Yesterday’s Mini is an impressive offering. $499 for tiny mac that runs OS X. Additional Wifi, Bluetooth and DVD burning makes it a steal. It’s going to be a huge hit. $500 is less than a hard weekend of partying in Manhattan. At this price, we should have a Mini for every room— and I think that’s the idea.
It occurred to me that something was missing here— and I’m starting to realize this may be the first piece in a larger plan. It’s been said the Mini’s target is PC iPod users that could be swayed to the Mac if there was a cheap offering. If that’s the case then the Mini is lacking a major feature that tips us off to it’s future…
Audio. iTunes listeners are going to want to hook it up to their stereos. I’m amazed that it only has a mini-headphone jack output. The iMac and Powermacs all have optical audio out. They all have audio in. Even the Airport Express sports optical audio out. No Audio in and lousy stereo headphone out? Something is missing here.
Steve made a big deal announcing that this is the year of HD Video. Quicktime 7 is going to support it— as well as 22 channel surround sound. Wouldn’t you think Apple would want to leverage all that in their new Mac? High definition DVDs outputting jaw dropping surround sound to your home theater?
Here’s what I think is coming…
In the days leading up to MacWorld Apple was aggressively trying to plug a leak of a secret project that was rumored to be announced at the Keynote. Court documents filed in the trade secret suits by Apple referred to the hardware product by code name “Asteroid.” It’s was well believed in the rumor world that Asteriod was an audio break-out box for GarageBand users to connect their home instruments. Asteriod wasn’t released— or announced— but the lawsuits remain. This product is still coming. It’s still a secret Apple want’s to keep under wraps.
Asteriod is going to be far more than a break-out box. Asteriod will be the missing link to provide a Digital Livingroom Macintosh. Asteroid will be a Firewire based media bridge. An external box that inputs and outputs video (HD) and digital audio. Asteriod will provide PVR features much like the Elgato capture peripheral. It will ship with an iApp that allows time shifting of video, slideshows and music on your TV (a la TiVo Home Media Option) and home theatre integration. Sharing of video captures (television shows) via rendezvous (like iPhoto) using Quicktime’s killer new compression codecs- and locked down with Tivo-To-Go type DRM. Being sold as an external add on, Mac users will be able to utilize their existing hardware, even if they don’t own a Mini.
The goal for the Mini is much more than PC switchers. Apple wants one next to a TV in every room of your house.
Next logical step— iTunes store selling DVD downloads. Tivo has partnered with NetFlix to provide DVD downloads to your TiVo, there’s no reason why Apple can’t do it with their negotiating power over the entertainment industry. The iTunes Music Store now plays movie previews and is heavily integrated with Quicktime. Apple needs to keep in the forefront. It won’t be long before TiVo type convergence devices (Comcast DVR, Moxie, etc..) are also providing the purchasing of online music and saving it to a local share.
Don’t complain about Mini storage limitations… that’s a third party opportunity. As a thousand iPod accessory manufactures popped up, so will the Mini spawn a cottage industry building items like 300GB firewire externals with the same footprint as the Mini and stack neatly on top. Need more space for more movies, photos and music? Stack another storage block on top of the Mini.
Apple has learned from the iPod that add on accessories are cash cows. Inexpensive Minis, with inexpensive “Asteroid” video-audio boxes, with inexpensive add on storage. In the end it’s not so inexpensive. But Mac users will buy all of it. Asteroid is on a collision course for your Mac Mini and your living-room.