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Umm. . .

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I don't wanna sound curmudgeounly, but I'm a bit underwhelmed by Apple's latest offerings. It looks like they looked at the competition and said "we can beat 'em at their own game", but fell pretty short. Apple machines have always come up short in an (no pun intended) apples-to-apples comparison with Windows machines, but it now looks like they're just cutting out stuff and hoping that nobody notices. While I rather expected the new "baby Mac" to have anemic hardware specs (256mb ram, 1.2 Ghz processor, no DVD burner), I figured I could at least count on receiving a keyboard and mouse.

I can hear the Dell and Gateway ad-writers working already. . .

[fade in]

If you spend $499 on a computer, you can get this (picture of a tiny computer)

Or you can get this (picture of computer, keyboard, monitor, mouse, and speakers)

[fade out]

Apple would've been smart to offer the thing "loaded" for a higher price. They've always carved out a decent niche by claiming that they're a finer machine and worth the premium price. If they aim at the cheap market, they'll be eaten alive.

. . .but I could be wrong.

Their new software offering is downright baffling. They came out with a new office suite called iWork to replace the old AppleWorks, but it doesn't come with the new Mac Mini. The Mac Mini still comes with AppleWorks. I understand that Apple probably needs some kind of cheap office suite to bundle with their machines. Every cheap machine you buy nowadays comes with WordPerfect Office or MS Works, so people just expect to get an office suite with their computer. AppleWorks has fit that bill for about 15 years now. It's pretty far from state-of-the-art, but so are WordPerfect Office and MS Works.

Bottom line is that if people want a simple office suite, they're gonna run the one that comes with the machine. If the want something better, they'll likely bypass iWork and get MS Office. iWork has an attractive price at $79, but it's just a word processor and PowerPoint knockoff. If it came with a spreadsheet, I might say it had a future. Until it does, though, it fits in the "I don't get it" box.

The new cheap iPod will probably do well. Apple's done a good job equating iPod and MP3 player. There are loads of flash-based MP3 players out there for $99, and most of 'em have better features than the Apple one (LCD screen, voice recorder, replacable battery), but the iPod name will make it a hit.

On another note, Macromedia's got an article on how to best use the new tweening classes that come with Flash MX 2004. It's interesting in that those classes were undocumented, so there was always the danger of them disappearing or changing in the next version. I guess since they're being "documented" on the site that they're somewhat "blessed" and won't be disappearing anytime soon.

So tween away!
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Actually my understanding is this machine is intended for people who already have a PC but were impressed with their iPod and want to try a Mac. With that in mind I'm suprised that it does not have (at least as an option) a KVM switch.

As for making a DVD burner as an option in the low-end machine does not suprise me. I don't think anybody offers a DVD burner standard on their lowest end machines. For example on a Dell 3000 it's a $110 option.

In any event it'll be interesting to see what sort of bundles places like MacMall come up for this box.

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