Informed players say Apple's Mac mini still kickin'

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
First on AI: With Apple's recent 'State of the Mac' omitting any mention of the Mac mini and reports surfacing over the current line's discontinuation, there's been some speculation that the diminutive desktop's days may (again) be numbered. That's unlikely the case, say insiders, who are sharing new details.



In a report published in May of 2007, AppleInsider wrote off the mini, noting that development of the systems had screeched to a halt inside Apple, with little engineering effort having gone into the systems since an update to Intel's Core 2 Duo architecture a year earlier.



The mini was essentially shelved, lingering in a state of indefinite limbo; its development team reportedly dissolved. With little effort, Apple bumped the mini's processor, memory, and hard drive specs in August of 2007. The systems haven't Â*seen a public update since.



Earlier this year, however -- and shortly after NVIDIA pitched its new integrated graphics chipsets to Apple -- AppleInsider reported a pulse in the Mac mini department. The tiny systems were reportedly coming out of their coma, with a dedicated team of engineers performing the first top-to-bottom reconstruction since the product's inception three year's earlier.



In a report published this week titled the "The State of the Mac mini," Las Vegas-based Macminicolo, the largest Mac mini colocation firm, reaches the same conclusions. The company, which operates a server farm of 400 Mac minis, notes that "it's just about as familiar with the Mac mini as anyone" and claims it "is certain there is another mini on the way."



The report both attempts to dispel some common misconceptions about the mini's sales volume, as well as outline a few features that are said to be "100% confirmed" for the impending update. Specifically, it notes that the mini sells to businesses over consumers at roughly a 2 to 1 ratio.



"For instance, here in Las Vegas, I know there are at least 10,000 Mac minis running in the different hotels and casinos on the strip," said Brian Stucki, who owns and operates the Mac mini colocation service. "Many are used for video security points. Certain casino companies use Mac minis in each of the slot islands on a casino floor to manage the backend. I know of one nationwide salon franchise that uses two Mac minis for each one of their stores."



He tells AppleInsider that small businesses comprise the majority of his clientele, primarily due to cost savings. Not only does a mini fetch about one fourth the cost of an Xserve, but hosting fees for the smaller systems are similarly a quarter of that of the Apple rack-mount servers.



The above photos show Macminicolo's server room with roughly 400 Mac minis in operation | Photo: macminicolo, AppleInsider.



"When I read online of people stating 'poor mini sales,' I'm surprised," Stucki wrote in theÂ*this week's report. "The Mac mini is consistently in the top five of Amazon's Bestselling Desktop Computers. (It's currently number one.) If you watch Apple's Refurb site, anytime some Mac minis are posted they sell out in under an hour. Even the three year old G4 Mac minis on ebay go for a price close to the brand new Intel machines sticker price. The market speaks even if Apple doesn't."



Looking ahead, he claims to have confirmed two of the following with "100%" certainty, while another is a highly probable guess based on recent changes to Apple's product lines:

The Mac mini will adopt the new Mini DisplayPort that was recently showcased on the Macbook line. This will save considerable port real estate on the back of the Mac mini.

The Mac mini will join all other Macs in being able to address 4GB of RAM. Currently, they are officially sold with up to 2GB of RAM, but can also support 3GB of RAM. (Though the latter configuration loses the minor dual channel benefits.)

Like the new Macbook, the Mac mini optical drive will be changed to a SATA connection. (It is currently a standard ATA/IDE cable.) This will increase performance. But even more, it will benefit those who use the Mac mini as a server. In ordering a Mac mini from Apple, there will be an option to have two SATA HDDs and eliminating the optical all together. With the new Remote Disc introduced with the Macbook Air, this option will be tempting for many.

Stucki says his customers commonly employ Mac minis as web, mail, video and file servers. They're also sometimes used to handle financial transaction or act as remote watchdogs for larger, more intricate servers. However, the advent of the App Store has reportedly sparked an alternative interest in the little desktops.



Some developers who intend to write applications that take advantage of the iPhone's planned push notification features are considering minis as a backend for their apps. Others, whose applications facilitate user logins like MobileChat, have recently chosen minis for rapid scalability.



In August, Apple began informing some small European resellers that they should no longer expect shipments of the current Mac mini models. More recently, however, the company issued a broader announcement to European resellers -- Â*first reported by Gizmodo and later corroborated by MacBidouille -- that the existing Mac mini was going EOL, or being discontinued.



Speculation is that Apple may be running low on its supply of the mini's nearly two year-old Core 2 Duos and may have started to trim back availability as a result.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 158
    phongphong Posts: 219member
    "The market speaks, even if Apple doesn't." Truer words were never spoken. I've been watching the Mini's on eBay and Apple refurbs and they're always difficult to get for a deal.



    Now, he didn't say which two statements were 100%? Way to leave us hanging!
  • Reply 2 of 158
    macroninmacronin Posts: 1,140member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Phong View Post


    Now, he didn't say which two statements were 100%? Way to leave us hanging!



    I would think the dual HDDs option would be the dubious one of the three...
  • Reply 3 of 158
    Is there any information about whether Apples plans to retain the Firewire port in the Mac mini? And will WiFi be upgraded to 802.11n?
  • Reply 4 of 158
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Hopefully the dual HD thing means they are rebranding it as a "home server" instead of a low cost desktop.



    They are great for this. Quiet as a mouse and able to boot up without monitor attached.
  • Reply 5 of 158
    hopefully it does evolve into something else. i'd hate to have the mini eliminated from apple's lineup.



    my boss has his mac mini connected to his 60 inch lcd tv and it's gorgeous. the mini is pefect for living room computing. mac mini should remain as the apple tv PRO
  • Reply 6 of 158
    ksecksec Posts: 1,551member
    Is it possible to get a thinner Mini without the Optical Drive?
  • Reply 7 of 158
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,471member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacRonin View Post


    I would think the dual HDDs option would be the dubious one of the three...



    I'm not so sure. Apple probably does have custom versions for businesses that they don't show on the their model lists. Most companies do this.
  • Reply 8 of 158
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,717member
    My 2¢, I'd rather keep FireWire and get 'n' wireless networking than have two hard drives...
  • Reply 9 of 158
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Like the new Macbook, the Mac mini optical drive will be changed to a SATA connection. (It is currently a standard ATA/IDE cable.) This will increase performance.



    I don't think so. The limiting factor on the drive is not the interface.
  • Reply 10 of 158
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ksec View Post


    Is it possible to get a thinner Mini without the Optical Drive?



    Yes, if you have an angle grinder.
  • Reply 11 of 158
    macroninmacronin Posts: 1,140member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    Hopefully the dual HD thing means they are rebranding it as a "home server" instead of a low cost desktop.



    They are great for this. Quiet as a mouse and able to boot up without monitor attached.



    I refrained from saying 'home server' since I have already spouted off about how Apple needs to combine the Mac mini, AppleTV & Time Capsule into a modern home server/media center tailored for handling mobile clients.



    Yeah, targeting mobile clients, since everyone will be using my hypothetical 10" convertible netbook/tablet...
  • Reply 12 of 158
    I want to buy a Mac mini, but I need FireWire. What do you recommend? Wait until the new one comes out, or just buy the current? I would hate to wait until January only to find out that Apple removed the FireWire, and that the older version has run out in stores. But faster graphics would be nice. Quite a dilemma.
  • Reply 13 of 158
    All interesting. Good to see a future for the MacMini (hopefully).



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The Mac mini will adopt the new Mini DisplayPort that was recently showcased on the Macbook line. This will save considerable port real estate on the back of the Mac mini.



    Okay so then the MacMini can do HDCP just like the AppleTV. I wonder whether these devices would move closer together with such a change.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Phong View Post


    Now, he didn't say which two statements were 100%? Way to leave us hanging!



    I'd say DisplayPort and more RAM would be a given. Offering a model without a DVD drive (and thus an extra case to be manufactured, and different mounts inside) is far less likely.



    Now... does DisplayPort mean the Mini would have an NVIDEA chip?



    The current AppleTV has an older chip with separate graphics chip. The current Mini has a C2D with integrated graphics. IF it has NVIDEA graphics it would again bring this more in line with the AppleTV.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by robert.allen.hi View Post


    Is there any information about whether Apples plans to retain the Firewire port in the Mac mini? And will WiFi be upgraded to 802.11n?



    Every other Apple computer has 802.11n, I'd bet on that for the Mini. Firewire's an interesting question if Mini's are being used as servers... then again perhaps they're using network storage via fast ethernet so Firewire wouldn't be missed much?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monkeyastronaut View Post


    my boss has his mac mini connected to his 60 inch lcd tv and it's gorgeous. the mini is pefect for living room computing. mac mini should remain as the apple tv PRO



    Makes sense to me.

    MacMini: similar to the MacBook... C2D, NVIDEA, DisplayPort, 4 USB, MagSafe power, DVD drive

    AppleTV: updated 'older' chip, NVIDEA, DisplayPort, 1 USB, MagSafe power, no DVD, little ram.



    I'd like to see Apple make the aTV much more 'flexible'... such that they encourage its expansion with other software. It would be much more popular if others expanded on it.



    .... But this is about the MacMini... :-)
  • Reply 14 of 158
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,471member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by John.B View Post


    My 2¢, I'd rather keep FireWire and get 'n' wireless networking than have two hard drives...



    You're not a company that needs headless servers that are also remotely updated, and upgraded. If you were, two HDDs, might be much more worthwhile than a FW port, and wireless anything.
  • Reply 15 of 158
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,471member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GregAlexander View Post


    Okay so then the MacMini can do HDCP just like the AppleTV. I wonder whether these devices would move closer together with such a change.



    Maybe. Displayport can support HDCP, but it doesn't have to. Here's hoping though.



    Quote:

    Offering a model without a DVD drive (and thus an extra case to be manufactured, and different mounts inside) is far less likely.



    They wouldn't really have to. An insert in the slot from the inside to close it up would be enough. These machines would be hidden away. Looks aren't that important. Or they could leave it open for better cooling of the dual drives.



    Quote:

    Now... does DisplayPort mean the Mini would have an NVIDEA chip?



    The 9400, or 9300, would be a good guess.
  • Reply 16 of 158
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by John F. View Post


    I want to buy a Mac mini, but I need FireWire. What do you recommend? Wait until the new one comes out, or just buy the current? I would hate to wait until January only to find out that Apple removed the FireWire, and that the older version has run out in stores. But faster graphics would be nice. Quite a dilemma.



    Hmmm... so are you in the US or elsewhere? If you're in Australia... BUY NOW before the price changes (actually... I'm not sure what exchange rate it's currently set at.... but it's probably better than what you'd get today).



    If it helps - I've tested a hard disk with both USB2 and Firewire400 - I copied several large files to and from the system and timed it on USB/Firewire. Firewire was 10% faster (occasionally 20% faster), but that was it. Of course if you NEED Firewire, then you have no choice, you have to have Firewire. I presume the USB2->Firewire active converters aren't worth much but I haven't read much about them.



    So since it's not a preference thing, it's actually a requirement - then you have to take the simple answer don't you? Ie: see what gets announced, then buy the older if Firewire isn't on the newer.
  • Reply 17 of 158
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    They wouldn't really have to. An insert in the slot from the inside to close it up would be enough. These machines would be hidden away. Looks aren't that important. Or they could leave it open for better cooling of the dual drives.



    Interesting. You're right of course - but would Apple plan a cool-looking little product for the desktop on the one hand, while presuming the aesthetics are unimportant in server farms on the other hand?



    Or would they actually take a step back and look at a better way of selling to the server farms? A custom machine that stacks very nicely, doesn't have wireless networking or DVDs, etc. If they ARE looking at that, then the rumour of future MacMini might not really be a mini at all, rather an Xserve-Lite.
  • Reply 18 of 158
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,471member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GregAlexander View Post


    Interesting. You're right of course - but would Apple plan a cool-looking little product for the desktop on the one hand, while presuming the aesthetics are unimportant in server farms on the other hand?



    Or would they actually take a step back and look at a better way of selling to the server farms? A custom machine that stacks very nicely, doesn't have wireless networking or DVDs, etc. If they ARE looking at that, then the rumour of future MacMini might not really be a mini at all, rather an Xserve-Lite.



    I don't know. It could be a lucrative business for them though. If a company wants to buy 1,000 machines configured that way every couple of months for OEM uses, why would Apple say no? It would be a way of getting into businesses with little effort.



    I've always thought the Mini was a great small business machine anyway. Few business upgrade their machines. Once they've been depreciated, they either sell them for very little, offer them to their employees, or donate them for a tax gain. Sometimes all three.
  • Reply 19 of 158
    Server room looks like the back room of a VHS Video Store rental space, but with fancy lights.
  • Reply 20 of 158
    drmhdrmh Posts: 2member
    I am really hoping to get the new mac-mini as a media box that plays very media format out of the box - aka what the appleTV should be.....
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