January 18, 2005 5:35 AM PST

Putting the Mac Mini in your dashboard

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There are many companies that will help you connect an iPod to your car, but a small New York business wants to go one step further.

Sloatsburg, N.Y.-based Classic Restorations has laid out plans to install the Mac Mini in car dashboards.

Photo: Classic
Melvin Benzaquen
president, Classic

The company was already working on a way to install a Mac laptop when Apple Computer introduced the Mac Mini last week. Melvin Benzaquen, president of Classic Restorations, noticed that the dimensions of the diminutive desktop were just about perfect to fit into the space automakers allot for car stereos.

What exactly anyone would do with a Mac in the car is not totally clear, but Benzaquen said there are lots of possibilities, from logging in to one's home network to playing music or movies. Equip the car with Wi-Fi, and it might be able to get Internet access from the parking lot of a Starbucks or McDonald's, he said. GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation and voice-activated programs are other options.

"There are so many things you could do," Benzaquen said.

Although Apple designed the Mac Mini mainly to attract Windows users scared off by higher prices, Mac fans are already thinking up a variety of other uses.

Benzaquen said there is no standard pricing for the car installations because it really depends on the car and what customers want to do with their Macs. However, past installation of Windows-based computers have cost anywhere from $1,500 to $7,000.

"I'm not saying it is going to be the cheapest thing out there," he said, noting that basic GPS-only systems can cost anywhere from $1,100 to $1,300.

When it comes to car installation, the Mac Mini does have some advantages over other PCs, namely its self-cooling design. To kick-start things, Benzaquen said, his company has planned some tests.

It's not clear how big the market is for such a product, but Benzaquen said he has had plenty of interest. His Web site has gone from 1,500 hits a day to more than 36,000 hits in the first full day after announcing the Mac plans.

Benzaquen's main business is restoring classic cars. Technology is something he has moved into--initially by installing modern engines in classic cars. Slowly customers found they wanted more than just a new engine in their old cars, so he moved into computers.

"We actually kind of fell into it because of our customers," he said.

Other commercial ventures have also cropped up around the Mac Mini. Texas-based Underwriters Technologies on Monday announced a Web-hosting service that uses Mac Minis as part of a server farm for companies that can't afford their own Xserve servers.

"The Mac Mini has more than enough power to handle the Web needs of 80 percent of the businesses in the world," Underwriters Technologies President Jay Menna said in a statement.


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