$800 Mac Mini? I'm all set, Apple

$800 Mac Mini? I'm all set, Apple

Summary: Apple updated it's line of desktops today, continuing to focus on high-performance, high-efficiency professional machines. Unfortunately, the only model that even gave me pause was their newly lower-priced 20" iMac ($1199), which might have a place in a multimedia lab.

SHARE:

Apple updated it's line of desktops today, continuing to focus on high-performance, high-efficiency professional machines. Unfortunately, the only model that even gave me pause was their newly lower-priced 20" iMac ($1199), which might have a place in a multimedia lab.

Unfortunately, even the new Mac Mini, although sporting a new graphics chip, is base-priced at $599 for a configuration with a mere gig of RAM and no monitor. Jumping up to their upgraded "entry-level" desktop sets you back $799 without a monitor.

Obviously, I could leverage academic discounts and probably take $100 off these prices, but once again, Apple has gone further off my educational radar. For that matter, they're a long ways off my home purchase radar. I wish iLife didn't work so easily and well; the software suite is the only compelling reason to shell out this sort of money, especially in a home setting.

However, even iLife has its drawbacks in an educational setting. It simply hands so much to the students that they struggle with software (whether Windows, Linux, or even pro-level software on the Mac) that isn't so brilliantly plug and play. Yes, iLife rocks in many ways, but the level of spoonfeeding it encourages actually makes me think twice about using it widely, especially at the high school level.

So now Apple is offering a range of desktops from $599 to $3299 (low-end Mini to high-end Mac Pro) and not a single one of them makes sense here in Ed Tech land (with the possible exceptions of a pro studio or lab in a university or possibly a high-end lab in a high school setting). I keep hoping that Apple will come through with a truly entry-level desktop or a server product that supports thin clients (like an uber-cheap Mini that automatically configures itself when it's on a network with a terminal-serving X-Serve). I'm afraid it just isn't going to happen.

Topics: CXO, Apple, Hardware, Software, IT Employment

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

57 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Business strategy

    Apple's business strategy is completely different from other computer
    makers. As opposed to the Dell's and Lenovo's of the world they
    refuse to sell commodity products. What does that means? It means
    that they have found a niche in market who see value and is willing to
    pay more for the particular different experience a Mac user has
    compared to a PC user.

    This also means that there is a (majority) of the market who, like you,
    do not see the value, and are not willing to pay more for the Mac
    experience.

    The business results speaks for themselves: Dell has revenues of
    $61b, a resulting profit margin of 4.80% and market cap of $16b (a
    quarter of its revenue). Apple has revenues of $32b, a resulting profit
    margin of 14.8% and market cap of $79b (2 and a half times
    revenues).

    So if you where an investor, or if you could influence where your 401k
    money goes, you had your own company, which do you think is the
    smarter business strategy?
    per@...
    • RE: Business Strategy

      Well Per... While I agree that overall, Apple's business strategy is good for the investor and perhaps the employees of the company, the argument you present simply confirms the myopic view of the world which Apple fanboys seem to share.

      Based on your argument, as a consumer, I should be happy to support a higher profit margin for Apple than other companies because Apple gives me an "experience" which is lacking in other options.

      Based on that logic, I suppose I should pay an additional $1.10 per gallon for gas at the Exxon station because I enjoy the experience,and believe Exxon sells a "superior" product, rather than buying the same fuel at Speedway for sigificantly less.

      You want to support Apple and their profit margins? Go right ahead. Frankly, I think they are playing their fanboys as willing fools. Go ahead, pay too much. Enjoy the "experience" of your hard earned money leaving your wallet. Once you get done playing on your Mac, you can turn on your PC and get some real work done.



      SDWolf
      • False premise

        Computers are more than the sum of their parts. Not all computer
        parts are made equal (lots are sorted into grades depending on how
        well they passed QA), etc.

        So your analogy is completely flawed. The true analogy is, would I buy
        premium gas from Exxon where I got full customer service, or
        premium gasoline from speedway from dingy pumps where I had to
        do all the work myself, for ESSENTIALLY THE SAME PRICE, or would I
        decide that regular unleaded is good enough for me.

        Apple targets the premium market. Just like Dell and HP and Sony. The
        only difference is, Apple doesn't have a bargain basement market like
        Dell and HP and Sony.

        So, for some bizarre reason, people like you come on these sites and
        declare that buying an alienware machine is cool even though Dell also
        sells a computer for $2000 less, but buying a Mac is foolish because
        Dell sells an inferior machine for $200 less.

        Well, actually, the reason is not bizarre. The reason is simple. You're
        desperate to prove to yourself that you didn't make a foolish decision
        in buying a cheap piece of PC junk.
        frgough
        • lol at this one, i mean honestly...

          Honestly, there's no reason for an actual response here. Its just plain hilarious.

          But just to humor this guy:

          First, not a single real enthusiast I've found anywhere here or any other forum has ever declared Alienware to be anything but a spectacular waste of money. We in fact, encourage people to build their own systems, at a fraction of DELLS price, nevermind Apple or Alienware. This is enthusiasts were're talking. If you don't want to actually build your own machine, you're probably not using it regularly enough to care about top performance for the dollar and Dell is the best choice out there.

          Customer service? THats REALLY made me laugh. Anyone here knows that actually calling an IT support line is an endevour in futility. A quick forum post on a tech website or a google search yields better answers faster then anything Apple support can ever hope to provide. Dell too for that matter. Alienware is the only one I would actually trust for customer support, but not at the price it costs.

          Apples machines are in fact a waste of money for a brand. A better analogy would be shopping for clothes at Kmart vs the GAP. Sure you'll search al ittle longer, but you'll find comfortable, utilitarian clothes at a fair price at K-Mart that will serve you as well as the clothes from the GAP. You shop at GAP, you are essentially paying for Brand regonition because for some reason or another you think that people actually care. That's what you are doing with Apple. The company has successfully created an illusion that is products are somehow superior. Illusion is all it is though because of a simple axiom:
          "Technology in the hands of a neanderthol is a pile of metal."
          In other words, its NEVER the machine, its the user. Some people like to be spoon fed, even if it severly limits your options. I can understand that and if thats your choice, go for it. The rest of us on the other hand prefer to have some control over our system, software, hardware, upgrade options, costs, and total lifetime of a machine (since you can upgrade a PC in parts rather then replacing the whole thing).

          And don't get me wrong either. I'm not cheap. I gladly dropped $2500 on a build. Except my build, 5 years later, is still capable of handling any intensive application I throw at it, be it MODERN video gaming, design, encoding, or database work. You can't find me a 5 year old apple that is capable of the same. For the same money, I got 1.5x the performance, plus I will be able to perform tiered upgrades - so later this year when I rip out the mobo, CPU, and RAM and replace them with new parts, its going to cost me *GASP* $700. I'll have a machine that is again more powerful then your $2500 MAC, AND I've got spare parts to build my parents a replacement for their computer which will do everything they want it to for ANOTHER 4 years.

          Point is, you loose. Theres no good reason to buy a Mac. There are however 3 bad reasons.
          1. You care about brand image. Lol at this one.
          2. You care about IT tech support and overall ease of use. Probably the best of the 3, however really, you are just being lazy - PCs are far easier to use SECURELY then pundits would have you believe - and once they are set up and secure they are even more efficient then the fluff happy OSX interface.
          3. You've got money to burn. Goes along with the first one. Well congrads if that is the case. But again, for that same money you got to burn, you could be getting 1.5x the performance. This fact makes reason number 3 the worst one of all.

          "The views expressed here are mine and do not reflect the official opinion of my employer or the organization through which the Internet was accessed."
          gnesterenko
          • Holy horse crap batman!

            Whoa, that one smells bad. And look at all those loose threads just waiting
            to be picked apart!

            [i]"If you don't want to actually build your own machine, you're probably not
            using it regularly enough to care about top performance for the dollar and
            Dell is the best choice out there."[/i]

            Or you'd rather spend your time working rather than figuring out what
            components to buy, and then piecing it all together. There are plenty of
            power users out there like myself who couldn't care less about building
            something exact. It's got a decent processor, enough RAM for me to have
            20+ apps running at once, decent graphics for moderate gaming and
            enough HD space for all my media, and all this will last me 3+ years. That's
            all I need to know.

            [i]"Customer service? THats REALLY made me laugh. Anyone here knows that
            actually calling an IT support line is an endevour in futility."[/i]

            Have you ever phoned Apple's support line? It's far from an endeavour in
            futility. You usually get through pretty fast and they'll solve the problem
            fairly quickly. And on top of that you can take your Mac into any Apple Store
            to get free tech support as well.

            [i]"Some people like to be spoon fed, even if it severly limits your options."[/i]

            What you call spoon feeding, most people call "getting out the way so i can
            do some work". You sound a lot like the OP, software should be hard and
            complicated because it's character building. No, the real reason is that you
            want software to be hard and complicated because it makes you feel better
            that you can do it while others can't and so you can get a job in IT support
            showing people how to do it. The sheer amount of jobs that are created due
            to poorly designed software is staggering.

            [i]"Except my build, 5 years later, is still capable of handling any intensive
            application I throw at it, be it MODERN video gaming, design, encoding, or
            database work."[/i]

            Most of the mid-high end Macs in a range will last 5 years for most people.
            About the only thing that a 5 year old machine may not be able to do is
            some graphics stuff, but that's simply due to the massive improvements to
            the capabilities of graphics cards over the past 5 years, there are things you
            can do today with a graphics card that you couldn't do with any graphics
            card 5 years ago.

            [i]"For the same money, I got 1.5x the performance, plus I will be able to
            perform tiered upgrades"[/i]

            That's very nice, and for the minority who like to perform upgrades bit by bit
            that's great. But many people like you like to laugh at the Mac for not letting
            you upgrade every component and you needing to basically buy a new
            machine every 3+ years. But the fact is that this is what the majority of
            computer users do. They don't care about the internals, they want a machine
            that will last them for x years and let them do tasks a, b and c, and in x+
            years they'll just go out and buy a whole new machine.

            [i]"Point is, you loose[sic]. Theres no good reason to buy a Mac."[/i]

            I could list many:

            - OS X
            - iLife
            - Quality of 3rd party apps (this is actually a few 1000 good reasons)
            - Support available
            - Design of hardware

            And for programmers like me:

            - OS X being the best development platform available
            - the Mac developer community being extremely friendly and helpful
            - the APIs and tools available

            [i]"and once they are set up and secure they are even more efficient then the
            fluff happy OSX interface."[/i]

            Well, efficient is relative. A well set up Windows machine may be pretty
            efficient, but it still has the Windows UI which isn't very efficient (note:
            efficiency can mean more than how fast a screen refreshes, but how fast a
            user can navigate a UI).

            [i]"3. You've got money to burn. Goes along with the first one. Well congrads
            if that is the case. But again, for that same money you got to burn, you could
            be getting 1.5x the performance. This fact makes reason number 3 the
            worst one of all."[/i]

            Yes, you can most definitely get a desktop tower with 1.5x the performance
            of an iMac, quite possibly for less. You couldn't get a PC AIO with more
            performance for less (in fact the iMac is the best value for money AIO
            computer out there). You can always get cheaper computers if you look in
            absolute terms, but if you look in the form factors and markets that Apple
            competes in you'll find they're quite competitive.
            Martin Pilkington
          • Holy horse crap batman!

            I agree with Martin. Unlike most in this discussion I use both Mac's and P.C.'s. I'm no Mac fanboy however unless I need to work with a particular application requiring Windows I much prefer my Mac. It has never broken down and it's performance is seamless. My frustration with P.C.'s has probably always been operating system related with constant "blue screens" interrupting my resource intensive work sessions. I hardly ever freeze my Mac showing me that the operating system is superior. This reliable performance is the most important plus in my mind.
            webzilla
      • The fact that you read this story...

        suggests that you have some dissatisfaction with your Windows "experiences".

        You can't compare choosing a commodity like buying gasoline to the difference between Apple technology and the PC World.

        Dell/Microsoft sucked up the last $1500 I spent on a new machine in 2007, and I've been paying for that mistake ever since with system stability and driver issues. I almost bought a Mac back then... but pity stayed my hand... a pitiful love of money and disregard for artistry.

        I bought an iPhone this year. It just works. It really does. The map integrates with the contact list with the Safari browser, etc. The phone functions better than anything I ever had with Verizon or Sprint. It's costing me $20-$30 more per month, but that is because I never trusted the previous carriers enough to pay for any premium data services (other than Verizon's Navigator, which is pretty good, but not fast enough in the city without 3G).

        Open your pod. See the wasteland that Microsoft has created for what it is.


        bbneo
    • Speaking of paying more...

      [i] It means that they have found a niche in market who see value and is willing to pay more for the particular different experience a Mac user has compared to a PC user.[/i]

      http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2009/03/macbook-air-users-reporting-repair-issues-with-broken-hinges.ars

      [i]Some MacBook Airs, regardless of warranty status, are being denied free repair because Apple is claiming the hinge problem is "accidental damage," which is not covered under the terms of Apple's normal or extended warranty coverage. Apple has, instead, been offering to instead fix the machine for a flat $800.[/i]




      MGP2
    • Beg to differ

      I see the value, we just can't afford it. This has long been a gripe, and apple's attitude has never changed. Recenty had a sit-down with our apple rep and some engineers - several efforts made to guilt-trip us along the lines of "think of the children", etc.

      When you're faced with chosing between cool tech and funding teaching positions, tech loses every time.

      While I understand their business model has been effective, and they have the most compelling user experience, we just can't afford it, and I know we're not alone.

      Windows is too maintenance-intensive, and much of our gear is too old to run win7, with no refresh in sight (CA Budget). Guess what's left.

      Linux

      (waiting for that Loverock idiot to chime in about compiling kernels now)
      piperdown
  • RE: $800 Mac Mini? I'm all set, Apple

    Third word: "its," not it's."
    Big difference, no?

    Please help folks at ZDNet:
    Registration Error: "at present" (or "now"), not "presently"
    (or "soon").

    Big difference, no?

    These are not matters of grammar or usage but matters of
    meaning.

    Meaning matters, no?
    PChicago
    • Nattering Peevishness.

      The meaning was the point of the post. The
      delivery, like all human endeavors, was not
      perfect.
      To you sir...I say duh...and have a good day.
      public@...
  • RE: $800 Mac Mini? I'm all set, Apple

    The Mini is overpriced by any reasonable measure. It makes
    the iMac look like discount bargain. At $600-$800, I won't
    take another look at it.
    PFFXV
    • Exactly, you can get plenty of PC performance for half that these days.

      Why buy an underpowered and over priced computer? Oh yea, that's all Apple sells...
      T1Oracle
      • Can you find a similarly priced pc thats as sexy and slim?

        Well can you? Its all about the sexy factor.








        ***note to all Apple Haters, this is in jest***
        ChrisOPeterson
        • Sexy? What is sexy to you?

          Myself? I like my women to be cheap dates,
          capable of being easily repaired after taking inadvertent abuse, easy to buy for at nearly
          any store, not so crazy jealous that they wont
          share their things with my other "friends", and substantially more substantial than your
          average teenage girl.
          God...I'm such a nerd...I just equated in a
          very true and valid way my preferences for PC's
          and curvy intelligent down to earth women. I
          should just kill myself immediately.
          public@...
          • Ha!

            Yes you did, but it is OK. Amidst all of the PC vs. Mac banter I read here, it is refreshing to see a humorous take. Good job.

            ?.and aint we all geeks here :-)
            djmik
          • GEEK? Are you calling me a geek?

            I specifically used the word "nerd" when
            writing of myself.. I think that "nerd" has
            all of the proper intellectual connotations
            without any of the circus based "I will eat
            anything for money" undertones of the obviously
            pejorative "geek".
            So watch yourself there buddy. In my backpack,
            nestled in a tubesock, is an old school 3 inch
            trackball ball ..and I have been known to apply
            it with vigor.



            public@...
          • What's that about...

            ...applying vinegar to your balls? (Damn! Where ARE my glasses?) :O
            MGP2
  • What exactly are you looking for?

    Christopher,

    It's bit odd that you would totally dismiss all of the new Mac models for educational use, in part because the software is so well written.

    If you are looking for a "thin client", then the $599 Mac Mini with 1 GB of memory is perfectly suited "as is". After all, with a thin client, most of the work is done server side.

    If you are looking for something with a bit of power and functionality, then either the Mac Mini or the iMac models should work great. I can attest to that. I bought the first Intel-based Mac Mini 3 years ago for beta testing Architectural Visualization software. I thought that I would eventually buy a Mac Pro for the power. But, three years later, that little Mac Mini is my workhorse computer. With only 2 GB of memory, it runs circles around a client's tricked out PC. And, with Parallels, I can still run Windows applications using Parallels (though Windows is still a resource hog, even when it runs on a Mac).

    So, what exactly are you looking for that can't be filled by one of these Mac Models??

    VIPv6
    VIPv6
    • $599 for a thin client with no monitor?

      Why would anyone pay $599 for a thin client with no monitor?
      hamobu-22333136139518773481685514128812