Apple's newest stuff: Intel Mini, iPod Hi-Fi, cases

Well, looks like I didn't miss any world-changing announcements at this morning's Steve Jobs non-keynote at Apple headquarters. My colleague Narasu Rebbapragada made the trek to Cupertino and reports in here on the news, which includes Intel-based Mac Minis, an iPod speaker dock, and leather iPod cases.

A few quick thoughts:

Mac Minis are getting pricier, not cheaper. Which is not what you expect to happen with computers. But even though the base Mini is now US$599 rather than $499, it should be a much more powerful machine, with more standard features. And a costlier, more potent Mini may be a reflection of what people have actually been buying--perhaps it's the machine's size (and the fact that it's a Mac) rather than its price that's appealing. (Let's face it--if cheap is what you want, Windows boxes still beat anything with an Apple logo on it.)

The Mac Mini is evolving into a living room machine. It's still not the Media Center-like machine that people have been speculating about. However, now that it has Front Row and a remote control, the biggest missing pieces are a TV tuner and DVR software. It wouldn't be a shocker if it evolves further before the end of this year.

Apple is competing with iPod accessories manufacturers. Which is kind of new--it's made add-ons before, of course, but they've been pretty basic ones. With the dock and the fancy cases, though, it'll unquestionably take some business away from the Boses, Altec Lansings, inCases, and XTreme Macs of the world. I wonder how they're feeling today?

You've got to love your iPod a lot to spend hundreds of dollars on accessories tailored to it. Especially when Apple has such a history of rendering old add-ons obsolete with changes to the iPod's size, shape, and ports.

If you intend to keep an iPod for eons, a hundred-buck case might make sense. But what'll you do with the case if you upgrade to a fancier iPod-yet-to-come next year? (One answer: Sell both your old iPod and its accessories on eBay.)

Meanwhile, I'd be nervous about spending $350 on a speaker unit designed so specifically for one company's music players. True, the iPod Hi-Fi comes with adapters for every existing iPod, but even if Apple releases adapters for future iPods, it sounds like it would be a hassle.

Actually, I know I wouldn't buy one--not unless it somehow let me use my 'pod without removing it from its case...

And finally...

There are still scads of theoretical Apple products that haven't appeared yet. Some definitely will show up, such as cheap Intel notebooks. Other seem like near-certainties, such as iPods with bigger screens. And there are wild cards, like the Mac tablet that's been rumored. (I'm guessing that one's a longshot, personally.)

Your thoughts on the day's news? Or are you getting Apple announcement fatigue (and if so, I wouldn't blame you)?

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Harry McCracken

PC World
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