While analysts and industry watchers have been talking of the potential halo effect of the iPod encouraging Windows users to switch to Mac for some time, the advent of the Mac mini has lead analysts to change their focus.

Gartner research director Mike McGuire told NewsFactor: "The iPod is causing some people to take another look at the Mac platform again, if they haven't done so for a few years – but Apple still has to prove itself. Although consumers will still have to find value in Apple's $500 Mac Mini, this is the real door opener".

IDC VP Roger Kay is also sceptical that Apple's iPod had much to do with the recent growth that the company has enjoyed in its PC business. Apple grew its PC market share by one-tenth of 1 per cent, both worldwide and in the USA, in the 4th quarter of last year.

He told NewsFactor: "Frankly, I think that Apple's share [of the PC market] will be more affected by the new Mac mini than by its digital music success. It's a stretch to liken the experience that consumers enjoy on the iPod" to one that will compel them to "go out and buy a Mac."

Kay added: "There are a lot of people out there who would like to have a Mac but were not willing to pay extra for one, and Apple should see a decent pop in volume from its Mac mini release."

And there's more

It's not just consumers that Apple may be able to win over with the Mac mini.

Underwriters Technologies president Jay Menna said: "Apple has created yet another new market niche for the Mac by offering more than enough power to handle the Web needs of 80 per cent of all businesses globally."

He added: "Apple's new release has killed both of the price problems that we have been fighting to get Macs into the data center: the cost of the computer itself and the cost of space. We were shocked."

He states that the device will be brought "into direct competition with virtual private servers and blade servers". "Macs have never been commodities, and I don't see the Mac Mini as a commodity either, in the sense that just anyone can brainlessly stamp it out. The innovation is still there, and the style is still there," he concluded.