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The New Mac Mini — the Next Apple TV?

Apple (s aapl) has updated the Mac Mini, beefing up the processor to a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (s intc), allowing for up to 8 GB of self-installed memory thanks to a removable panel and providing a graphical boost with Nvidia’s GeForce 320M (s nvda) chipset. A single cord connection for audio and video output to a monitor or HDTV set has also been added, and the small desktop computer is now housed in a larger aluminum case.

Aside from the new look, the updated video capabilities stand out as rumors have swirled around the Mini becoming the new Apple TV of the future. Recent talk indicated that the company might leverage the rebadged iOS4 platform for an Apple TV device, which would add tens of thousands of software apps to the living room. But with the new hardware, notably Nvidia’s graphics solution and the new HDMI port, the Mac Mini could easily function like an Apple TV through the use of iTunes and Front Row — two pieces of software that provide simple playback controls when paired with a wireless Apple remote.

[related-posts align=”right” tag=”apple”]The price tag has also changed — at $699, it’s $100 more expensive than the previous version. And as far as set-top boxes go, that’s expensive. But one that also functions as a full computer may appeal. Plus the quieter, lower-powered Boxee box has been delayed until at least November and Google (s goog) is just getting started with Google TV, so Apple’s timing is fortuitous. While Boxee grapples with getting Adobe Flash 10.1 (s adbe) to work atop the ARM-based (s arm) Nvidia Tegra 2 application processor, the x86-powered Mac Mini faces no such challenges. And Google TV won’t be available until the fall at the earliest, at which point we should begin to see television makers integrate it within HDTV sets. So the question is: Do you want a limited-function Apple TV or a high-powered desktop in your living room that can play easily play rich media now, or to wait for Boxee or Google TV?

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23 Responses to “The New Mac Mini — the Next Apple TV?”

  1. I just got my new mac mini 2.4 core 2 duo with 2 gigs of ram and 320 gig hdd. Before the mac mini i used my 2009 model macbook pro connected via mini display port to my hdtv. It worked well but tied up my computer and was a hassel to have to connect and dis connect it from my hdtv all the time. I have my mac mini connected via the hdmi cable and have my drobo with 2tb of media and the mac media all hard wired to my airport extreme. I use an app called plex(way better than front row) this allows me to access all the media from the drobo easily from my couch. Everything is hard wired because wireless tends to make the video buffer every so often. The mac mini drobo and hdtv all hard wired together works verry well and has great full 1080p hd. I was looking into the new smaller black apple tv, but when i found out it i would be stuck using the apple tv interface and be limited to only video formats they decided to support it turned me off. with the mac mini you can play any video file and customize the media experience to your desire. I do highly recommend plex. it takes some learning to use plex but is really worth the effort. In the end it is also just a great everyday computer.

  2. Provide the user with a bluetooth trackpad that has a gyroscope and it opens the Mini up to the library of gaming software that is being developed for the iphone and ipad. Apple seems to be doing quit well with Trojan horse products.

  3. Josh Gordon

    I fail to understand this. Don’t you expect businesses to apply a biz model to new offering? Did the twilio original services didn’t pan out to their expectations (to afford a new venture .. sort of)? Also, as a long term solution, why would someone want to run a biz solution based off Twilio (incredibly higher pricing) platform? And even if someone does, there is no research to suggest that this category is growing. To add to the mix, there is Google Voice that is (sort of) free at the moment and you can expect them to open up APIs eventually. Where does that leave Twilio? I suspect that the buzz will create some early customers who’d fade out in no time (lack of market requirements coupled with twilio pricing including the developer’s commission would do the trick). Given that it might have taken a couple of developers for 6+ months working on this project, it will be interesting to see the break-even.

    Well, I would have said the same thing for Twitter.. so there you go.

    By the way, OM! there are other ready made offerings for virtual numbers i.e. tossabledigits,, privatephone, and i have heard jangl is trying to relaunch. Funny as it may sound, none of the voice app companies have really made it all the way, including the early success of Jajah that created real big buzz in 2005/6.

  4. My guess is that something’s coming up with Apple TV. Google knows this and has prepared Google TV in anticipation. I think the Mac mini is for a user who needs more flexibility and is ready to install software, to make this device a home server and all the rest. Apple TV is more about watching content. Period. If Apple manages to put iOS 4 in it, then you can add apps and games. But I really think Apple will throw another offensive in the living room very soon with something else than the mini.

  5. andrew

    The AppleTV is actually hard to find in the apple store online. It’s located under the “For iPod” section on the left column. This is clearly not a product Apple is pushing heavily at this point and i suspect current owners are going to find themselves left out in the cold if Apple ever decides to take this to the next level. I do think Apple will eventually get there with AppleTV but I personally believe that we are getting closer to them making a broadband connected OEM TV.

    As for the new MacMini, is seems that Apple is making the right move here in terms of giving end customers what they have been asking for years. It would have been nice to get the core i5 processor in there but i guess they could squeeze it in there for the same reason as the 13″ MBP. @699, it’s not the best deal on the block, but it is still a pretty feature packed device that solves a lot of issues out there for some of the under powered media boxes (e.g., hulu).


  6. Mark S.

    I do like the features Plex offers and it is quite nice in terms of design. Apple should take note of what Plex has done. However, Plex does not support DRM material and, as my spouse works in the legal field, I’m not about to risk her career because I’m too cheap to buy digital content.

    FrontRow needs a major update. It needs to better mimic the AppleTV menu structure. As someone else stated, there seems to be a great deal of fragmentation between Apple’s media players (iTunes, FrontRow, AppleTV, iOS). Apple, in this sense, is not being very Apple-like.

  7. Mark S.

    I had an Apple TV and though I liked it’s UI I found the lack of direct backup-drive connectivity limiting and impractical (file transfers and maintenance does not make for easy or casual entertainment.) I now have a Mac Mini connected to my TV and love it. iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, etc. are all available plus I have almost limitless backup storage options.

    Even at $699 it’s a deal compared to how much you spend per year on cable/satellite to serve you the exact same content. Even with buying a few shows on iTunes (like stuff from HBO and AMC) I’m still saving money. Why pay for internet AND tv when it all comes in on the same cord anyway?

  8. Kevin, Apple should have married the TV + Mini couple of years back, but they didn’t. Google TV thing put them under pressure. I tend to agree with you that this might be preparation work for the “Real Deal”. I can imagine Steve on stage explaining how ridiculously simple and elegant the new iTv will be. Google for all its brainy engineers needs to know a thing or two about simplifying the UI. Marrying the iOS4 is not a bad idea too.

  9. S.J. Yokel

    Somethings up with apple and TV. The lack of a included remote in the new Mini and neglect of front row seem to hint at Take 3 coming up soon. I imagine some form of integration with iOS is near. Patently Apple has some information regarding this. Steve Jobs contrarian comments at D8 also indicate he has done a lot of thinking about the “TV” problem.

  10. -charles

    This is simple – it’s too expensive! I have the last release of the mac mini hooked up to my tv and I’m not upgrading -At least not yet.

  11. Angry Zebra

    Boxee’s interface is a real turn off for me. I am still not understanding Google’s vision for TV. Honestly, I don’t want to mix web video and my own media and I may be a minority on that, but I really want my media experience to be sans-commercials and skips or overly compressed video. I use Plex and XBMC though as I don’t care for Frontrow or iTunes. I want my audio and video options integrated with access to metadata and Frontrow just doesn’t offer that. Plex also has some plugins that allow that web video experience. I’ve viewed Hulu and some other content on it which I doubt AppleTV will ever allow.

    I already use my previous gen Mini as an HTPC, but this version looks better with the HDMI, easily upgradeable memory, and presumably better graphics performance. OTOH, moving to an all aluminum enclosure makes me think wireless throughput will diminish and I have had to have the optical drive replaced on 4 of my last 5 macs.

    I will admit that some of the nettops with low power consumption and better discrete graphic options is also attractive. They’re much cheaper and offer better options for those who really want to tailor their viewing experience with features like Blu playback and DVR functionality.

    I’m beginning to think AppleTV will become a software tool. It could better focus on A/V compared to the rarely updated Frontrow and iTunes (which is becoming fragmented from an interface perspective).

  12. Graham Anderson

    Apple Remote dropped – looking at the tech specs of the new Mini, there is no IR sensor for the Apple Remote. Looking at the specs of the MacBook Pro and the iMac, similarly there is no mention of an IR sensor to work with Apple Remote. So they’ve just launched a fantastic media server product and dropped a key feature – bizarre! So I guess you’d have to use third party apps like a Keyspan remote, Air Mouse on the iPhone (great product when it works, which is not always…) or a bluetooth keyboard+mouse. Sucky.