What would it take for Apple to turn the Mac mini into a Mac mini Pro?
I'm going to say something that I thought I'd never say.
Here we go... PCs have evolved to the point where they are now better and cooler than Macs.
There, I've said it. I feel better.
Must read: Apple products you should not buy (August 2018 edition)
Around this time last year I wrote something that has stuck with me:
Remember when buying a Mac meant that you got cutting-edge technology? Nowadays you're overpaying for old, stale ideas wrapped in "thin and light" aluminum shells.
Over the past 12 months I've looked on -- sometimes aghast -- at how Apple has let the Mac lineup rot while PC OEMs, led by Microsoft and the Surface line, has matured, broadened, and come to the point where there's a device at pretty much whatever price point buyers are looking at.
Think I'm kidding when I say that the Mac lineup is stale and outdated? I'm not.
Out of the current Mac line up, the only models I'd even consider buying are from the MacBook Pro and iMac Pro line. The rest haven't seen a refresh in over a year (nearly four years when it comes to the Mac mini), and yet Apple is still asking top dollar for what is functionally outdated technology.
Microsoft's Surface Book 2
And while there's little doubt that the new 2018 MacBook Pro is a beast of a system, it's also eye-wateringly expensive, and suffered teething troubles right out of the gate (issues which Apple promptly fixed, but still, shipping a laptop that can cost up to $6,700 with glaring performance bugs doesn't inspire confidence in a product).
So unless you're buying a 2018 MacBook Pro, which has a starting price tag $1,799 for the 13-inch version, Apple has nothing to offer that isn't over a year old and comfortably beaten on both tech specs and price by a Windows offering from one of the big OEMs.
And the problem seems to be spreading. Even the iPad Pro, Apple's high-end tablet aimed at professionals, is now over a year old and in need of a refresh. And this weakness is giving tablet OEMs an opening to start undermining the iPad.
Also: Surface Go, First Look: Small, light, and the best cheap PC ever
Asking upwards of $650 for tech that's over a year old literally makes me shake my head in dismay and wonder why no one at Apple seems to care.
Apple's focus is now almost entirely on yearly updates to the iPhone, and in many ways, this makes sense given that this single product is the company's biggest and most prolific cash cow. But this is narrowing Apple's focus and allowing it to lose valuable ground that's taken the company years to fight for and win.
And that's the problem -- Apple can let the Mac line go stale because Apple isn't a computer company anymore. It's now a company that sells the iPhone. That's great for Apple, but isn't really great news for people who use Macs and need Apple to refresh its lineup in a timely fashion. In fact, if you're waiting for a MacBook Air or Mac mini update, you should give up because my belief is that both of those are likely headed for the chop (and even if they are not, are you willing to wait years for the next refresh?).
Also: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2018) review: Quad-core CPU and all-day battery life
But while Apple's billions aren't tied to the success or failure of the Mac, the desktops and portables are still part of the ecosystem, and having devices that support the iPhone and iPad is still important because it keeps people in the ecosystem. If there are no new Macs, people will start to look elsewhere, and that weakens Apple's grip on users.
And with Mac sales falling through the floor at the moment, it's likely that Apple will invest less time and resources into keeping them updated.
But if Apple has dropped the ball, and can't keep the Mac offering updated, it seems that Microsoft, along with its army of OEMs, is ready to fill the void.
And grab new customers.
Apple products you should not buy (August 2018 edition)