January 27, 2005 4:00 AM PST

Will Mac Mini spur petite-PC revolution?

Apple Computer isn't the only company with big hopes for small computers.

Rival PC makers are hoping Apple's newly minted Mac Mini, which went on sale last Saturday, helps shift consumer tastes to smaller desktops at a time when most people associate "little" with laptops.

"I love the product. I think it's beautiful," said Tom Anderson, vice president of marketing for the Consumer PC Global Business Unit at Hewlett-Packard. "If it started a trend of small (desktops)...I'd be very happy about that. It would be a reason for someone to consider a desktop."

News.context

What's new:
Windows PC makers are closely following consumer interest in Apple's Mac Mini and hoping to piggyback on the product's success if sales soar.

Bottom line:
So far, big-name PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard have had little success with small desktops. Could the newly unveiled Mac Mini change all that?

More stories on desktop sales

Big-name PC makers such as HP have so far had little success with small desktops, but the tiny Apple could well create enough buzz to spark new interest among consumers, some executives said.

Most buyers tend to purchase PCs based more on price and quality of technical support than on design, analysts said. Yet executives such as HP's Anderson see a market for unobtrusive desktops that consumers would purchase as second or third computers and use in settings such as kitchens, where large desktops are impractical. Such PCs would have to be small and able to blend in, considerations that would likely prove more important than the number of CD drives the desktops could incorporate.

Anderson and others said they believe miniature desktops will eventually take off in the United States and Europe, as they have in Asia.

Though mini PCs have primarily caught on at business call centers and among enthusiasts who build their own machines, buyers have opened their wallets for small desktops from companies such as Shuttle and Little PC. Touchdown Industries even appeals to sports fans with a tiny machine that fits inside a football helmet. Meanwhile, some consumers have reported interest in using the Mac Mini for home entertainment, while others envision it providing Internet access in living rooms and kitchens.

CNET News.com reader Doran Else said he wants to purchase a Mac Mini to eliminate the need for regular Windows updates. If the first Mini serves him well, he said, he'd like to add a second one so he can access the Internet in his kitchen.

But minis will face a formidable challenge in the thriving portable market.

Although the trend isn't expected to last forever, growth in unit sales of notebook PCs at retail has outpaced that of desktops for some time. During the 2004 holiday season alone, retail sales of notebooks in the United States leaped 26 percent, preliminary data from The NPD Group shows. Moreover, unit sales growth in the $1,000 notebook category corresponded with slower sales in the $600 to $1,000 desktop PC category, said Steve Baker, an analyst with NPD.

"People who are adding to their home inventory (of PCs) are going to want something different," Baker said. "Most people don't have two great big TVs. They've usually got one big one and the kids might have one and maybe there's a 13-inch in the kitchen. People try to fit the value to the task that product is going to perform. I think more and more you'll see PCs have that effect."

The diminutive Mac arrives at a time when most Windows-based desktop machines offer the same basic elements, including at least two 5.25-inch bays for CD or DVD drives, a floppy drive, a series of front-mounted ports for headphones and other peripherals, as well as a memory card reader. Currently, designing a desktop has more to do with choosing parts to hit a specific price than creating a thing of beauty.

But a movement to miniature desktops would elevate the importance

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42 comments

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RE: Will Mac Mini spur petite-PC revolution?
Of course, it would seem this article ignores the entire reason why Apple is doing this: to entice more Windows users to try a Mac.

Now, will this spur the growth of the micro-PC segment? Who knows. I happen to have built a Shuttle XPC running Mandrake 10.1/WinXP Pro SP2 because I needed compactness (and wanted some tasteful asthetics) more than I needed a large case and expandability.

Perhaps this article *should* have asked the question: "Will Mac Mini spur users to try a non-Microsoft OS?"
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Whats the Big Deal on Small Computers?
These small form PCs have been out for many years. Anyone who has worked with embedded PCs knows this. Typically, they were for applications that run some RTOS and do not require intensive CPU power. In the last few years, we have seen applications that require more CPU power and enhanced connectivity. Our firm has been using P4 machines from www.littlepc.com, for a couple of years so these small computers are not new. We securely bolt them into our Kiosk designs. May not look as pretty as a MAC but they stand-up to 24/7 use in a public space
Posted by lookoutmama (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Little PC model wins hands down with functionality and features
Although that Little PC model isn't the most aesthetically pleasing, its functionality and features look the best.

If you look on their website - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.littlepc.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.littlepc.com/</a> - they have all kind of different models with different features like PCMCIA, compact flash, multiple lan ports, fanless, wireless and they even have one model where you can stick in a mini pci card. All with pretty decent cpus powering them.

They are more industry specific though their website states they serve industrial, commercial, scientific, government and military clients around the world.
Posted by (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mac Mini PC, a replacement unlikely
When you purchase a PC, you want something that you can add stuff into. Let say a TV tuner card, extra network card if you want to multihome your tower and maybe make it into a firewall on your network.

Also, desktops are mostly upgradable unless you purchase a proprietary system on the market.

This Mac Mini PC (As a certified computer and network technician) in my view is a joke.

Where is the processing power? Can this until be upgraded. What about using it in the server market?

I don't think MacIntosh has really put much thought into this item. It is more of a novelty item.

Maybe MacIntosh should try to make a move more and more to the cross-platform of operating systems and design a computer that will accept it.

Their systems are meant for stability, unlike the PC market and their clones. I think that they should try to make advancements elsewhere.
Posted by talgambit (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's not the size of the mini, it's the experience.
The point is being missed. The Mac mini is not just some nice
looking little computer. It is a vehicle that allows the millions of
people that are fed up with viruses and spyware to escape.
Affordably. To allow the many curious PC users who use and
love iTunes and/or have seen a glimpse of OS X in the Apple
stores a chance to experience OS X first hand. AFFORDABLY.

The INCLUDED iPhoto, iMovie, Garagebaand and iDVD (as well as
iTunes and secure, annoyance-free email and web browsing) is
worth the price alone.

When the Mac mini "takes off", small Windows PC sales will not
be affected. The size will not be the reason for it's success. It's
the experience of it provides for the cost.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
No more updates!
&gt; NET News.com reader Doran Else said he wants to
&gt; purchase a Mac Mini to eliminate the need for
&gt; regular Windows updates. If the first Mini
&gt; serves him well, he said, he'd like to add a
&gt; second one so he can access the Internet in his
&gt; kitchen.

Every time I turn on my boss' Mac, it has new updates from Apple. I guess Doran Else is going to be really disappointed, unless he/she specifically hates Windows updates, but doesn't mind updates in general.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mini PC not new news
Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) when they first got into the PC business they had developed versions of PCs where the CPU-box looked like abook you could put it on the shelf and you could connect several together with a backbone connector similar to docking stations today.

Mini PCs is a great idea as the "average" person does not want add more components if build-in components are enough for a decent system.

Where Apple excells is in product design, user friendliness and packaging. Win-PC manufacturers still don't get it ... they create things that fits THEIR revenue needs, or engineering interesting projects not necessarily what peoples want and/or need. Case in point, look at all the build in software that Apple has included in the mac mini.
Posted by RdRunner (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
thats right, all the others are just behind...
..the mini-pc will catch on more with people in this country. the Mini-itx has been a popular format overseas. Consumers here tend to get oversold. Furthermore, size matters (bigger the better). Hopefully that attitude is changing cause I love those small PC's!
Posted by lewissalem (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
6 MILLION IMACS+ ... Macs Easier to Expand
While you might dismiss 6+ million iMacs sold, that's not bad for any line - including personal computers.

Macs have been easier to exand in the past 5 years with Firewire and to a lesser extent, USB. First, 95% of average users never even crack open the case to exapdn anything. They just buy a new machine every 3 years.

On the PC side, it functions better when you add things in internally while on the Mac side, external devices are easy to add. PC users don;t realize this so they think Macs are not "expandable," when it's so much easier to plug in a firewire cable, format and be ready to go while on the Pc side, you have to open the case, remove a bunch of stuff, clean up the blood from the jagged design, then install, pray, screen dead, download drivers, an OS upgrade and something weird like MS Excel stops working ...

Mac - plug in, format and you're off &#38; running.
Posted by jbelkin (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
towers are not desktops
Dell does not make a desktop, the 4700c is a slim tower. I use an HP dc5000sff (small form factor) at work with the monitor on top of it. I just bought an HP dc5100sff. My wife uses a Compaq Presario that sits on the desk with the monitor on top. Try that with a tower. The USB2.0 gives all the flexibility that most people need. That is why the iMac sells.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Mac Mini in the living room
Someone has posted pictures of their Mac Mini Living Room Set Up @ <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.hometheatermac.com/viewtopic.php?t=62" target="_newWindow">http://www.hometheatermac.com/viewtopic.php?t=62</a>

Look at how small the Mac Mini is compared to his DVD Player, the Cable Box, etc.
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well, maybe...
Is this the start of something big? Well, small footprint computers have been here for some time, but now its Apple's turn to make an economy computer that anyone can just get up &#38; buy. If trojan horses, virii, &#38; spyware are the problem, then definitely, this is a good solution. Although not as big &#38; robust as a PowerPC G5 running @ 2.5 Ghz., it can do most of the jobs the bigger Macs can do...within limits. Don't try create the next Pixar blockbuster on it, though! There isn't enough RAM. But if you're looking for an alternative to windows, then Mac Mini is an excellent place to start.
Posted by Jon N. (182 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Certified PC Technician
Your claim as tech says it all. You are invested in the Wintel
platform to a degree that disallows acceptance of Macs.

The Mac Mini is NOT for technicians who want to tear them open
and upgrade them. It's for home users who want to plug it in
and surf the internet, make wedding invitations, send email and
play Civilization.

It may surprise you (though it shouldn't) that probably 90% of
the people in the world who buy computers NEVER open them
up to upgrade. And for those people - who are tired of their
Wintel machines being bogged down with virii and spyware, the
Mac Mini could be a compelling alternative.
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I switched! Awesome!
got a Mac Mini in standard configuration (the high-end version). Works great, and I use Remote Desktop to access my Windows box. No more delays- the machine performs very smooth and is very impressive overall. And it costs almost nothing compared to my other computers...

Stop arguing and give it a try. That is if you can get a Mac mini- supply is very short apparently...
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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