Mac mini - the "just enough" computer

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Giles Turnbull

Giles Turnbull
Jan. 19, 2005 03:59 AM
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When I first sat down to consider the merits or otherwise of the new Mac mini, I was disappointed with the amount of included RAM. "A mere 256MB just ain't enough," I thought; "Steve's shooting himself in the foot. Surely there will be lots of people trying out Mac OS X, just as he predicts, and finding it slow and unresponsive? That won't convert them to Mac users."

But then I read the comment by Glenn Fleishman in the post-Macworld issue of TidBITS:

Both configurations ship with just 256 MB of RAM, which is a bit of a joke to run Mac OS X effectively, though that amount is enough to play iTunes, CDs, DVDs, and handle other common home duties such as exploring the Web and checking email.

And I think, with that statement, Glenn has hit the nail on the head.

Of course 256MB is not enough -- not enough for the likes of you and I, who use Mac OS X all the time and push it as hard as we can.

But it is enough for people wanting to experiment. Sure, it won't be very snappy, but even with 256MB, people will be able to listen to some music, plug in an iPod, send some email ("Hi! I don't have anything interesting to say! I'm just playing with my new Mac mini. This Mail program is kinda neat.") and surf some web pages.

Nothing fancy. Just enough.

Which is the Mac mini ethos through-and-through. This is a "just enough" computer, but it is flexible enough to appeal to a lot of people. The "just enough" approach will be sufficient to let the target audience (well, the people Steve said were the target audience; perhaps Apple has other targets in mind?) experiment with OS X and see what they think. And it has the flexibility to be upgraded into something whizzy, but still very tiny, for those of us who know enough about OS X to know exactly what we want.

The one thing I think Apple should do is communicate more clearly with those people who are buying the Mac mini as a test-run.

There should be something, be it a piece of paper in the box or a clearly marked section of apple.com, that makes obvious to people that what they have purchased is a taster.

I know, and you know, that this should be blindingly obvious. But I'm afraid experience shows the general public to be blindingly stupid. Apple needs to make the Mac mini "just enough" message crystal clear, so that the people who do buy, do try, and are impressed, know that they can so something constructive to improve their Mac using experience even more. Like buy a G5, or just upgrade their Mac mini.

Giles Turnbull is a freelance writer and editor. He has been writing on and about the Internet since 1997. He has a web site at http://gilest.org.