I’ve got to say, today’s big product announcements from Apple are something of a let-down.
Great Big Hype… Itty-Bitty Desk Space
The big news is obviously the Intel Mac Mini. It’s better in some respects – a faster processor never hurts, and the new version of Front Row, with the ability to stream video from other Macs on the network, seems to adequately equip the Mini to reside in the living room, as the last outpost of your so-called iLife.
Of course, the dream starts to fall apart pretty quickly; Apple’s remote is proprietary and undocumented, so you’re not going to be controlling your Mini with a universal remote. It’s also not open to developers (not that that will stop anybody), which means we’re unlikely to see the fine folks at El Gato joining the party any time soon.
I’m also concerned with the video output quality; for folks with HDMI or DVI connectors on their HDTVs life may be sweet, but those of us still living in S-Video land have to use an adaptor, which historically results in a picture that looks almost but not quite entirely like crap.
Intel Killed the Radio Star
Aside from the jump from a PPC to an Intel Core chip, the new Minis also made another Intel jump – they drop the ATI chip that had provided video to the previous generation, and move to one of Intel’s integrated graphics chips. I’m up in the air about this one; on the one hand, the modern Intel graphics chips don’t really deserve their terrible reputations – they can scroll text as prettily as anything else you’d find. And obviously Apple’s gotten Core Image and Core Video to work with them (we know this from the developer test machines, which ran an Intel integrated video chip as well).
The real problem is gaming, and this is where I’m torn. It’s unlikely you’ll have a good time playing WoW on the new Minis, but on the other hand most people who buy a Mini have no interest in WoW. Most folks who want to game on their Mac are students, who tend to hit the iBooks (or MacBooks, as they’ll doubtless be called) and iMacs, or random geeks like myself who will gravitate towards the MacBook Pros and whatever replaces the Power Mac line. And those are all great machines for gaming. The target audience for the Mini – at least as far as I can tell – are the folks who’ll spend most of their time in Mail, Safari, iPhoto, and iTunes.
The real problem is probably one of expectation; the fact that the new generation can’t do (or won’t do as well) something the previous generation did adequately will rankle some, and the traditional Mac-user-bitching-echo-chamber will ensure that everyone hears about it. It’s one of those situations where either choice was wrong, and I guess I can’t fault Apple for staying on-message.
iPod, uPod, wePod… No, from now on only iPod
The other big news – where by ‘big’ I mean ‘small’ and by ‘news’ I mean ‘grab for cash’ – is Apple’s foray into the purportedly billion-dollar iPod-accessory industry. On the one hand, it’s only fair that they grab a slice of the pie that they baked. On the other hand, these new products aren’t really much to write home about.
The iPod Hi-Fi has got to be the most God-awful ugly product Apple has ever produced. And remember, kids, I used to have an Apple Portrait Display! They can talk all they want about how great the sound quality is, but that’s not going to sell to most folks – I can’t hear a web page, and most stores are too noisy to even hear the salesperson (thank God). And the true audiophile set – the kind who prefer vinyl because it’s ‘warmer’ and like vaccuum-tube speakers because they’re ‘costlier’ – aren’t going to be caught dead with an iPod. They have far too much ego invested in believing they’re better than we compressed-music-listening plebeian cretins.
A leather case for my iPod? Wow, neat!
A hundred bucks? Hey, look, iPod socks!