhere before…

I cannot understand what you are trying to say about the name, and it may be that you have misunderstood what I was saying in my earlier response. I maintain and will continue to maintain that the new name is a poor substitute for the PowerBook, and cannot understand why this has anything to do with being a fanboy. Indeed, the reverse is closer to the truth – were I a fanboy, I would unquestioningly accept anything that Apple did, and would defend the name against all odds, resorting to tactics such as, say, labelling people, er, stubborn fanboys. :) In any case, as I can only judge you by your style of writing, I can only comment that if linguistic fluency is any measure of taste, Gruber and I have the edge. (Si vous êtes en fait québécois, et ben donc votre langue natale n’est pas l’anglais, je m’excuse.)

I do not understand the penultimate paragraph of your comment, and therefore feel unable to respond to it.

At the end of the day, you think it is all about the software. I – and some others on here, it seems – consider it to be something more than that. That is why we feel let down.

vanlandw

The intergrated graphics are kinda disapointing as well as the $100 price increase. I was really debating getting one until they said it was going to cost more. I already have an iMac to keep my apple appetite and hopefully the new iBooks will make more of a splash but I doubt they will. Looks with the first line of Intel Macs they are looking to reproduce what they already have out.

Maybe in a few years I’ll buy another Mac but with the way things are going I won’t be buying another apple product for awhile. Keep in mind my G5 iMac is the best comptuer i’ve ever owned..

Ryan

Gareth,

If this is going to /dev/null then I wont hold my return ‘inflammatory’ comments :)

By ‘people dont need 512mb of ram’ I don’t mean your power users with 5000 photos who burn dvd’s and use iMovie and GarageBand and etc etc etc… I’m talking about people like my parents who are still using an Athlon XP 2000 with 256mb of DDR333. My girlfriend using word on a Celeron M, etc. These people CAN easily sacrifice even 128mb of memory for video! Why not? It will make next to no difference to them. And not only that, the machines can be easily upgraded by just walking into a local computer shop and buying a 512mb stick of Kingston so-dimms. So I don’t see the problem there… yes even 512mb is painful for me, hell, I have 768mb in my powerbook that I’m typing this on and I get frustrated sometimes and I’m thinking of maxing this thing out… but that is not typical at all, especially among the PCers (who I know well, working at a crappy PC shop off and on for quite a number of years).

With that said I definitely will agree that if it’s managed poorly it will be brutal. Although Intel has been doing the integrated graphics with their chipsets for some time, and I somehow doubt apple would sit by and let something THAT bad get into production, especially when they’re STILL ahead of schedule for the transition.

About the name, again… I think you people need to relax. You dont think it’s confusing eh? How much better is a sony viao 5873875883-DHJSDK-38853? Good question, it’s not it’s far worse, THAT’S THE POINT. Think different remember? They’re trying to be recognized as different, and to them, that means getting the name ‘mac’ in every product. Why is it so hard for you to accept? I think you should rephrase your leading sentence… “Those with taste know that the name sucks.” to something more like “Stubborn fanboys knows that the name sucks.”

Reading yours and that other guys article and how you both came to the conclusion it sounds like accounting software… I think that just proves my point. Two fanboys who can’t let their favorite company make their own choice of product name.

On a side note: Did you read that part about steve’s quote, how now developers will ‘think they have to drop everything and do it immediately’? I thought that was funny because he quotes steve directly… The quote is “We said we’d be shipping by next June and we are on track to have that be a true statement…”… Hmm… BY NEXT JUNE… Doesn’t sound like a lie to me, February is before June… So… Yep.. No problem there. More examples of fanboys who don’t think things through.

Hardware outsourcing… Losing magic… Pfft. It’s about the software.

——–

Chris,

Right on. Seems like you’ve got an eye for apple’s strategy. You should start writing articles about this stuff :)

Frank Bruno

“Following the Price CurveFrank, I think you’re off the mark when you suggest this. It has been observed time and time again that Apple does not want to get into the budget PC market – it is not a war they can win when the other players are like Dell…but I think that Apple has its products well-priced now, considering what it is selling.”

Gareth: I totally agree with you. I don’t think Apple will ever try or SHOULD ever try to get down to the bargain-basement of the Dell/HP world. But they do need to be *somewhat* sensitive to pricing.

The VERY EXISTENCE of the Mac mini proves that Apple knows it needs to compete in the somewhat-low-cost market. Pricing the original mini at $499 was an intentional effort to get a sub-$500 machine on the market.

I had another thought this morning: the real bugger about the Intel Integrated chipset is that it cant be upgraded. If you buy a $499 Dell, you can always slap a better video card in there to upgrade it. But if you want a headless Mac with a decent video card, it’s a huge jump to the G5. Maybe Apple will remedy this down the road. They should.

Chris Herron

> Special Measures during the Transition? I don’t buy this

Gareth,

I did I also said that “it won’t make sense for them to return to designing their own motherboards completly from scratch”. There’s no way that Apple could have redesigned the entire product line by themselves in one year. It would not have made sense for them to hire more engineers – how could they have trained them fast enough? what would they have done with all of these additional people once the transition is complete? So they had two options – 1. Get Intel’s help and use their cookie-cutter mobo designs, or 2. Take longer doing it. Option number 2 would have been very damaging to sales – becuase people would have held off for longer, and there would have been less incentive for ISVs to start producing Universal Binaries. Personally, I think that once the transition is complete, we will see Apple continue to leverage Intel mobo cookie-cutter designs but with customized variations. Perhaps it will be like Apple’s relationship with Sun where they use 95% of the standard JDK implementation, but added some unique innovations (shared libraries across VMs) that improve the Java experience on the Mac. These got licensed back to Sun and used in later releases of Sun’s JDK.

Gareth Potter

I feel a few responses are in order:

Return to ADB and SCSI
I’m not advocating a return to ADB or SCSI, although it’s worth noting that ADB has only very recently been phased out – it persisted as the keyboard and mouse interface for Apple’s portables right up until 2004. Or maybe last year. I forget, and I haven’t the inclination to check.

Intel GPU and CoreGraphics
The Intel GPU in the Mac mini supports CoreGraphics (or vice versa). Windows Vista’s Aero Glass supports it too.

Special Measures during the Transition?
I don’t buy this, for the reasons I outlined above. If Apple wanted to design the whole thing from the ground up, they could have done that straight off the bat. No, make no mistake about it, this is the way things are going to stay.

Mac mini as Powerhouse
I didn’t expect this, I must say, and it is a really nice inclusion – it makes it a very respectable machine. Also note that you can get up to 2GB of RAM as a BTO option!

Shared Video Memory
The talk of this 80MB minimum when it says it has 64MB video RAM is worrying. How much RAM is it actually going to use? Can I tweak it like one can in PC BIOSes? It’s worth bearing in mind that these days, users do need 512MB as a minimum in their machines as applications like iPhoto and GarageBand place ever-increasing demands on system resources – Ryan, I think you’re off the mark when you suggest otherwise. So to sacrifice 80MB to video RAM is quite a big hit.

The ExtremeTech review linked to also makes the point about the hardware needing to do a good job of balancing the needs of the CPU and the graphics chip in terms of accessing memory – if this is done poorly, it will have a deleterious effect on the performance of both.

Following the Price Curve
Frank, I think you’re off the mark when you suggest this. It has been observed time and time again that Apple does not want to get into the budget PC market – it is not a war they can win when the other players are like Dell. They are selling – in Mac OS X and in the exterior design – something a little bit different and so can and should charge for that. I agree that there has been a need for a reduction in price in the past – this is no longer a matter of selling £5,000 boxes to the wealthy few – but I think that Apple has its products well-priced now, considering what it is selling.

The Name
Those with taste know that the name sucks. Yes, this is intended to be slightly inflammatory. Flames will be routed to /dev/null.* :)

I certainly disagree with the suggestion that by calling it a PowerBook it would confuse people as to the processor inside. How, for example, is the name Sony Vaio PCG-TR1MP any more indicative of what processor is inside?

(Incidentally, both John Gruber and I – writing totally independently of each other – reached the same conclusion as to the origin of the name.)

Conclusion
Yes, it’s still a Mac. It still runs Mac OS X, and does all the wonderful things that we like to do with Macs even faster (except maybe attempt to run World of Warcraft). The Core Duo machine is pretty sweet and will sell well, especially given the integrated DVD writer – all in all a compelling package. I like it. I may well buy one.

My lament, then, is more one of principle than anything else – that by this outsourcing of all hardware design to Intel, some of the Apple magic is dying in some way. It’s perhaps not really that big a deal at the end of the day – as I alluded to above, it might mean fewer iBook logic board failures, because Intel’s build quality is pretty good.

I suppose we’ll see.

alcopop

“If people want to be mainstream let them have intel and windows. I should have left things alone and been proud to be the 3% living in a world of RISC based bliss knowing I was running the best architecture ever.”
Exactly.

I’m wondering if the new mac mini is more of a high-end computer than the original. I can imagine apple coming out with a mac mini lite or some such thing with a pentium m or whatever for the real entry-level. I mean, in today’s market £500-£600 without display, keyboard or mouse isn’t really entry-level.

racer5

BTW: I bought the 1.25 G4 Mac Mini for my media center on day 1 of release. Works great with the EyeTV 200 and my old school 42″ Plasma. And everyone that has seen it thinks is the coolest setup ever.

I didn’t mean to be all down. I think the new Mac mini is a great value even at the new higher price point. Remeber the 499.00 one of past did not include BT 2.0, airport, optical audio, etc. By the time I upgraded mine to DVD-R, a larger HD, and BT 1.0 and Airport it was a more than 799.99 commitment.

Anyway. It’s great. Just wish apple would give me some inentive to part me with my money but I guess a REAL Windows Media Center KILLER is way too much to ask. Or better can we PLEASE have a tablet / NEWTON (still have mine) running OS X Lite!!!!!! PLEASE! I promise Steve J people will want it.

-b

racer5

This is a case of “Be careful what you wish for”.

For the past decade or more I have pushed people to Apple. I now realize that life was great as it was. If people want to be mainstream let them have intel and windows. I should have left things alone and been proud to be the 3% living in a world of RISC based bliss knowing I was running the best architecture ever.

Now that the word is out Apple needs to make it cheaper and quicker while appealing to the mainstream. Let’s face it, on a marketing front Intel was the right choice for Apple. The mainstream knows the name very well. IBM or Freescale don’t have close to the “free” marketing potential of a Intel or AMD. 95% of the computing world knows who Intel is and 1% (maybe) know who Freescale is. It’s an easy sale. Oh, and the hanging lure of running windows games, well, thats the only arguement more my PC friends had left. Now (or soon to be) a null issue.

On the otherhand:
SCSI vodoo sucked: I am happy it’s gone except that I still use it for my DAT and DDS drives for backup and achives. Leaving the processing of data transfer to the SCSI chipset rocked. The data transfer equivilent of shared memory for graphics.

ADC: Great concept for the ease of cable management alone.

ADB: Made me crazy. More so if i bent a pin and had to bend it back with my exacto knife tip.

NuBUS: Expensive stuff again though good speed in it’s day.

Most mind numbing thing: On the Quadra 840AV I had a video in card with allowed me to hook up any video source and watch or record TV. And it worked great. Now I need all sorts of hardware to do that. That was a 68040 180Mhz processor… I can’t even begin to understand why my Dual 2.5 G5 can’t do any video at all without hundreds of dollars worth the hardware.

Okay the shared Graphics memory: This makes my mad. I have a Dual 450 G4 and the best thing I ever did to improve performance was to replace the video card with a Radeon 8500 AGP card. That took all a bulk of the video processing off the CPU and made the machine instantly quicker in every way. Now we totally revert back to taxing the system memory and busses for graphics. i don’t get it.

I could go on and on about the the “progress” but overall I wish that there were still a machine I could buy that made no compromises for the sake of cost. Think about adding all the best on one box. 10,000 RPM SCSI, Quad G5’s, the faster bus of the intel macs, firewire 400 and 800, bluebooth 2.0, Dual link ADB (or DVI with included adapter), a TV tuner or AV in (I don’t even watch tv but come on!) etc. There has to be a market afterall — not everyting in life needs to get to the Walmart level. Some of us still want a Ferrari and are willing to pay the premium.

But thanks to Apple. My 17″ PowerBook after two years will still run Adobe CS2 faster than those new Intel macs and it looks that way for another year at least. Sure my stock will suffer but I’ll save thousands this year again by having no desire to buy a new Lappy! And yes I still use my original mechanical scroll wheel 5GB iPod.

Chuck Cheeze

2 points: 1) The mini is an entry level Mac designed to allow PC users to easily switch without buying a bunch of other expensive Apple equipment. This is there way of keeping the cost lower with the new Intel guts. Accept it and go buy your Power Mac. Leave it alone for the people who it is aimed at, just stop worrying about something you will never buy. 2) You self-righteous “I’ll never say MacBook Pro” types are really starting to tire us general Apple consumers. Its not a PowerBook, the PowerBook line is dying this year. Accept it and move on. You sound more like a fanboy then you will (obviously) ever admit with that one.

Ryan

I agree with some of these others… It’s about the software, not the hardware. Seems like if they were going to design their own chipset from scratch they would have used amd cpu’s instead of intels mediocre stuff. If you aren’t familiar with the PC side (I am, unfortunately) go check out some benchmarks, the intel mobile stuff (core duo, pentium m, etc) is the only intel product with ANY merit, and AMD caught up and passed them already in every other sector… think servers, you DON’T buy a server with an intel unless you’re braindead.

So, they want Intel to deal with the chipset stuff, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up having intel make some customized stuff in the future (most likely the macbook already incorporates some of these custom designs). Putting that much effort into something like the mini seems pointless. So what if it has integrated graphics like the dell’s that have xp spyware edition installs? A gremlin has a steering wheel like every other car, that MUST be a bad idea… No, integrated graphics becuase the memory has been upgraded to 512mb, which no regular consumer REALLY needs and can sacrifice 32-96mb of that no problem.

Don’t worry, all is well, Steve knows what’s up :)

Also, What is everyone’s problem with the macbook name? I dont get it… It was time for a refresh, what would a better name be? Does it really matter to you what the name is? The namechange (as steve said on stage) was to get the word ‘mac’ in the names of the products and to increase recognition of the brand and whatnot.

I’m actually pretty new to the mac and all (most anyways) of my peers always used and always will use PC’s (i also dont get people’s stubborness, what every happened to ‘best tool for the job’?). Anyway, I would say to them “Man I got a new laptop, it’s a Powerbook and man is it SICK!” and they would say in return something like “Power…book… does that have a pentium 4 or centrino?”.

Of course, these people are idiots, shown by the fact that they think pentium m = centrino… but regardless it gives a good idea that ‘powerbook’ means nothing to these people. But as soon as you say ‘mac’ anyone who knows anything about computers recognizes the name.

Therefore, iPod gets people remembering apple, meanwhile they update and simplify their product line (all thanks to steve). They have a great new OS with awesome developer tools and start showing support for their developers and trying to bring software and hardware to their platform. Ok that’s just about done. Now, lets move to Intel, another name EVERYONE knows so people are even more likely to say ‘ohhh RIGHT, APPLE COMPUTER IS BACK!’… In the process, revamp the names so they’re not only ‘NEW!’ but also easily recognized as ‘macs’… This is just another step.

Personally, I think we should let them call it what they want if they think it’s going to bring more people to the platform and make it more popular. These kinds of things are not only good for everyone in the sense that there’s less windows machines, but also because prices come down the more you sell. If in the next 2 years apple sells 3 times as many notebooks becuase the ‘NEW’ models are ‘FASTER’ and using ‘INTEL’ and, etc, etc etc… prices will only drop due to the higher volume.

So, stop complaining about the name! It’s a Macbook! Get used to it! :)

PXLated

Boy, people sure get their nuts in a crunch. For me, and I go back to an SE30, it’s the OS and the integration as others have mentioned. I could give a rip if they drop Firewire 800 for USB as long as everything works. Just bought a new iPod and the usb works fine. For those expecting more from the Mini, get over it, it’s an entry-level machine. At that, it’s a nifty little box with additional uses.
;-)

Frank Bruno

Ugh. Does anyone really want to go back to SCSI and ADB? I can’t imagine. Apple has benefitted every time by appropriating commodity equipment.

To the extent that integrated graphics holds back Apple’s UI development (via Core Graphics), I would say that it’s a bad thing. Otherwise, I’m not too concerned.

Look, we all have a nostalgia for the funky Mac-only hardware. As a kid I memorized every stinking Moto chip from the 6502 on down the line, clock speed and all. It was that kind of insider geekery that made the Mac such a great cult to be a part of.

But the fact of the matter is that we’ve gone from selling $10,000 Mac Pluses to a few wealthy dudes to selling $500 boxes to everyone and their grandmother. In this day and age, you have to follow the price curve.

Finally, to the question of Apple outsourcing motherboard design, it’s not the end of the world. Remember, Apple outsourced the entire frickin’ iPod to PortalPlayer. Apple’s true genius is the ability to cover all those innards (wherever they come from) in an elegant, user-friendly exterior (fusing hardware and software) that makes you forget what all’s inside anyway.

Business is war, and Apple’s looking to open up a few new fronts in the coming years, most significantly in the entertainment world. To do that effectively you’ve got to survey the battlefield and see on what fronts you can negotiate a truce and on what fronts you can retreat gracefully. Waging a battle on the the serial bus front or the motherboard design front or even the CPU front (Apple owned and maintained a lot of the PPC intellectual property) taxes your resources. You’ve got to seriously consider if it’s worth the tradeoff.

MrKrisB

The more I think about it, Macs are becoming nothing more than rehashed Apple designs or a typical pc manufacturer with a fancy DRM device allowing Apples to run OSX. What a sad state of affairs for our favorite fruit co. Next we’ll get new beige or black boxed MacPros or Intelimacs or whatever looking just like Dell’s dimensia line.

Redlance305

Apple is in it for the money! We’re in it for a stable and flexable OS. Near as I can tell both our needs are served.

Personally I’m happy with my Mirror Door G4, and two Mac Mini Servers. Cheap yes, core graphics, sadly no. And from what understand of the specs of the new Intel Mac Mini no core graphics there either.

Mac Mini entertainment center? Not yet give it a couple of years. New players need to be added to the team. Speakers that work with the Airport Express, good start! The mini now sports a 120gig hard drive. And Front Row that feeds video and audio. I would expect a build up in this product area way before the final unit appears. Don’t forget no one really thinks the current iPod Video is the TRUE iPod Video!

As for Dells, the best of the worst (PeeCee wise!). Every year less and less plastic, cheaper and cheaper parts. All for the bottom line!

MrKrisB

I’ve been a Mac user since the iMac G3 days. I’ve got an iMac G5 1.8 and I just ordered a 15″ PowerBook. To me, Apple was always something special – the counter culture of the computer industry. Now, Apple is becoming more like an expensive Dell – using intel chips and intel designed components. Perhaps I am old school; I prefer the term purist. I know Uncle Steve is making good on his commitment to transition to intel based macs by the end of the year, but please – they just aren’t the same.

I keep thinking there must be something BIG on the horizon for all these speed enhancements such as on the fly decompression of feature lenght films delivered through itunes. I don’t think I want to use my computer that way. Maybe I’m wrong.

So for me, the Powerbook is a way to hang on to the Apple I know and love. I know I won’t be able to use the powerbook forever, but it is a true powerbook. It is true Apple. May she rest in peace.

ChrisC

I’ve got to disagree that commodity hardware is a bad idea. I think Chris Herron, above, had the right idea in saying that Apple just doesn’t have the resources to completely re-engineer everything on the transition time line. I’ll go further, and say that by letting Intel do the majority of the hardware guts, Apple can focus more resources on great industrial design and software. Who cares if an entry level Mac Mini has crappy video performance? Even crappy video today is pretty darm good!

Lets also go a step further: were Apple users really better off with NuBus, internal SCSI and ADB? Limited options and high prices helped Apple users? With 5% of the market, it just wasn’t worth the development and support expense to deal with Apple, for most companies. Today, companies can develop to USB and get Apple for free. (That’s not 100% true, but close enough for my point.)

Let’s focus not on the commodity hardware but the truly differentiated user experience. That’s the real value and that’s where Apple should focus its energy.

Taffer

i’m still trying to figure out why these are $100 US more expensive than the previous Mac Mini, despite having the horrible integrated graphics; for more money, I kind of expect better EVERYTHING, given the way hardware prices fall…

Jay

Apparently, this was a previous quote from the Apple website about the original Mac mini:

“Get Your Game On

Go ahead, just try to play Halo on a budget PC. Most say they’re good for 2D games only. That’s because an “integrated Intel graphics” chip steals power from the CPU and siphons off memory from system-level RAM. You’d have to buy an extra card to get the graphics performance of Mac mini, and some cheaper PCs don’t even have an open slot to let you add one.”

Chris Herron

Have you considered the possibility that Apple is leaning on Intel-designed motherboards just to help them through the transition period? They can’t possibly afford the human engineering resources to completely redesign the entire product line in the timeframe they’ve committed to. Still, it won’t make sense for them to return to designing their own motherboards completly from scratch. IMHO the biggest value in Apple’s products is the top-to-bottom integration. Combine that with the possibility that quality might improve due to the broader exposure of the underlying Intel platform – and perhaps we’ll be better off.

alcopop

Yes. The major benefit they seem to have opted for is price/performance. Putting the Core Duo in a machine of this kind will be pretty unique.

I have to agree with you though, Gareth. Where’s the magic?

Dan Simpson

I could not agree more. I switched to a mac cold-turkey about a year ago after my PC died suddenly. (I still keep the carcas under my desk to ward off evil spirits!) I bought an iMac G5 after seeing one on the inside at a local Apple Dealer. It was an absolute work of art. I wish it came in clear instead of white.

When I first saw some disassembly photos of the second generation iMac G5 (with iSight) the first word that popped into my head was “commoditisation”. They took a beautiful case and stuffed the cheapest crap they could get away with inside and then sealed it up so we could not see it.

Kokopelli

I will be the voice of differing opinion here. Perhaps the move to commodoty hardware will prove to be a bad choice, perhaps not. If that commodity hardware is reliable and performs acceptably, then it is not a concern to me. We will see benchmarks over the next couple of weeks and then have a better idea.

The Mac Mini was never intended to be a gaming machine. Let’s keep this in mind throughout all of this. It is not a 3d gaming monster or a graphics workstation. That is not the target market nor is it in the price tag. It is meant to be a relatively low cost entry point into the world of Apple. If the new mini performs well wihin that scope then that is all that matters to me. Second this chipset is very well suited for HDTV in that it natively supports the correct resolutions and has internal MPEG decoders. It remains to be seen whether the mini has the horsepower to decode HDTV, but if it does then I would consider the new mini to be a grossly underestimated computer at this stage, not a mistake.

Second for pure CPU based operations the upper end mini is a powerhouse for the price. This makes it well suited for alternative uses such as ripping video or as a server with the use of an external HD array.

Is Apple going to commodity hardware? It seems so. I never considered the hardware, outside of reliability, to be the main selling point though. The Operating System (OS X) and supporting apps are what sold the Mac for me, not the sleek aluminum exterior.

Josh Pigford

Solid article Gareth…and I totally agree. Each step Apple takes seems to be in the wrong direction. I hope that maybe we just can’t see the big picture here.

Comments are closed.