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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Some other thoughts about where the Mac Mini could be quite useful:

1.) Harsh environments. That little box could be locked up quite easily into a protective box with a controlled environment. (filtration, cooling, etc.) The only cord that would need to go outside the box would be the power supply cord. The keyboard and mouse could be a bluetooth variety, the connectivity could be 802.11g, and you'd just not use that optical drive for anything. Slashdot discussed this yesterday, before the rumors of the Mac Mini were confirmed.

2.) Onstage machine for musicians. One of these puppies could fit in someone's pedalboard case, and with a sufficiently long DVI or SVGA cable the machine would be out of harm's way with only a monitor and bluetooth keyboard and mouse. (trackball, maybe) USB might be a bit problematic but that could be solved with a USB-Cat5-USB extension. All bets are off with firewire. Of course, there's tons and kaboodles of great music software for MacOS X, including Ableton Live! which is supposedly better than ACID for loop composition...sorry Chris Moulios, but that's what I hear...

3.) Electronic News Gathering. Yeah, I know that PowerBooks can be used in such a situation but face it, folks, news is a cost center, not a revenue center, for most TV studios. For the cost of a similarly equipped PB they can get three Mac Minis, keyboards, mice and even jog-shuttle controllers. These Mac Minis have enough cojones to run stuff like Avid Express. Edit on the road. Save money, perhaps obviate the need for microwave trucks unless you are covering a breaking story.

4.) In a similar vein, indie filmmaking, especially guerrilla indie filmmaking. This is the least expensive Mac ever made. And it can run Final Cut Pro without breaking a sweat. No more need for expensive PBs or slightly less expensive (but still way more expensive than the Mini) but more fragile iBooks.

5.) The best thing of all, in my view. I had the idea of a dockable Mini-ITX system for schoolkids. Junior and Missy would take their little computer to school every day, plug it in to the docking station at school where they'd get keyboard/monitor/mouse to use during the school day, then when the final bell rings they'd undock their computers and bring them home, where there would be an identical dock for them waiting for their homework.

The thing about Mini-ITX, particularly the VIA EPIA version which is most common, is that IT'S VIA. Any geek will tell you just how bad their quality control is. And the various EPIA microprocessors, based on the Centaur C3, just do not give you the best bang/buck ratio. You can make quiet computers on this platform, but they don't have the oomph of a G4. Period.

I know I mentioned that a Mac Mini tweaked the way I would like it would be about a Grand when you take into consideration all the bells and whistles I want. However, the base model at $499 would be more than adequate for a schoolkid. I'm sure that if a big school district bought sufficient quantities, Apple would give them a major break on price. There already are some school districts giving kids laptops...this would be so much less expensive. And a 3 pound Mac Mini sure beats a backpack full of books, plus notebooks, etc. etc. Apple created the LC series with Education in mind, wanting to wean thousands of schools off the ubiquitous Apple ][e. I think perhaps this is what Apple truly created the Mini for as well. Sure, getting frugal PC families to Switch is one thing. But regaining total ownage of the educational market wouldn't be so bad, either. Two generations of kids learned about computers in front of Apple computers. Time to get ready for the next one.