In a much hyped event, where some “fun” new products had been promised, Apple has announced the first Intel based Mac minis, as well as a set of powered speakers called the iPod Hi-Fi, and some Apple branded leather iPod cases.
The web had been overflowing with rumours regarding the possible “fun” products, but this clearly was intended to be a small announcement.
The new Mac mini comes with FrontRow and a remote, making it better suited as a home entertainment centre, all that is missing is built-in support for video, including recording. The high-light of the presentation, bordering on “fun”, was when Steve wanted to demo FrontRow on the Mac mini, and it turned out that there was no content loaded on the demo machine. This blooper meant that we immediately were presented with a new feature in FrontRow, Bonjour discovery of connected devices. Bonjour is a really welcome addition to FrontRow. Connected devices that support Bonjour will automatically present themselves in FrontRow, and you can browse and stream shared content from the devices. Steve demoed this by having content streamed from “Phil’s MacBook Pro” – Phil is always in the audience with a laptop during Steve’s presentations. Steve had no idea what music it was that Phil had on his MacBook, and it was quite “fun” to hear Steve having to correct himself, when he, several times, called the “MacBook Pro” the “PowerBook”.
The second announcement was the iPod Hi-Fi, I’m not impressed, and I doubt that Steve really has replaced his expensive audiophile equipment with the iPod Hi-Fi, like he claimed. I’d like to have seen some wireless capabilities, like support for AirTunes, and I don’t really like stereo speakers in one small box, at least not for my primary system. The iPod Hi-Fi should fit well in smaller rooms, and the retro design might have some appeal, especially to young iPod owners without a stereo system. Since the iPod Hi-Fi is portable, and can be battery powered, it could also prove quite useful outside, or at parties.
A lot of people are disappointed by the announcements today, especially that there was no announcement of a “true media centre”, that can go head to head with Microsoft. I think that today’s announcement really fits quite well into the bigger picture, and that Apple eventually will get there. The new version of FrontRow, with it’s support for Bonjour, is a step in the media centre direction, and I’m sure that we will eventually see video recording capability in FrontRow. Right now Apple seems to be in a transitional phase, where only evolutionary products are announced. The strangest thing is that the price of the Mac mini has gone up, breaking the pattern of the other Intel announcements, but you have to compare it to what you’re getting with the standard configuration now with Bluetooth, AirportExtreme, FrontRow and the Apple Remote, as well as much better performance. The support for Gigabit Ethernet is nice too.
So what’s next? I’m mostly interested in computer related products, so I’d leave discussion of iPod related products to another time, I think that Apple has a strong and competitive portable media player product line, that is in no need for an upgrade right now. FrontRow is a work in progress, and it keeps improving. I don’t expect Apple to introduce Intel based PowerMac replacements, until the most important professional applications are available as Universal Binaries, so the iBook replacement is most likely next in line. I am however looking forward to see if Apple, will have some real new products ready, for the celebration of Apple’s 30th birthday on April 1st 2006. I’d like to see an updated AirportExpress with support for video streaming, and finally Apple’s answer to the TabletPC,
I hope for, but realistically, don’t expect, a new laptop design, but it’s unlikely to happen until the entire product line has been moved to Intel. On the other hand, with 3 down and 2 to go, less than 9 months after the announcement of the Intel migration, Apple is way ahead of schedule, and with the Intel migration out of the way, I think it’s time for some innovation, and it will be “fun” to see if Apple has some Aprilfools prank up it’s sleeves a month from now.
PS. Was the announcement today just clever spin? Anticipation for the next event is likely to be much lower now – OH NO – Apple has me caught up in speculating about the Mysterious Ways in which 1, Infinite Loop moves.