The future looks rosy for Apple, according to a detailed report examining the possibilities surrounding the new Mac mini.
The Mac mini comes at a time when the market has already been won over to the charms of Apple to some extent. Salon Reporter , Farhad Manjoo writes: "We've been living, for the past couple of years, in Apple's world, a time and place in which the normal rules of commerce no longer seem to apply to the once much-beaten-down firm. The iPod is bigger than Jesus."
He adds: "For the first time in almost two decades, there's a good – great – feeling attached to the Apple brand, a haze of optimism that is unlike the sensation we feel for all but the most cherished of consumer tech products."
In addition to coming at a time when there is good feeling towards Apple, the Mac mini shows its face just real change happens in personal computing.
Manjoo explains: "The landscape of the personal computer market has altered. In recent years, the home computer has increasingly become a digital entertainment centre; people use it for the Web, they use it for e-mail, and they use it for photos, movies and music. The Mac is not just good at these few tasks: It's the best there is. There's simply no arguing that Apple's built-in software and operating system make for the single most powerful photo, music and movie system you can buy."
This change in the way people think of the home computer, coupled with a greater awareness of Apple thanks to the iPod is sparking what some describe as the "Halo Effect". The Mac mini could be the tool Apple needs to spark of this transition, suggests one industry observer.
There is already some evidence to suggest that iPod brandishing Windows users are making the switch to Apple, although this is by no means going to spell immediate market growth. Macworld US editor Jason Snell's theory about why the halo effect hasn't been more apparent is referred to in the Salon report.
Snell's theory is as follows: "The iPod is a consumer electronics device; it does one thing, plays music, and it does that one thing extremely well. The device is also intensely personal: People buy the iPod as much for form, for the way you look when you carry it around town, as for function. Your Windows PC, by contrast, is all function, no personality. Computers are the workhorses of our lives, slaves to the routine and the mundane. You do your taxes on your PC. You pay homage to John Coltrane on your iPod.
"Thinking about it this way, it seems clear why Windows people didn't look at the iPod as a first step to the Mac: In the mind of the typical Windows user, there's no clear connection between a desktop computer like the Mac and the iPod. The two exist in separate product universes. The iPod is sublime. Your computer is a chore. Why would you ever associate the two?"
But the Mac Mini could change everything. Snell thinks it will "ease the mental transition between the iPod and the desktop machine". Seen as the "iPod of computers" the Mac Mini has the look and feel of a consumer electronics device rather than a typical computer. "It's a friendly, personal thing that will be marketed mainly for its core functions, its facility with your pictures, movies and music. "
The conclusion of this philosophising is that rather than replacing a PC, the Mac mini could be an addition to the home computer set up.
According to Snell: "People want the mini as a household digital hub, as an appliance, rather than a computer, that made it easier to play with their photos."
The point is, you don't need to switch to the Mac to enjoy the Mac mini. "You can use the Mac alongside your Windows computer, in much the same way you can use an iPod in your Windows home," he explains.
Of course there is one significant reason why some Windows users may choose to make the switch. "Compared to Windows, the Mac is a Fort Knox of security," writes Manjoo.
According to the report, there are only about 200 pieces of malware known to attack the Mac platform, and security analysts could not identify a single instance of spyware aimed at the Mac.
Webroot VP Richard Stiennon explains why the Mac is more secure. "The Mac operating system, which is based on Unix, has a much smaller surface area for attackers to target. Windows, by contrast, is a really dirty OS that requires thousands of system calls to do simple functions – and every single system call is an opportunity for an attacker to get at the system."
He adds: "It's not unusual for people to throw out their year-old Windows computers because they've become just too clogged with bad junk, The Mac, in contrast, simply doesn't suffer such afflictions."