The Mac Mini Refresh is Quite Important For Apple, And Should be Priority
While the iPhone will get all the attention this month, the long-term health of the Mac line-up depends on variety, and the forgotten Mac Mini could be a critical ingredient
A Refresh Could Give The Mac Mini a More Pro Personality
Apple had last updated the Mac Mini back in 2014. Four years have passed since. Four years is a long time in the world of computing devices. The Q3 2018 numbers released in July indicated a sluggish time for the Mac line-up, which made the critics go into the we-told-you-so mode. The criticism that is often chucked Apple’s way, whether based on figures or not, is that it doesn’t care about the Mac computing device line-up anymore. The iPhones make most money for the company, and now the services side of things is quite strong too. So, why should it care. But that isn’t true. The refreshed MacBook line-up for 2018 isn’t enough proof—the numbers for which will show up in the next quarterly earnings report.
If we are to go by the reports around the Mac Mini, in addition to the expected reboot of the MacBook Air, Apple’s seriousness with the Mac devices is perhaps stronger than ever before. Whether critics agree or not. Last year, Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President Worldwide Marketing, Apple had said that the Mac Mini is “an important product”. Apple CEO Tim Cook later reiterated that they plan to keep the Mac Mini around in the product line-up. Clearly, Apple knew they had to do something about the Mac Mini, and were possibly even working on it in the meantime.
However, it isn’t entirely possible to drop a new product into the market at the drop of a hat. It took Apple years to reintroduce and reposition the Mac Pro, focusing on the higher-end of the spectrum—the professional users. It would perhaps make complete sense for the Mac Mini to go down that route too, in many ways. That will mean top of the line specifications and perhaps even a refreshed design for better aesthetics.
The change is mostly necessary. Around 5 years ago, Apple had an audience for the Mac Mini. The home user who didn’t mind a desktop PC taking up space on the table. There was also an audience who needed a compact PC, perhaps connected with the TV itself, for streaming media and more. The highlight remained that you could plug it into a display of your choice. That audience has replaced the desktop, with a mix of the smartphones, tablets and laptops.
The audience that does remain for desktops are the professional users or gamers, who don’t mind paying a pretty penny to get the top of the line specifications. A part of that audience is what Apple positioned the Mac Pro for. And it’ll probably have to follow the same path with the Mac Mini, in some ways. The updated Intel Core processors, the 8th generation to be specific, will offer significantly better user experience than the 4th generation Intel Core processors the frankly-quite-neglected Mac Mini uses thus far. There are better graphics (relevant for the variants that won’t have a dedicated memory card), more RAM, faster turbo speeds and more memory bandwidth. Pair that with the T2 security chip (seen in the latest MacBook Pro line-up), and it’ll be as up to date as you need it to be.
It may just be that Apple could retain an updated but still limited version of the Mac Mini at around the $500 (around Rs35,000), while the more powerful variants could come close to the $1000 price point (around Rs70,000). That would make the Mac Mini ideal for enterprises, creative professions such as graphic designing and video editing, architects and more, and with the right specs, could even become a rather interesting gaming device.
The key here would be for Apple to play the price as well as performance game with the Mac Mini. An attractive entry price tag would get more users to consider it compared with a Windows device, which could be a great way to get them to upgrade later. Secondly, the more powerful options would do well to be relevant for someone who needs a PC at the work desk, for instance. It must look good, and Apple could perhaps look at the Mac Pro for inspiration.
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