The Mac Mini seemed like it had a bright future ahead of itself when Steve Jobs first introduced it at MacWorld 2005. It was introduced as the perfect switcher’s machine, since it was “bare bones”, cheap, and allowed for connection to third party displays, keyboards, and mice. When Steve introduced the new machine, it was available for only $499 and it received a lot of positive press. But the popularity of the low-budget machine has been declining ever since it’s launch. Some analysts and bloggers even predicted Apple was to drop the Mac Mini models from its product line yesterday at the August 7 special event. Steve didn’t make a mention of it in his Keynote, but it survived and even quiet speed-bump to all of its models. But in my opinion, I don’t see how much longer the Mac Mini can continue to survive with Apple’s current strategy.
BYOKMD doesn’t work for low-budget consumers
The Mac Mini hasn’t been a great success in large part because of Apple’s flawed Mac Mini strategy. Yesterday, Steve discussed Apple’s philosophy on consumer products, he said,”It’s an All-in-One World”. But the Mac Mini is the farthest thing from an all-in-one machine. Most low-budgeted consumers don’t already have a display and/or peripherals. So, when checking out the Mac Mini, they don’t understand the Mac Mini’s lack of a display, mouse, or keyboard; and they ultimately look to alternatives because of this. The Mac Mini doesn’t offer everything out of the box, and that turns off many low-budget consumers.
Additionally, customers realize that the price of a Mac Mini with a display, mouse, and keyboard would be around the same price as a MacBook or an iMac.
AppleTV is replacing the Mac Mini as the affordable media center solution
Initially, many Mac Mini users were using their Mac Mini as a home media center. And now, Apple’s cutting into it’s own marketshare, since the AppleTV has replaced the Mac Mini as the preferred Apple media center for half the price. This effect will only snowball as the AppleTV gains more functionality and popularity.
$599 > $499
When the Mac Mini was unveiled, Apple was getting a lot of positive feedback for finally offering a budget-driven Macintosh for only $499. But Apple quietly increased that price $100 for each model on the February 28th special event in 2006 and has yet to lower the models back to their original prices, while other PC manufacturers have continued to lower their prices. That extra $100 makes a big difference for a lot of people, especially when the consumer has to buy a separate mouse, keyboard, and display in order to use the computer.
A proven failure
Right now, the Mac Mini seems to be going through the “Cube effect”. Two Apple-related products, the NeXT Cube and the PowerMac G4 Cube, were both discontinued due to their high price-points and lack of necessary peripherals. Those two products also didn’t survive because consumers prefer functionality over design. And unfortunately, it looks as if the Mac Mini is already on the way to suffering the same fate if Apple doesn’t do anything about it.
How Apple can save the Mac Mini
The Mac Mini’s price-point aren’t targeted toward a big consumer audience. It’s awkwardly priced too high for low-end consumers, and it doesn’t offer some of the features high-end consumers want that can’t afford a Mac Pro and already have a display. Apple could either go two directions with the Mac Mini, lower its value and cater to the really low-end consumer; or bump up its graphics and processing capabilities and cater to a higher-level consumer audience that already have a display. Either way, the Mac Mini would finally be saved from its unfortunate fate and finally have a respectable place in Apple’s product line.