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The New Mac Mini -- Revolutionary?

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by Josh Ray on February 28 '06

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In other news, Apple released their "Intel Inside" Mac Mini today. While not a big deal by itself (though it is 5 times faster than the pervious version), it's the software inside that will potentially change the world of digital content.

Above, you're looking at screenshot of Apple's Bonjour management system all hooked up through Front Row (now, for the first time, on the Mac Mini). Front Row is, basically, a KISS program that lets your select music, movies or photos all from the comfort of your couch. Apple includes a little remote that makes it all way too easy. Just select "iTunes" and you're playing music. Any TV shows you've downloaded from iTunes, it's all there.

Really, the new Mac Mini is the media PC everyone has been trying to market and Microsoft, with their Media Center, has been trying to shill, unsuccessfully. Apple, with practically no fanfare (which is really bizarre for Steve Jobs), has just hit a home run. While this isn't the accepted outcome (yet), Apple's future dominance of the digital living room is something I'll stake my blogging fortune on. They already control the music, TV and, soon, movies downloaded over the internet. Now they have the hardware to get it onto your TV and sound system.

However, probably one of the most interesting aspects of the new system with Front Row is the Bonjour software. While not new, the implementation is revolutionary. Bonjour is simply a inter-computer interface, letting your various Macs talk to each other and act as one:

Let Mac mini and Front Row entertain you by playing songs, slideshows, and videos from other computers in the house. Buy new music in the kitchen, play it in your living room. Mac mini automatically finds networked computers under your roof — whether they be wireless or wired. Sounds like magic, but it’s just the Bonjour instant networking technology built into every Mac.

The idea is you buy a $599 Mac Mini, hook it up to the TV/hi-fi system and you have one giant commune of music, pictures and movies. Karl Marx would be proud.

Naturally, with a USB DAC, this can be one killer little system. The Mac Mini already has optical out but, for those who are new here, optical is the worst digital transfer available while USB is shaping up to be the best. The big question is, of course, how do we pitch this as a legitimate high-performance front end and convince all the Apple buyers to purchase wicked audio rigs. Anyone? Anyone?

Comments

Hmmmm. A USB-DAC at each 'receiver' throughout the whole house.... that could run into money :-(
Maybe I'll sell everything and get a piano!
Lol, pianos are cool. Really, you'd only need one USB DAC for your main rig. Unless you're really hard core, you'd just run music off your computers the way you did before - mini-plug or whatever. But the big point here is all your computers from the one in your office, kids room, water closet, etc. could all feed music to your speaker system. Besides, USB DACs are really cheap these days (relatively). The Scott Nixon $500 USB TubeDAC looks killer. You don't need to spend $1800-$17,000 for a Wavelength affair off the bat. Now that I think about it, the Scott Nixon USB TubeDAC and the Wavelength Brick both share the same Phillips DAC chip, USB I2S and similar tubes as well as wall wart power supply. Anyone know what really makes these DACs different other than, oh, $1300?
"Anyone know what really makes these DACs different other than, oh, $1300?" My opinion won't count b/c I'm a verified Nixon DAC zealot, but I can offer some possibilities. The major difference I can see is that Scott has been building DAC's for around 20 years. His TubeDAC has been out for at least 4 more years than the Rankin DAC, but I guess he just needs to get some cool looking steel logo plates to take it to the next level. ;-) The power supply upgrade really does take it to the next level.
To answer your musing above Josh, it's HUTZPAH! That and a nice metal case.
I worked on the HP Digital Entertainment Center products, and they are much more expensive ($2,500 to $3,500). They do a lot more than the Mini. The Retail cost is one of the main things that has kept these types of machines from success in the market. That and underdeveloped marketing plans. I think the price point is the only revolutionary thing about the new Mini. But it's one of the few things that really counts!
I dont think the mac mini is very exciting at all. Its just an intel version of the old one, with a couple of new apps on it. I was VERY disappointed when I went to the site on the release day and read about it. In terms of a media center at home it only has about 60% of what it needs: IT NEEDS TO BE A PVR!!! Seriously, music, downloaded videos etc are important, but also being able to record digital TV is critical. I simply can not believe they either didnt integrate one or two tuners, or at a minimum have a well tested USB-connected digital tuner and software that you could opt for. If they had done that, I trully believe this would be THE killer home media center app. Im sure its coming soon, I just cant for the life of me work out why this one didnt have it. I was surprised to see apple join the queue of technology makers who continually miss the home PVR/media centre killer-appliance. Its just insane. Some other examples: - Topfield: not bad. Has these great 3rd party apps you can run on it. But no ethernet connectivity. No eady way to burn a show onto a DVD withut complex re-encoding, transfers to pc etc etc. No ability to surf the net or otherwise make use of the net in any very exciting way. - Kiss: Ethernet connectivity (even on their dvd player!) but misses some of the benfits of the topfield. - Strong: Some ups. Some downs. Seriously, what is wrong with Apple? Are they stupid? The mac mini is a revolutionary HW/SW combo, and frontpage has real potential as does their whole operating system, but where the hell is the PVR capability? People have been wishing it existed since the mac mini first came out, and here we are with the biggest update they have done on this product, and they missed the boat. Sorry for the rant, but I can not believe how dumb some of these big companies are.