Wasn’t it great to see Apple roll out a huge number and variety of new Macs and accessories on Tuesday without the benefit of Steve Jobs? The company’s culture and talent run deep, and Apple is in very capable hands with Tim Cook in charge. The new line-up is quite nice.
On the other hand, Tuesday’s announcements summed up and put the spotlight on the single-greatest opportunity that Apple isn’t capitalizing on right now: making the Mac mini the must-have living room computer of the century. WIth just a few small tweaks, the Mac mini would become the killer digital entertainment product the AppleTV aspires to be. No BluRay. No HDMI. Under-sized hard drive. No plans to offer monthly subscriptions for access to the video library. If the company took care of this stuff, hardware makers and content providers alike would be quaking in their boots at the thought of the Mac mini. But Apple left it out yesterday. Again.
To see why the company can’t see an opportunity that’s right in front of its face, click through.
What’s most bizarre about it is that Apple won’t even allow the product to be envisioned as a living room computer. In every promo shot they show for the mini, it’s paired with a cutting-edge 24’ Cinema Display. Apple thinks that the Mac mini is a tiny desktop computer that will be used exactly like an iMac or Mac Pro, just a lot smaller. Here’s the thing. Despite what Apple has been trying to convince us of late, small is not a useful feature unto itself. It’s only useful when you take that breakthrough design and show how a smaller profile allows for more innovative uses. The Mac mini doesn’t belong on a desk, it belongs in my entertainment center, serving up YouTube, iTunes content, Hulu, disc-based movies, music, and TV shows! Heck, it’s also perfect for use in the kitchen as a media serve. It even looks more like a piece of consumer electronics than any other Mac that Apple makes.
But Apple doesn’t want to envision the Mac mini being used in new ways that aren’t possible with an iMac or a Mac Pro. They want it to be the cute Mac on your desk. And I’m sure it sells fine for them there. But if they wanted to create an entirely new market for the mini, they would rebrand it the Mac Cinema and use it to conquer the living room. A shame that won’t happen.
Too reiterate a position I’ve held for awhile, I pledge to buy a Mac mini for my living room if it met the following criteria:
A Mac mini with BluRay could become one of the best-selling BluRay players in the world, period. Matching gorgeous visuals and interactive elements to the powerful controls possible with the iPhone Remote app? I’d buy it.
Huge Hard Drive
Really, Apple? The Mac mini tops out at 320 gigs? The Time Capsule, which is significantly thinner than a mini, can hold a terabyte. Throw in the kind of storage that allows me to really make this a killer media server.
The greatest thing the Mac mini could do is replace several living room devices with one far more capable than all of them put together. With a gorgeous UI from Apple, adding DVR software would allow Cupertino to roll up my DVD player, TiVo, and still allow me to browse the net at enormous dimensions.
I’m not going to connect a Mac to my TV if I can’t hook up audio and video through one hi-def port. This one’s just basic; if Apple would bother to make a Mini Displayport to HDMI cable, that would even be a tolerable solution. I just don’t want to backtrack to separate cables for audio and video.