I would have written about the new Mac Mini sooner, but I have not yet figured out how to blog from 15,000 feet without incurring serious monetary charges. Anyway, I thought it was interesting to see how good Steve Jobs still is at generating hype. The new Mac Mini has a great price point, but as many of you know, the concept of a pint-sized computer easily adaptable in form factor through its accessories has been around for a while. How many of you remember IBM’s white papers and think pieces on pervasive computing, including this piece about a "Metapad," for instance?
In an attempt to better understand how
users will interact with such devices, and to determine the type of
pervasive infrastructure required to support them, IBM has undertaken a
research project involving the construction of a prototype designed to
answer these questions. Meta Pad, a 9 oz., 3 by 5 inch portable
computer core boasting the ability to run Microsoft Windows XP®
software and all its attendant applications, quickly transforms into
handheld, desktop, laptop, tablet, and wearable formats. Meta Pad is
not intended as a product; rather, it serves as a creative vehicle for
studying the technologies necessary to develop more powerful pervasive
It is also highly interesting to see how much less fanfare Win-Tel (Windows-Intel) competitors like the OQO computer and Sony U71/U50, which are similar in form factor, have gotten. I like where these devices are going, but as Julie Strietelmeier and Judie Hughes noted in their report from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the form factor still face limitations. Judie says:
While I love the
small size and the idea of XP in my purse, the screen did not seem as bright as
I would have liked (neither on battery power nor when plugged in), the battery
life is (of course) too low and the lack of any upgradeability makes me think I
should wait for the next build before making the purchase.
Apple, perhaps seeing what little stir these other devices have achieved (do they still have the Newton on their collective brain?) notably did not bring out the Mac Mini in a palm-sized form factor. The company seems instead to be pushing the Mac Mini more as a "cool" desktop replacement. While the OQO and Sony devices have onboard screens, the Mac Mini does not come with a monitor, keyboard or any other input device, so the "deeply lower" price point is a touch misleading if you see it as a way of putting together a complete computer system. Apple is betting that those enthralled with the iPod are sure to see things differently, however.
Update: Rob Pegoraro does a side by side comparison of the Mac Mini and comparable Windows machines: