Apple finally produces a Mac priced for the rest of us.

Back in the early 90’s when I was first getting started in my IT career I spent a couple of years working for a local Kinko’s starting as a copy-jerk and then as the store’s Desktop Publishing Coordinator. This was the one position I’ve ever held where I had to use a Mac to do my job and I took to it pretty quickly. If my recollection is correct it was running some flavor of Mac OS 7 and it seemed like a capable enough little machine. At the time I was still using my Amiga’s and hadn’t made the transition to PCs yet (that wouldn’t happen until ‘96) and while I liked the Mac overall I never got so hooked that I had to have one. My problems with it were two-fold: It’s never been much of a gamer’s computer and it was too expensive for what it gave you. Yes, it’s easier to use than a PC in many ways and it’s more secure in some respects, but the price has always been a show stopped for me to even consider it.

Well, it looks like Apple is finally trying to address that complaint with the introduction of the Mac mini with a price point of $499 for starters minus monitor, keyboard, and mouse:

Apple engineers designed this small wonder from the ground up to deliver the most Mac for the least dinero. Inside its petite 2-inch tall, 6.5-inch square anodized aluminum enclosure, Mac mini houses a 1.25 or 1.42GHz G4 processor, 40 or 80GB hard drive, a slot-loading CD-R/DVD-ROM optical drive, 256MB DDR SDRAM and ATI Radeon 9200 graphics chip with 32MB dedicated DDR SDRAM — all whisper-quiet.

All told, that’s not half bad for the price and it finally makes the Mac something I could consider purchasing for the first time ever. Now, if they could just get more games for it in a timely fashion I’d have no reason not to switch.

44 thoughts on “Apple finally produces a Mac priced for the rest of us.

  1. Not quite Les…

    Mac Mini – $499
    Keyboard/Mouse – $58
    Monitor (cheapest flat panel) – $999
    Total: $1556.

    You might be able to shave off $500 by buying a flat panel from someone other than Apple.

    I’m still holding out for a truly cheap Mac. Probably never going to happen.

  2. I mentioned that it’s missing the monitor, keyboard and mouse. All of which can be bought much more cheaply elsewhere. grin

  3. I really should read posts further… Still, it needs to be pointed out how much a “useable” version of the Mac Mini would cost.

    My latest PC was $1,800 and that included a 20” flat panel, 1GB ram, 250GB HD, 3.2GHz processor.

    I think they have a ways to go before I would consider a Mac an affordable alternative to a PC.

  4. At least it’s a step in the right direction.  And if Macs get more popular, more games will be ported sooner for them.

    I started out with an Apple II SE and have never looked back.  Sure, they’re somewhat more expensive than PC’s, but more stable and easier to use.

  5. Dave M:

    $500 Mac Mini
    $ 35 KVM Switch

    No *need* to buy new Keyboard/mouse/monitor smile

    Then you get the best of both worlds

    Personally, I run Apple then Linux and use Windoze for games only (and for my work provided laptop)

    I have a KVM switch that I use for Linux, Apple and Windows … and it does the speakers too tongue laugh

  6. I’m with Zilch in that I think this is a step in the right direction, but I do agree that it’s a little misleading to advertise a price that doesn’t include at least a keyboard and mouse. There are some other sub-$400 PCs that don’t include a monitor so I can’t fault Apple too much for that aspect of it.

    For me, it’s largely my gamer nature that keeps me from making the switch to either Linux or Mac. Not that it’s impossible that I won’t jump ship some day as I have no great fondness for Microsoft, but for now I’m willing to put up with them. If nothing else it keeps the skills in good form.

  7. Always used Mac’s @ home, only forced to use PC’s @ work. If you had compared what you got with a iMac against a Dell after upgrading to the same spec’s – we are talking beer money for a couple of weeks, @ least @ my house! And my Mac’s have never been sick, neither has the PC @ work, so if you can cover the cost’s that the company I work for spends, buy a PC.

  8. I’m a confirmed PC user but I will definitely be buying one of these to expand my horizons.  I need to learn about integrating Mac and PC environments, and I feel very foolish as a computer support guy saying; “Duh, I really haven’t use a Mac very much – maybe you could ask so-and-so”

    Plus, even I can recognize something this cool when I see it.  (drooool)

  9. Yes it is a move in the correct direction. Maybe with all the success that iPod and iTMS is having, they can lower prices on the computer side. Maybe.

    John H., I have no desire to own a Mac. I have had my fill of them and really don’t want the headaches. I have been using PC’s since the IBM AT days and zilch, I started out with an Apple ][ with 128K of RAM and 2 floppy drives (after 2 months of using a cassette recorder to store and load files). I have owned just about every computer Apple had put out. Didn’t own a Lisa or an Apple ]|[. Other than that.

    My computer path fell where the money was, and in programming, the money was in PC’s.

  10. Being new to this computer business Im just wondering what the hell LOL means? – my mate whose just as PC illiterate as me says Little Old Lady,but that doesnt seem to work.P.S:Love the new pic Les – Keep that head shaved mate!

  11. I’m with Dave.  I’ve supported both PCs and Macs and my experience has been that at least with PCs, I can figure out the problem.  Whenever there was a problem with the Macs, it was most frustratingly unsolvable.  I have friends who own Apples and they wax poetic about how much better OSX is, but I don’t find it intuitive, I find the lack of a right click annoying, and I just don’t see anything to recommend them above PCs besides a pretty case.
    My Dell laptop has never crashed and it offers all the nifty language switching bells and whistles people claim to be so gloriously Apple.
    I guess I find the Apple proselytizers as annoying as the God proselytizers.  (Not that anyone here has done that, I just feel compelled to establish that Apple evangelists actually hurt the case for Apples…)
    Plus, only 256 MB RAM?  Even if it’s DDR…

  12. I have to admit my biggest reason for not going Mac has been the gaming issue.  Kind of strange because back in the early 80’s a friend had an Apple IIe and we used to play Wizardry on it all the time.  Proprietary costs are certainly another concern.  Also, Shana makes an excellent point- if you have the ability and desire, you can custom design a PC that can excel at whatever tasks you deem important.  Finally, I just like being able to build my own computer rather than buying the thing pre-built. grin

  13. Shana- You worship Gates before Jobs? Blasphemy!
    I was hesitant to say anything at all about my heathen preference for Apple, because there are lots of sites where Jobbers and Gaters trash one another anyway, and we don’t need yet another fundamentalist debate here.

    I do have a PC at home, and have to admit that XP is much more stable than previous Windows OS’s, though not as stable as OS X 10.3.5-  that hasn’t crashed once.  And I don’t know much about processor architecture, but it must be admitted that although Macs regularly whup PCs in (say) Photoshop, PCs have the edge in games.  I don’t want an explanation, though, otherwise my faith in Steve’s divinity might be tarnished.

    That said, all you Gaters will go to Hell, where you’ll be forced to eat old DOS manuals! Buahaha!

  14. Right, PC’s are easier to maintain for support people, when I call the help desk and they send someone over, they always tell me they need to wipe the disk and install a new system, ya, right – just go-a-way. If this would happen then I would be spending the rest of the week reinstalling all my other applications and no work would be done. I do like to yank their chain, the last time I called they said they would give me a new HP box to replace my Dell, so I said ok. Found the HP a refreshing change, but maybe because the Dell was 3 years old. And yes, it did take a week with both systems to get everything transfered and setup all my preferences.

  15. What all do you do with your OS X 10.3.5, zilch? I have an XP system at home that has been running for 3 months without a crash (1 reboot due to software install). All it does is control backups.

    My current system hasn’t crashed since I got it which is well over 4 months ago. I play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and lately Half-Life 2.

    As far as speed. It’s easy for a computer that has 2 processors to “whup” a computer that only has one. The “performance” tests that Apple quotes are a little jaded in my opinion. There are plenty of in dependant sites out there that have shown that Apple top machine keeps up pretty well with an $1800 PC. I would love to see a dual P4 3.6GHz put up against the dual G5 2.5GHz. That would be interesting…

    However, what it really boils down to is what the user is more comfortable with. That is going to be what they were introduced to first.

    As far as maintenance goes, there was a time when I felt right at home going under the hood and tinkering with the machine. I even found and fixed a broken trace on an Apple ][ motherboard once. Now-a-days, in this throwaway society, it’s just easier to replace something than it is to get it fixed. Certainly cheaper.

  16. Dave M- What do I run? Not much; aside from mail and surfing, I run a couple of notation and recording programs, synch with my PDA, and (don’t laugh) Quake III.

    You are right, what it comes down to is what one is comfortable with.  I like the Mac OS, and I also like not having to worry about viruses and other vermin.  My Mac also boots up much faster than the PC at home (it’s a little newer, so the comparison is not really fair).  And it’s probably just as well that the Mac is not so great for games, because then I’d never get any work done here.

    You’re certainly right about the difficulty of fixing modern stuff.  And not just computers.

  17. As you said, it’s kind of new, probably doesn’t have all that much stuff on it. My “boot” time here at the office is about 15-20 seconds. At home it’s a little longer because I have a bunch of stuff that loads up. However, I rarely reboot.

    I look at the “stability” of computers by how much they get used and for what purpose. It’s pretty easy to crash a computer, even Linux, by developing software and testing it. I have amazed many a Linux guru by crashing systems that they have told me are uncrashable. smile

    Look at game consoles. How often do they crash? This is because the software written for them and nothing else. They don’t have to worry about hundreds of graphics cards, or other devices attached to them. Devices that are attached are designed with very strong guidelines. Macs and PC’s have all kinds of stuff in them and really throws a wrench into a developers code. Plus we must not forget that the OS’s for game consoles are smaller and simpler. OS’s for Macs and PC’s are many many times more complex.

    As for viruses and the like… You are just living the dream of being under the radar. Personally, I wouldn’t mind Mac seeing a much bigger market share so that they can start seeing the things that PC folks have had to put up with for so long. What truly amazes me are the Mac folks that have conveniently forgotten what it was like back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Back then there were 2 Mac viruses to 1 PC virus. Ah, the times, they are a changin…

  18. DaveM said: As for viruses and the like… You are just living the dream of being under the radar. Personally, I wouldn’t mind Mac seeing a much bigger market share so that they can start seeing the things that PC folks have had to put up with for so long…

    Horsefeathers.  The “Windows only gets a lot of viruses because it’s a popular target” line has been debunked many times.  Certainly that is one reason but the main one is that Windows has many features that are just begging for exploitation, like activeX, RPC, and so forth.

    Even guest users can totally nuke a Windows system.

  19. As for viruses and the like… You are just living the dream of being under the radar. Personally, I wouldn’t mind Mac seeing a much bigger market share so that they can start seeing the things that PC folks have had to put up with for so long.

    Dave, it’s not a dream- it’s reality, for the time being anyway.  And wishing viruses on us macmaniacs seems a little vengeful.  Hey, we’re just people too.

    As I said, I have no desire to enter a debate about this particular brand of religious belief.  I like my Mac and you like your PC.  ‘Nuff said.

  20. decrepitoldfool, I have heard the same debunk thing from Linux users, yet there are thousands of linux machines being attacked every day. There are web sites devoted to showing all the hacked sites. Well more than Windows IIS systems.

    As for the ActiveX, RPC, and other systems in Windows. They wouldn’t be in there if there wasn’t a need for them. I wish MS would seperate them from home users since most are for enterprise systems. (Not ActiveX of course).

    As to nuking a system, sit a Mac in front of me and I’ll have it dead in about 30 minutes. At least that was the case back when I actually owned one. It didn’t take very long before I had killed it.

    zilch, I don’t wish viruses on anyone. I just wish Mac users would realize that their systems are just as vulnerable. I guess having lived through the age of Mac viruses puts me in a unique position these days. I’m pretty certain that Symantec was the first to put out an anti-virus program for the Mac back in the Mac SE days.

    I mentioned that because all the “you should switch to a Mac to get away from the viruses” statements I see all over.

    I had better stop commenting on this, or I might go over the top… (If I haven’t already)

    Happy computing guys…

  21. Oh, so it’s a gateway drug?  wink

    (Just for the record, I’ve never had a virus.)

    Seriously, I didn’t mean to start a mess…I love all you apple users, really!  Can’t we all just get along?

  22. I started out on mac when I was a graphic artist, then had to learn the pc because the company where I worked promoted me to coordinator….I hated pc’s…adobe products wasn’t even available for pc.
    Today I use both and I know them both very well. I can dismantle both machines and I can also mess around with both operating systems.

    To me they are very much the same and to be honest I almost never use the mac anymore.
    There is nothing that I can do on a mac that I can’t do on a pc.
    That’s my story.

  23. I’m still a graphic artist, and have used Mac’s since seemingly the beginning of time (1987).

    I have a PC, but I hide it in the corner and only use it to see how badly Windows Explorer has fucked up my web layouts. Actually, it’s not Explorer, it Netscape. Netscape is evil.

    Currently I have (running) an old G3, a dual G4, and a titanium laptop. I’m sure I could do just about the same with a PC at this point, but I prefer to be an elitist snob. smile I could build a Mac museum with what’s in my closet gathering dust. There might even be an SE30 at the bottom of the pile…

    I have invested enourmous money and time in my Mac-based life, and I ain’t changing it now. How’s that for a reason? :lol

    Back in the day, I could have written volumes on why Macs are better for what I do than PCs. Now, I’m not sure it matters. Except that priceless feeling I get that a Mac was built specifically for the type of work I do and those like me.

    The one lone Mac shop in town feels like coming home. You know we gather and dance naked around the new hardware by firelight once a month, right?

    I’m sure an econo car would get me where I’m going…but I’d rather drive something more suited to my taste. You know?

  24. I wonder how good PC’s would be if there weren’t Macs pushing the usability/stability envelope.  Probably about as good as American cars in the ‘70’s before Japanese cars came along.  (sorry Les)

  25. zilch, I don’t wish viruses on anyone. I just wish Mac users would realize that their systems are just as vulnerable.

    Yeah, but even our viruses are cooler. I haven’t had one in ages, but back on System 7ish, I was working way late one night in Quark Xpress. Suddenly I hear this little cartoon-type ditty, and a tiny robot-martian figure walks out of the left side of my screen, walk up to the image I have just placed, evaporates it with his ray gun, and walks out the right side of the screen.

    I can’t tell you how long I sat there blinking. You’d think somebody slipped me acid. Of course no one was around to see it and I could never get it to repeat.

    Found out later it was a virus ripping around the Mac/design world, travelling on removeable media. I had been infected by un-safe disk handling with our printing company. Other than that little display, it didn’t do anything.

    As for current system vulnerability (and that depends on what kind of attack you mean), I believe OS X to be a damn safe environment.

  26. Absolutely.  American cars are much better than they were even 15 years ago.  I assume that is because of competition from high-quality imports (many of which are made in the US by Honda, Toyota, etc.)

    If you gave me $20K to go buy a car, though, it’d be a Toyota.  US cars still haven’t caught up.  Sorry, I guess that’s a topic distraction.  I just meant it as an example of how competition drives design and quality as well as price.

  27. I actually prefer Macs NOT having a larger marketshare. As mentioned, I know the safety from attack is in part due to the exclusivity, and honestly, I like it that way.

    I see the headaches of the mainstream PC world…no thank you.

  28. Mac user dork. All my hard drives have people names. I agree with Brandi. Everyone please stay away from the Mac. I like the market share right where it is.

    My most recent PC encounter was with my friend buying a Compaq. It came complete with everything you need straight out of the box, including a virus! Oh, and tons of pop up advertising from a system tray full of advertisers icons, including one from Symantec to get rid of that convenient virus.

    When you buy a Mac and start it up, there’s a hard drive icon on the desktop. That’s it. Novel idea huh?

  29. All my hard drives have people names.

    Of course they do. Macs don’t even work until you give them a proper name, right?

    I’ve had some great ones.

  30. I swore to myself I would stay away from this, but I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

    Dave, I followed your link.  Did you read the whole thing?  A Danish security firm finds a vulnerable spot in iTunes software which could be exploited by hackers.  Apple releases update which fixes the problem.  And when was the fix released? On the same day the problem was reported.

    If memory serves, there has been more than one occasion when Microsoft has not gotten around to fixing known problems on the same day.

    Not that Apple is perfect by any means.  And some appleheads are pretty obnoxious.  But so are some microsofties.  All in all, it’s a pretty silly thing to get exercised about.

    You know we gather and dance naked around the new hardware by firelight once a month, right?

    We do too, brandi!  And burn Bill in effigy!

    There is nothing that I can do on a mac that I can’t do on a pc.

    Oh yeah serge? What about playing Squirrel Kombat?

    I love all you apple users, really!  Can’t we all just get along?

    Well, shana, since you ask so nicely…  Different chips for different trips.

  31. There is nothing that I can do on a mac that I can’t do on a pc.

    Actually, I find the networking and the safety thereof to be much easier. My husband has his PCs hooked up to my VPN router and my Mac-dominated network…and my experience thus far has been that the Mac side is easier and more reliable in that arena.

  32. Yes Zilch and that game I use to play on our old centris 610….Spectre… yes! Do you remember that? That was the only game I played on mac.
    I had 8 mb of ram, 256 colors.

    The only game I’ve played on a pc is driver.

    I guess I’m not much of a gamer.

    Brandi, to me they’re both the same. I just don’t have $3000 for a machine that will give me the same thing as a $1500 one will.

    The mac has more stability but you don’t have as much freedom with the operating system.

    The pc gives you much more fun with the system but at the price of having to become a computer mechanic. Forget the viruses, most people mess up their pc’s on their own….

  33. Yes I do find that the mac is a much easier machine to use.

    You’ll notice that I am talking about me in what you’ve quoted.

    For what I like to do on a computer, there are just more applications out there for the pc.

    So for me….More choice….less expensive = pc.

    For now.

  34. I wonder how good PC’s would be if there weren’t Macs pushing the usability/stability envelope.  Probably about as good as American cars in the ‘70’s before Japanese cars came along.  (sorry Les)

    I think there would be others out there…namely Linux.  Especially for the server versions.  Of course, I agree that if there were no competition whatsoever, it would suck rocks, as would any operating system.

    My most recent PC encounter was with my friend buying a Compaq. It came complete with everything you need straight out of the box, including a virus! Oh, and tons of pop up advertising from a system tray full of advertisers icons, including one from Symantec to get rid of that convenient virus.

    Yeah, well.  Not all PCs are created equal.  For Crapaq, that’s par for the course.  But that’s what happens when other people can make systems for your OS; I would imagine the same would happen to Apple if other companies could make them.  The upside is any Joe Schmoe can build a pc but would be hard pressed to build an apple.  People think that owning a PC should take the work out of computing but that just isn’t true.

    My hard drive has a people name, too…

    My biggest beef with MS is Internet Explorer.  It sucks so bad.  Gladly, we have Firefox to kick ass and take names. 

    Forget the viruses, most people mess up their pc’s on their own….

    Ain’t that the truth!  I find that a lot of the problems people complain about result from a problem between the keyboard and the chair.  There are so many techs out there who simply do half-assed jobs and blame the error on MS.  While I will be the first to admit that MS does produce some real doozies, some of the biggest and most common problems could be alleviated by a little reading of the directions and not doing stupid things like opening email attachments. I once had a user call to complain that she couldn’t use her CD ROM drive, and after a ridculous 15 minutes I finally figured out that she had her computer upside down.

    I’m surprized no one’s said it yet, and I always get groans for this, but if I were to switch to anything, it would be Linux.  In fact, Apple originally tried to get Linux on the bandwagon when they were making OS X, but Linus Torvalds deemed Unix to be less stable than his open-source baby and its offshoots.  I mean, why settle for elitist snob when you can be a cynical elitist snob who never leaves the computer? wink

  35. PS, re:Crapaq—those things are added by the manufacturing company, not by Microsoft, so I don’t think that’s a valid smack down of microsoft itself…

  36. Yes I do find that the mac is a much easier machine to use.

    serge, that’s what it comes down to for me.  While I’m a latent geek, I don’t have the time, necessity, or inclination to pursue it very far.  I have other tools to master, and life is short.

    The two geekiest people I know personally- my brother the hardware designer, my brother-in-law the mathematics professor- both have PCs.  Running Linux.

    And having people names for hard drives- how juvenile can you get, anthropomorphizing a hunk of junk like that?  My hard drives all have dragon names.

  37. PS, re:Crapaq—those things are added by the manufacturing company, not by Microsoft, so I don’t think that’s a valid smack down of microsoft itself…

    I said PC. I don’t think I ever mentioned Microsoft.

    I’m not sure why I never really listen to the “you ca build your own PC” argument. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’ve been using computers (and cars, and televisions for that matter) for a long time and have never once considered making something to help run my business when I can buy it off the shelf already put together. Apple’s control over the box is what I like about it. You all seem to agree that the vendors can be your worst enemy.

    A friend asked me how to get rid of a bunch of icons in her system tray and thinking that everything should be this easy, I told her to “just drag them off, that’s how I do it on the Mac’s dock.” Uh, not so much. Why should something so simple be so complicated?

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