This week, Apple updated its Mac mini desktop, and even the "low end" ($599!) model features the latest in Intel dual-core processor technology for snappy processing. It also measures 7.7" x 7.7" x 1.4", weighs 2.7 lbs., and includes an HDMI port for connecting to your TV with a single cable. The one, probably-necessary update they didn't give this 'lil computer? A reason to exist. Seriously, off the top of your head, tell us what this computer is for! Because Apple doesn't seem too concerned about making that clear.
I'm guessing you couldn't come up with anything, either. Well, here's a list of three things we think this computer was created to be, and why it actually falls short in every case.
A Desktop Replacement
With such a fast CPU, one might assume that the mini is mighty enough to tackle all but the most intensive tasks. And you're probably right — for now. The problem is, software will begin to bloat it. A Premier update here, an OS X update there and before you know it, your computer is starting to chug along. When you have a desktop, how do you handle this situation? You crack open the case and replace all or some of the following: CPU, RAM, video card, or hard drive. When you want to upgrade your Mac mini, you can conveniently crack open the case and ... replace just the RAM. If that wasn't your problem, well, then you're out of luck.
As an added bonus, this "desktop replacement" has dropped the optical drive completely. It uses a work-around that enables you to wirelessly sync your Mac mini to the DVD drive of another computer. So ... wait. What? In order to fully use this computer, you have to have another computer? Hilarious!
A Convenient Portable Computer
With the promo material proudly boasting its 2.7-lb. weight, you might think that Apple is positioning the mini as something portable. Maybe you're thinking this means you can throw it into your bag and head out the door, ready for at-a-moment's-notice computing.
But to us, it means having to lug around a useless tiny box until we can find a screen, keyboard, and mouse to connect it to. We say that portability is already covered sufficiently by a laptop, thanyouverymuch! OK, OK, a laptop is heavier, but being able to fire it up in a coffee shop outweighs the ... well, the weight. Want to use your less-than-three-pound "portable" desktop in Starbucks? You're going to have carry your way-more-than-three-pound LCD with you, too.
Oh, and since the cheapest mini is almost $600, we're pretty sure you can easily find a laptop for that price. Or, you know, 80 of them.
A Media Center
Apple's claim that it can "connect ... to your HDTV with a single HDMI cable" might lead you to believe that it's the best option for a home theater PC. Well, I do hate to keep banging the Price Drum, but it's a rather expensive way to get movies onto your television when there are $99 options available — including the highest-end Roku, and even Apple's own AppleTV!
Maybe what it comes down to is that even Apple doesn't seem to know who should be using this thing. By highlighting the features as they do, maybe they're hoping you'll be convinced it can successfully do everything. But when you think about it, it looks more like a jack of all trades, trying too hard to appeal to too many groups, without doing any one thing particularly well.
But I'm sure Apple could spin this to say that, since it can't be pigeon-holed, they've succeeded in creating a new category of computing!