I was in a computer shop on Tottenham Court Road the other day, and i looked a Shuttle machine and thought "Apple make some lovely desktop machines, but i wish they made a funky little compact like that".
Enter the Mac Mini.
Apple heard my dreams, reached out its mighty arm, and laid the smack down. Step to Apple's designs and get burned.
I had some insightful comment about the Mac Mini, but i've spend so much time fiddling with the CSS here that i've forgotten what it was.
Oh, that's it: the mMac (as everyone will soon be calling it) is tiny, and it looks nice. Well yes, you might say; it's a modest machine, so it doesn't need to be big, and it's a Mac, so of course it looks nice. Duh, you might even say. But there's more to it than this; there was really no need for it to be that small, and it might not have been quite so reminiscent of the iPod. No, the point is that ceci n'est pas un ordinateur; yes, it has all the parts of a computer, and it is indeed a general-purpose computing device exactly equivalent to a computer, but the product is not a computing machine, pitched against low-end PCs. It's a fashion accessory. It doesn't extend the Mac range downward, it extends the iPod range upward. People who bought an iPod, and loved it, and loved being seen with it, will buy one - the $500 price tag puts it just inside the comfort zone for something approximating an impulse buy (for some people). They will put it on their coffee table and invite their friends over. They will put it on their desk at work and effortlessly outcool their coworkers. They will not buy it to replace; they will buy it to augment. Apple have understood Froggatt's Theorem, and are neatly sidestepping market forces. It's Sun Tzu. It's genius.
The other thing that strikes me is how like a console this thing is in terms of form factor (a small console; it's 1.38 litres and 1.32 kg, rather less than the XBox's 7.73 litres and 3.86 kg). Apple also makes a big deal about its ability to plug into a TV - provided you've got an S-video TV and an S-video lead lying about, that is (okay, so it does composite video too, and that's much more common, but still - a DVI-to-SCART cable would do wonders; shit, i'd buy one). Not to summon the shade of the Pippin, but is this not so much an attempt to convert iPod fans into Mac users, as the pundits are saying, as a play in the direction of the console/home media centre/lifestyle box space? After all, Microsoft are pushing in that direction with all that Media Center crap. Mind you, i could have said the same about the Cube. Man, the Cube was cool. WANT CUBE.
The funniest thing about the spread of Mac (which will happen Real Soon Now - don't bother me with facts when i'm envisioning) is that it's putting BSD UNIX (or something reasonably like it) in millions of homes. When, about thirty years ago in Berkeley, Bill Joy and Chuck Haley sat down (with an editor written by my old mate George Coulouris!) and started work on their Pascal system, i wonder if they had any idea ...
ObSlashdot: BSD is dying. Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!