Lots of musing yesterday that the new Mac Mini is a “Apple TV in disguise.” It’s not. Here’s why:
There’s a world of difference between seven hundred and one or two or even three hundred dollars. This is even more the case in the icing room as opposed to the ipad or mobile devices, where theres no precedent or parallel for the product. Further people evaluate living room stuff extremely differently, and seven hundo is like buying two xbox 360s. Too much. In fact, you can truly skip the entire rest of this piece, since this price is an utter non-starter for this discussion.
- But what about HDMI?
Just because the product has hdmi doesn’t mke it a living room product. Sure front row or Boxee will have that effect, but there’s a radical difference between a purposeful and incidental use case for a device like this. Hdmi is there because it’s replaced dvi as the digital video standard, and because a huge screen does make a beautiful monitor. An interconnect does not alone a product make, otherwise I’d be comparing the Mac Mini to a router because it has an Ethernet port.
Per the above comment, today it’s front row or nothing, from apple direct. Yes, users can download Boxee or plex, but to think consumers en masse will throw down seven hundred dollars for this solution is way off the mark. For that purpose, they’d just buy an apple tv, or a roku or a wdtv, etc.
- But what about New Software?
Okay, it’s fairly naive of me to say the future of this scenario is the existing version of front row. Obviously they’ll rev it, and lets assume the rev is solid. Per all the above points, it doesn’t matter how much better it is. It’s not about a “better experience” when we are talking the price point.
- The Apple Way
Apple makes products with high margins, mass appeal, and excellent software. A seven hundred dollar apple tv is only one of those things, and at best can get to two. Why would they make such a bizarre strategy shift here? It’s not, at all, the apple way. Far from it.
- Consumers and boxes
Most consumers don’t buy extra boxes for their living rooms. They buy TVs, game consoles, and media playback devices (the cheapest of the bunch). When they do buy add ons, they tend to be under $300, such as the slingbox, roku, or wdtv. In these cases, the value add for the price point is clear. So looking at the new Mac mini from the lens of ‘what new content or services does this bring to the living room?’ the answer is practically nil.
- Consumers and content
Cable tv (and by that i include satellite and other existing offerings) is, on average, pretty good. The average American has access to tons of content, both on broadcast and on demand systems, not to mention whatever they are dvring. Throw in a dvd player and a game console, and the content universe is quite outstanding. The quantity of people who truly want to throw away their existing stuff is really really small. Its not to say there isn’t room to add in more, but its not seven hundred dollars worth more in any consumers’ eyes. For a box that expensive to earn a spot in the living room, it must supplant existing content offerings in such a way that consumers clearly perceive the value. So not only is a brand new software package a requirement, but a massive increase in content, especially free content, is as well.
But What If?
If apple discontinued the apple tv line, this would have a shift, but only a minor one. In that scenario, I’d imagine the opportunity truly shines for google tv products and the Boxee box by dlink (full disclosure: I consult with dlink), as they will offer similar value propositions but at steeply discounted prices. And unlike the comparisons between the iPad and the janky tablet rivals, these other products are far more likely to show promise and value. Still doesn’t add up.
And now for something completely different.
A man talking about the same topic, in video form:
great points and I largely agree with you on the price issue
but it wasn’t that long ago that consumers weren’t willing to spend $30-$50/month for unlimited data on their mobile phones and now they do.
i think the family room experience needs to get better and consumers will pay more.
A Mac Mini is a PC and has that price point period. Apple should be deciding what their TV play is now that Google has tossed our GoogleTv. I bought an AppleTV a few years ago to try the experience and while it works it’s not the greatest but it works as advertised. I would use it before my Xbox360 as a media player.
While I agree with your answer, I have a different view on the question. So, is the mac mini Apple TV? No, for all the reasons you clearly articulate.
But how about this, is the mac mini a signal? An intention? There, the answer is a clear yes (IMHO). Apple is telling the market (both consumers and competitors) that it is now serious about TV and that TV is no longer a “hobby.” Apple is saying something is in the works so if you’re thinking about investing in webTV, wait, because Apple is coming.
With this move it is effectively stalling the market and preventing consumers from making the jump into other products for fear they will make an investment and then miss whatever Apple has up its sleeve.
Apple has not shown any interest in HDMI up until now (that was one of my major irritating discoveries AFTER I bought my iPad, I just assumed it would have HDMI). But now, whoa, HDMI???? So they’ve found religion… what else is there?
This is actually and unfortunately, the direction of the MM pricing. It started at 499$, then was 599$ when it came out with the intel chips, and now 699$. Not the direction of MOST tech products pricing, but seems to be the way for apple and the MM.
In Germany, this thing costs more than 800 Euros, now that’s just insane. I suppose they’re getting ready to shoot the Mac Mini in the head and part of that plan would be to make the iPad cheap by comparison.
I own several Mac laptops, a Mac Pro, and a previous-gen Mac Mini – but recently I’m starting to wonder where they’re going with this. At just 300 more than that new Mac Mini (which hasn’t gotten that much of a hardware upgrade to begin with) you can buy a decent iMac or Macbook. Seriously, who would want to buy this?
Consider what insane PC hardware you could buy for 800+ Euros: if you can envision yourself working on a Windows or Linux box, you’ll be getting way more bang for those bucks. :-/
I don’t know where you get your ideas from, but HDMI has emphatically not replaced DVI as the standard interconnect for display devices. In the Apple world – as far as I know – Display Port rules supreme. In the PC world however, DVI is ubiquitous, with some Display Port uptake. Many (in fact most high end) graphics cards will have an HDMI port built in (or some kind of DVI to HDMI adaptor), but that’s there for consumer convenience – just in case they do decide to plug their PC into the TV, or use the card in an HTPC setup.
Yes a huge screen – as in an LCD TV – does make for a good monitor, but it can never match the quality that a dedicated computer monitor offers. For starters, the range of resolutions available on even mid-range computer monitors far outstrips that available on consumer televisions. Never mind discussions on refresh rates, latency times, colour quality, etc. This is why computer monitors are comparitively more expensive than LCD TV’s, even models with the same screen size. Plus, you will be hard-pressed to find a broad range of computer monitors that also accept an HDMI input; even Apple’s flagship Cinema displays use Display Port, AFAIK. Sure there will be the odd one or two, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
For the record, I am neither an Apple-hater nor a PC zealot. I have owned Macbooks in the past, but every time I always find myself going back to the PC. The Mac platform just does not suit what I want to do with a computer.