Apr 27 2009
Though the Apple lawyers have yet to flex their muscles, the buzz about John Fraser’s iBox (read the Wired article here) means only one thing: Apple-ites want Pizza!
And no, I’m not talking about the round pie of Italian descent. I’m referring to a low-cost Mac box with all the basic features needed by the average user.
The iBox, as Fraser calls his design, is based on current Apple-manufactured boards, enclosed in a slim, monitor-independent case, that’s not only stylish and attractive, but not too cumbersome on a desktop.
After the January MacWorld Expo, I was thoroughly disturbed at the absence of a line of boxes that addressed this segment, as well as the growing complexity of the overall line of hardware options. Though there are affordable Mac options, such as the iBook and eMac, none of these machines are attractive enough in a market where Dell is pushing complete PC systems for less than $500.
I do agree with a robust line of laptops, however there is such a thing as too much. I personally take issue with the existence of a 17″ Powerbook. Though amazingly portable for its size, and an incredible accomplishment in that segment, this machine is just too much. The 17″ AlBook, is going to attract too few users outside of the music and science fields, areas I believe Apple already has enough strength. But ol’ Steve-O wanted one, and he got it. It’s one heck of a show-piece.
It’s time that Apple look at one important fact that can bring them into the homes of many more users, including PC-only households: the iPod. Windows users have embraced the portable music-playing hard drives, almost as much as Mac fanatics. Now it’s time to tie the noose, and convert this user base, which has already started its journey.
If Apple were to produce a sub-$700, monitor-independent box, with the features listed below, I believe they have nothing too lose:
Processor: 800 Mhz G4
Memory: 384 MB
HD: 40 GB
Optical: Combo Drive
Ports: Firewire 400 (1 front and 1 back), USB (1 front and 2 back), 10/100 Enet, Audio In/Out.
Video: 32MB video card with ADC & VGA out.
Slots: 2 free PCI slots
Wireless: PC card slot & Bluetooth ready.
I’m currently running a TiBook/400, the first TiBook released, and it handles everything I throw at it. It cuts through OS 10.2.4 easily, running all the apps I use, simultaneously. From Safari, to iTunes, to Photoshop & Illustrator, I find the performance excessively sufficient.
The advent of firewire & USB (now a standard in all Mac hardware) would eliminate legacy issues, as would a swappable ZIF socket processor. And as far as monitors are concerned, If you have an iPod, you have a computer, and that means you have a monitor. But, in the case that you want something fancier, the Apple LCD line is still there if you want some pricier options.
Despite the design genius of the iMac, it’s still tough to go in and shell out $1300+ at an Apple store, when a late model PC with ALL the bells & whistles pops in under a grand, and is infinitely more upgradeable than the beautiful all-in-one wonder.
As far as the hardware is concerned, I doubt it would be difficult for Apple to port one of its laptop motherboard designs for this box, if not basing it on the current eMac.
And this would not only be a switcher box, but also help Apple make inroads into the enterprise and education markets, where, combined with the power of the Xserve, “going Apple” would become incredibly attractive. And imagine the addition of a mini-tablet for power users or teachers. Admit it, you’ve read the rumors.
Laptops will still be needed, though some streamlining of the iBook and PowerBook lines wouldn’t hurt, as will the PowerMac for advanced and extreme users. But if Apple wants to gain more substantial market share – once again take control of the education segment, jump in to the enterprise world, and on top gain tons more switchers – they have to own up to price point. Lessen the margin on hardware to increase your user base. And then capitalize on those users with DLDs, and software.
What would you rather buy, an iMac, or an iBox and an iPod? Monitors will be monitors, and it’s time Apple ended its love affair with all-in-one, upgrade-challenged machines that aren’t as attractive as PCs, other than in good-looks.
I’ll buy Mac for the rest of my life, no matter the price. And most Mac users will. But those worried about their bottom line, and PC users in general, would rather not. They’d be happier with Dell.com and a Domino’s pie.