January 27, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Will Mac Mini spur petite-PC revolution?
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of design as a factor in a model's success or failure, compelling PC makers to rely on elements other than price to make their machines stand out amid rival miniature PCs and inexpensive notebooks.
Large manufacturers have already been studying the role of the small desktop. HP, for example, has been considering taking another shot at offering a small desktop, Anderson said.
"We've made no commitments to do it again, but we're looking at it," Anderson said.
Dell already offers a small desktop for consumers. The company's Dimension 4700C, which came out last fall, is significantly smaller than Dell's standard Dimension 4700 mini tower. The 4700C offers the same basic components, including a Pentium 4 processor and a CD burner or DVD burner. It costs about $85 to $100 more than the full-size Dimension 4700, which starts at about $749 before rebates and special offers, without a monitor.
Although Dell will continue to offer different PCs in different sizes, the company said small machines come with a catch. Most customers are still looking for something big.
"We've been making small PCs and offering them for quite some time," said Joe Curley, director of product marketing for Dell's Dimension PC line. But "the vast majority of customers--consumers and small and medium businesses--are choosing to buy PCs the way they perceive a PC to be." That, he said, is "a desktop or mini tower that has a couple of industry-standard 5.25-inch bays."
"What we found was, at least at that time (before HP bought Compaq), that people were still concerned about expandability," Anderson said. "It's been an important feature of the PC for the last 20 years, but as the PC has gone mainstream, it's been something that people liked but that they haven't used."
Indeed, people seem to expect their new desktop to offer them the features they want for the lowest possible price. They also expect it to be upgradeable, even if they never actually upgrade. With price and upgradeability at issue, PC makers will have their work cut out for them when launching miniature PCs.
Though the three PC makers would likely take slightly different approaches to future small PCs, they would probably agree on
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