$199 Mac Nano (Atom-based cut-down Mini)

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
There was rumour from "reliable source" floating around that Apple would be using dual-core Atom processors in the new Mini. I could not reconcile this with their existing product Map, where the Mini has always been a headless MacBook and the current '5 USB' images and reports (same spec/chipset as the 2GHz aluminium MacBook) seemed much more credible.



However a new product line, a 'Mac Nano', being more of a headless netBook but with a dual core Atom (as power consumption is less of an issue) makes a huge amount of sense. It should be possible to sell one for less than the price of an iPod Touch, perhaps just $199 (no keyboard, mouse or display).



1. With the dual cores and Nvidia GPU it should have a performance running Snow Leopard at least twice as good as current netBooks.



2. On top of iTunes, Apple are certain to introduce an app store for Mac soon so there is a major revenue incentive to expand the user-base.



3. Such a low-price and low-spec machine would with complement Apple's current product range, i.e. have little effect on its range of relatively high-end models and yet deal with the growing threat of Hackintoshes.



4. With the iPod and iPhone Apple has demonstrated that it is happy to do mass-market and now has the infrastructure in place World-Wide much more so than ever before.



5. The major growth area for Apple with huge so-far untapped potential is emerging economies World Wide and these need lower-cost machines.



6. The release of Windows 7 may close the current window of opportunity to make an impression on the mass market left by people's reluctance to move to Vista.



7. The timing is also right from the point of view of the recession - consumers cutting back and seeking cheaper products.



8. Further green points to accumulate: very small, recyclable, minimum packaging, very low power, etc



9. Perhaps billed as the 'World's smallest desktop computer'. It could be made little bigger than the MacBook Air's external DVD drive, if Apple choose to keep an optical drive that is.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    Interesting, but unlikely. There's just no profit margin for Apple to work with there, at least with the Mini there's something to work with. And this Atom Mini will fight with the AppleTV.



    Unless this Atom Mini is actually the next AppleTV.
  • Reply 2 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post


    Unless this Atom Mini is actually the next AppleTV.



    It is. Right now, the AppleTV uses a ULV Pentium M processor and a discrete Geforce GO 7300 GPU. Switching the AppleTV to Nvidia's ION platform would cut costs, simplify the internal design, reduce heat, and let it play 1080p video to boot. There's no downside to that move.
  • Reply 3 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FuturePastNow View Post


    It is. Right now, the AppleTV uses a ULV Pentium M processor and a discrete Geforce GO 7300 GPU. Switching the AppleTV to Nvidia's ION platform would cut costs, simplify the internal design, reduce heat, and let it play 1080p video to boot. There's no downside to that move.



    Would the Atom CPU and ION platform be cheaper to manufacture because the current AppleTV's parts are essentially obsolete parts? And the discrete GeForce GPU is more expensive than ION platform? Curious...



    Because I am wondering if Apple does not want to update the AppleTV because in some cases it has large margins by using older parts, for example, Mac Mini.
  • Reply 4 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post


    Would the Atom CPU and ION platform be cheaper to manufacture because the current AppleTV's parts are essentially obsolete parts? And the discrete GeForce GPU is more expensive than ION platform? Curious...



    Because I am wondering if Apple does not want to update the AppleTV because in some cases it has large margins by using older parts, for example, Mac Mini.



    Obsolete parts are cheaper up to a point, eventually they are no longer manufactured and are simply impossible to get.



    Right now the AppleTV has an Intel processor, an Intel northbridge, and Intel southbridge, and an Nvidia GPU. So, yes, the discrete GPU is more expensive than Ion because it has at least two more chips and a much more complex motherboard design (such complexity isn't just a design problem, it makes the PCB more expensive to produce).
  • Reply 5 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by timmillea View Post


    There was rumour from "reliable source" floating around that Apple would be using dual-core Atom processors in the new Mini. I could not reconcile this with their existing product Map, where the Mini has always been a headless MacBook and the current '5 USB' images and reports (same spec/chipset as the 2GHz aluminium MacBook) seemed much more credible.



    However a new product line, a 'Mac Nano', being more of a headless netBook but with a dual core Atom (as power consumption is less of an issue) makes a huge amount of sense. It should be possible to sell one for less than the price of an iPod Touch, perhaps just $199 (no keyboard, mouse or display).



    In addition to price, one of the key selling points for netbooks is that they are even easier to carry around than standard laptops. A "headless Mac nano" pretty much kills that whole idea, doesn't it?
  • Reply 6 of 31
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,720member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Hudson1 View Post


    In addition to price, one of the key selling points for netbooks is that they are even easier to carry around than standard laptops. A "headless mini" pretty much kills that whole idea, doesn't it?



    Headless Nano I think it would be. In any event there are lots of applications for very small computers, especially low power ones.



    To give you an idea of what is coming Marvel is promoting a platform that puts a 1.2GHz computer into a wall wart. This device is using one of Marvels SoC ARM derived products and they already have a few manufactures on board. Now this is a more limited device than we are talking about here, but then again examples are expected to sell for less than $100.



    In the case of Mac Nano there is obviously more involved to jack the price up incuding RAM and graphics. Still it highlights that it is very much possible to put a reasonable capable computer into a wall wart sized device. Frankly this isn't much more that what Apple does already with some of it's networking products.



    Now will Apple go to that extreme with Nano. Honestly I doubt it for this go around, instead we would get a small box maybe 1/8 th the size of Mac Mini. Who would want such a thing you may ask. It is a good question and I see some uses in the home especially for serving up media from a file server. Commercially there is an almost unlimited number of Applications for an extremely small network savvy computer. Everything from security systems to POS systems and a bunch of other server type uses. What industry is looking for here is small hardware that is a stable platform to build around. While consummers may tire of the same old box year after year some businesses thrive on a predictable platform.



    Dave
  • Reply 7 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


    Headless Nano I think it would be.



    Yes, a headless Mac nano is what I meant. Thanks for catching that and I've edited my post to make the change.
  • Reply 8 of 31
    Steve Jobs said it himself when he said that they don't know how to make a product under 500 dollars that wasn't crap. They don't ship crap and that's what the Atom processor is.
  • Reply 9 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by UTisNUM1 View Post


    Steve Jobs said it himself when he said that they don't know how to make a product under 500 dollars that wasn't crap. They don't ship crap and that's what the Atom processor is.



    You could fill a book with the stuff that Jobs' said and then later flipped on. A $500 computer isn't crap because it's $500.



    I remember when a $1000 delivered a crap computer. Component costs come down and integration boosts reliability and performance. Though I agree the Atom isn't the right processor for the mini. Who wants a mini that brand new cannot run iLife 09 well?



    The AppleTV needs to stop moonlighting as a computer platform. If it's a CE device it needs lower power processing which to me means ARM and PowerVR class product.



    I really don't want CE devices that get hot enough to be uncomfortable.
  • Reply 10 of 31
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,720member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by UTisNUM1 View Post


    Steve Jobs said it himself when he said that they don't know how to make a product under 500 dollars that wasn't crap. They don't ship crap and that's what the Atom processor is.



    Jobs job is to say and do the things that keep the faithful in the fold until they can get a competitive product out the door. Besides this won't be a Mini class computer at all, it is very much a different product for a different market.



    The other thing to note is that at the time Steveo said that they really didn't have the hardware options to realize a sub $500 computer. Technology advances and Apple will need to remain competitive.





    Dave
  • Reply 11 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by UTisNUM1 View Post


    Steve Jobs said it himself when he said that they don't know how to make a product under 500 dollars that wasn't crap. They don't ship crap and that's what the Atom processor is.



    The Atom is weaker than comparable ARMs as far as MIPS/Watt, but there is still some value to it. Given that Apple is working with PA Semi (they bought it) to develop better ARM SoCs, it's not out of the question to think that Apple may just skip the Atom all together for their own chip. This could be used, through several variants, in devices like the Apple TV, iPhone, iPod, Airport, etc. A multicore ARM chip should have no trouble exposing the fact that the Atom is a weak product.
  • Reply 12 of 31
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,227member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Splinemodel View Post


    The Atom is weaker than comparable ARMs as far as MIPS/Watt, but there is still some value to it. Given that Apple is working with PA Semi (they bought it) to develop better ARM SoCs, it's not out of the question to think that Apple may just skip the Atom all together for their own chip. This could be used, through several variants, in devices like the Apple TV, iPhone, iPod, Airport, etc. A multicore ARM chip should have no trouble exposing the fact that the Atom is a weak product.



    I'd certainly love to see an Apple TV based on an ARM Cortex MP processor and VXD decode chips from Imagination.



    I'm not sure there is any sort of profit potential from taking a Mini down to $200. I do think that 499 for a Mac mini would be a good deal as a network computer (no optical drive) staying with dual core cpu and the same small form factor size.



    It's clear that Apple doesn't care a lick about optical technology so save me the funds and ship a Mac mini without it.
  • Reply 13 of 31
    amorphamorph Posts: 7,112member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by UTisNUM1 View Post


    Steve Jobs said it himself when he said that they don't know how to make a product under 500 dollars that wasn't crap.



    At the time he said it it was possibly true--and he was talking specifically about Macs, which assume a certain level of features and performance. But that was a few years ago and the landscape has changed. Now, for one thing, Apple has computers that aren't Macs (iPod touch, the iPhone, and AppleTV) clustered at the low end of the price scale. I think the mini will more or less keep pace with its Mac brethren (whenever they get around to updating it, that is) because it's a Mac, and that carries with it assumptions about, say, running iLife and iWork and generally being a fully-featured member of the family. But the other devices are much simpler and do not have the Mac legacy of heavy lifting. The only one of them that isn't currently running on an embedded platform is AppleTV and it could easily and profitably move there.



    Since Atom is pretty weak I'd expect a move to some ARM vendor, possibly including Apple itself.
  • Reply 14 of 31
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,720member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Amorph View Post


    ............



    Since Atom is pretty weak I'd expect a move to some ARM vendor, possibly including Apple itself.



    The big thing that Atom has going for it is that in some versions it is 64 bit capable. Along with it's i86 instruction set it makes it a shoe in for the Nano. That given that Intel allows for real GPUs to be attached. The other possibilities revolve around the pressure Intel is under to deliver thinner and cooler Core 2 processors. They may very well end up being compelled to move Core 2 to their advanced processes to meet demand for high performance at very low power usage. Atom could end up being a temporary stop to allow a Nano like device today.



    In a nut shell I don't think Apple wants to give up i86 compatibility in any thing it slaps the Mac label on. That doesn't mean that Intel is the only choice either as both AMD and Via offer hardware that could wedge into a Nano. Well Via does, AMDs solution is shrouded right now.



    This also highlights the problem they have with tablets. Call it a Mac tablet and it will need I86, call it a Touch device and the wide world of ARM opens up. Right now the selection of I86 devices suitable for tablet devices is to small so what Apple comes out with will likely be a member of the iPod family.



    Dave
  • Reply 15 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Amorph View Post


    At the time he said it it was possibly true--and he was talking specifically about Macs, which assume a certain level of features and performance. But that was a few years ago and the landscape has changed. Now, for one thing, Apple has computers that aren't Macs (iPod touch, the iPhone, and AppleTV) clustered at the low end of the price scale. I think the mini will more or less keep pace with its Mac brethren (whenever they get around to updating it, that is) because it's a Mac, and that carries with it assumptions about, say, running iLife and iWork and generally being a fully-featured member of the family. But the other devices are much simpler and do not have the Mac legacy of heavy lifting. The only one of them that isn't currently running on an embedded platform is AppleTV and it could easily and profitably move there.



    Since Atom is pretty weak I'd expect a move to some ARM vendor, possibly including Apple itself.



    He said that last year.
  • Reply 16 of 31
    I don't want to see an apple netbook, or any other machine powered by the Atom processor other than an upgrade to Apple TV.



    The atom processor is just wrong for what Apple people expect from their computers.



    I don't even want to see an Apple netbook. What apple should do is a larger iPod touch. If all you want to do, and that is the function of a netbook, is get e-mail, and surf the web a larger ipod touch will fill the bill. It would give longer battery life because the components are lower power, portability because it can do all it needs to do wirelessly without a phone company to give you outrageous charges.



    One about the size of a mass market paperback book and a second about the size of a trade paperback book. Also, license or reprint books as e-books for purchase from the iTunes store.
  • Reply 17 of 31
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,720member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by REM#1 View Post


    I don't want to see an apple netbook, or any other machine powered by the Atom processor other than an upgrade to Apple TV.



    The atom processor is just wrong for what Apple people expect from their computers.



    By definition don't people looking to buy a netbook have different expectations than the mainstream user?

    Quote:



    I don't even want to see an Apple netbook. What apple should do is a larger iPod touch. If all you want to do, and that is the function of a netbook, is get e-mail, and surf the web a larger ipod touch will fill the bill.



    I'm all for an iPod Touch and all but have to admit there is demand for a netbook device. It isn't about what you or I want but about what Apple can sell to the masses.



    So while I've sat in these forums for months advocating Touch based tablets of various sizes they are only likely to come if Apple sees a big demand for them. My wants and desires mean about as much as yours when it comes to new products from Apple.

    Quote:

    It would give longer battery life because the components are lower power, portability because it can do all it needs to do wirelessly without a phone company to give you outrageous charges.



    How are you going to do anything wirelessly without some sort of service provider? Especially for a device that you keep with you as you travel.

    Quote:



    One about the size of a mass market paperback book and a second about the size of a trade paperback book. Also, license or reprint books as e-books for purchase from the iTunes store.



    Exactly! Apple needs a whole family of these devices to serve the needs of multiple users much like the wide variety of cell phones on the market. At least one device needs to be able to go into a pocket with some effort. Ideally every one of these new devices would have a common port for the wireless carrier modem of your choice. Or no modem if you intend to stick to WiFi. I see communications flexibility as a key design feature here. On a side note we may be to the point where different modems may not be needed if a software defined radio can be implemented.



    In any event I'm hopeful that Apple will see the potential here. As you indicate there is a lot of interest in smaller portable tablets.





    Dave
  • Reply 18 of 31
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,227member
    Apple didn't spend $300 million dollars for PA Semi to make better time capsule chips folks.



    Dobberpuhl and staff are experts in non X86 chips like PPC and ARM. It makes zero sense to use Atom when ARM is still the reigning champ for low end power usage.



    Couple that with OS X already running on ARM (iPod Touch/iPhone) and I don't really understand why people think that Apple has to kowtow to Intel.



    Yes 100 % of current PC vendors will start bellowing about ARM and X86 compatibility but they've all hitched their ride to Intel a long time ago.



    I still haven't seen Intel actually outdo ARM designs for power/watt. I've not heard one positive statement from Apple regarding Atom so my thoughts are they aren't really fans and there's no guarantee that they'll deliver a "me too" Atom product.



    What I sense is Intel's marketing affecting not only vendors but the perception that there are actually other capable vendors from which Apple could choose.



    No one predicted that Apple would move to Nividia motherboards. Apple isn't afraid to let Intel know they didn't seal the deal. That's good for us all because Intel knows they have to compete for Apple's business.
  • Reply 19 of 31
    The major problem with a net book is that it takes sales away from the rest of the mac portable line and returns little or no profit. Look at what has happened to Dell & HP. both have sold many netbooks but the profit the companies have made is greatly decreased. The same is true of Microsoft as they can't charge the same for a netbook as for more expensive machines.



    The large iPod doesn't have this problem as it is an appliance not a computer.
  • Reply 20 of 31
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,720member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    Apple didn't spend $300 million dollars for PA Semi to make better time capsule chips folks.



    Well let's face it it does not appear that any PA related hardware has hit the shelfs yet. So we really don't know why PA was purchased or what it was working on. The fact that they stated in a court document, related to the Papermaster issue, that PA was part of a different division than the iPod one brings into question what they are tasked with. They could very well be working on chipsets for the desktops.

    Quote:



    Dobberpuhl and staff are experts in non X86 chips like PPC and ARM. It makes zero sense to use Atom when ARM is still the reigning champ for low end power usage.



    That depends on the device. Like it or not but Apple would have to be insane to call a device a Mac and not have it be i86 compatible. Apple can make all the low power ARM based devices they want they just can't call them Macs or even strive for compatibility. It just creates to much confusion especially when they already have a successful alternative to the Mac platform.

    Quote:



    Couple that with OS X already running on ARM (iPod Touch/iPhone) and I don't really understand why people think that Apple has to kowtow to Intel.



    No one has said such a thing!!! What has been said is that if the device is called a Mac it will need I86 compatibility. That doesn't mean an intel CPU either as there are alternatives.



    Besides that what runs on the iPhone is the kernel from OS/X. The device otherwise uses an entirely different set of application APIs. It is not the same thing but rather a very close relative.

    Quote:



    Yes 100 % of current PC vendors will start bellowing about ARM and X86 compatibility but they've all hitched their ride to Intel a long time ago.



    It really has nothing to do with intel right now. It is more of an issue of how you would successfully market the devices. Fat binaries aren't the answer either and with SL it is obvious that Apple wants to move far away from that sort of support issue. I find it hard to believe that Apple will do anything to make Mac OS support more difficult in the future. Keeping the ARM OS separate from the intel one allows for a separate evolution of both.

    Quote:

    I still haven't seen Intel actually outdo ARM designs for power/watt. I've not heard one positive statement from Apple regarding Atom so my thoughts are they aren't really fans and there's no guarantee that they'll deliver a "me too" Atom product.



    I have no idea what Apple is up to. What I've expressed interest in for a long time is a tablet that is an evolution of the current Touch iPod. Of course this would be ARM based but it would not attempt to run the Mac OS.



    As to Atom based products yeah I can see Apple doing hardware there too. Theses would be Mac OS based machines and not likely tablets. It is very much an issue of focus, highly portable consummer devices get ARM, more professional devices get Atom and are significantly bigger. Also key here is that the Atom devices will be 64 bit platforms.

    Quote:

    What I sense is Intel's marketing affecting not only vendors but the perception that there are actually other capable vendors from which Apple could choose.



    Why of course that is what marketing is all about. That is making your customers believe that your product is the only reasonable choice.



    Unfortunately for intel their product sucks at the smallest device scale. Plus ARM and its partners have a huge advantage with very high integration devices. With the latest hardware intel is still TEN times worst in power usage and that is before you start looking at custom ARM SoCs. All that being said doesn't trump the need for Mac OS labeled devices to be i86 only.

    Quote:



    No one predicted that Apple would move to Nividia motherboards. Apple isn't afraid to let Intel know they didn't seal the deal. That's good for us all because Intel knows they have to compete for Apple's business.



    Yes and frankly intel is fighting a bit dirty here with their approach to ION. That sort of competition is good but it just isn't an issue with i86 support chips, intel is likely competeing with VIA and AMD for slots for low power i86 chips.
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