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ATPM 11.02
February 2005


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by Wes Meltzer,

A Life In Miniature

Small is the new black—er, brushed metal.

That’s about the only conclusion one can take away from Macworld San Francisco, where Steve Jobs unveiled the Mac mini and the iPod shuffle, devices which take two of Apple’s three product categories (desktops and iPod) and make them substantially smaller.

Predictably, they’re a big hit. In fact, they’re so big that I’m running a special addendum on the Bloggable: The Companion Blog about all the non-Mac mini-, non-iPod shuffle-related news. Check it out!

Much Ado About the Mini

The opening montage of this giant wave of publicity was Think Secret’s inside scoop: Apple was on the verge of releasing a new Mac, listed at $500, headless, with pretty bare-bones specs. The idea was to get Windows-using iPod owners in the door, according to Nick Ciarelli, alias Nick dePlume (more next month on that), who runs Think Secret.

Of course, the question was, could anyone confirm besides Ciarelli? Gizmodo demurred, and even The New York Times caught the rumor bug (a little late). Kirk McPike had a fantastic analysis explaining the value of a $500 Mac in terms of filling an open spot in the Apple product lineup.

When the rumors came true and Steve Jobs announced the Mac mini—and Steve can’t have been pleased that the regular mills had already broken the story—there was a tidal wave of positive response, and a bunch of ‘gotchas,’ too.

Gizmodo’s round-up is absolutely the best place to start for Mac mini news and reaction. They’ve got 12 major reaction bits from the morning of Jobs’ MWSF keynote, including their own.

If you haven’t already had enough Mac mini news now that you’ve read Gizmodo’s comprehensive look, we’ll move on to Sandy McMurray and his remark that Apple releasing low-cost products is exactly what everyone wanted to hear. He calls the Mac mini craze like it is: a meme. Even the Washington Post is in on it, and the New York Times ran an editorial all about Apple’s newly revitalized product lines! Must have been some slow day at the Times’ editorial board meeting. And, gosh, John Dvorak and Paul Thurrott both liked it, too. The world is now ending. (At least Rob Enderle dislikes it. Thanks, AtAT.)

To corroborate Steve’s initial remarks, MacInTouch liked it, and MacCentral still says it’s cheaper than a PC.

It has escaped no one, anywhere, who has a blog and wants to write commentary, that Apple’s product lineup now has a “sweet spot”, thanks to Paul Nixon, where it can draw in Windows users due to a combination of the iPod’s ease of use, good design, and low cost. Because that’s clearly the point of the Mac mini.

Or is it? While John Gruber thinks so, Bill Palmer is apoplectic with disappointment and insists all Apple can do to fix the mini is to, umm, change just about everything about it. Well!

And then, there are those who see something entirely different from the mini. That’s always the case with Apple products. Take the folk at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, who brainstormed new and creative ideas. The Mac-as-PVR people are jumping for joy, like at Engadget (including a how-to guide) and Boris Mann.

Wherefore Art Thou Stick of Gum?

In case you have been truly living under a rock, you have heard of the iPod shuffle too. It’s Apple’s new gumstick-sized, white-on-green Doublemint marketed iPod for people who need even less space and size than the iPod mini can offer. It’s kinda cute. And it’s more the right size for my mom, who cannot possibly have stored more than 10 albums on her iPod in the last two years.

Thanks to Engadget, Bloggable’s coverage is much-enriched. Try the initial announcement response and a very cool iPod shuffle-as-porn “unpacking” item.

Julio Ojeda-Zapata, who by day plays a tech writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, says he is skeptical about the lack of a screen on the iPod shuffle. “But, um, isn’t a mediocre screen better than none at all?” he asks.

Someone got smart at AppleMatters and posted a dissection of the iPod shuffle, against a green tile background so painstakingly clinical it looks like a hospital. With little flashes of red, you almost expect blood.

What with the fuss over the shuffle, it’s no surprise that they’re all sold out—and that it’s listed as the no. 1 and 2 top products for early adopters on Amazon, thanks to AtAT again. (Jack Miller notes that, in addition, Dell’s smack talk about the iPod brand generally is failing, since, after all, his example is the Walkman, an incredibly successful product. Oh, come now, guys.)

For more of your iPod fix, early in the month Scott Rosenberg called Apple’s DRM “fascism,” something that I think might be…just a tad too far. Sandy McMurray calls him on it, but he’s got a good analysis, too: the reason the DRM is so complex to circumvent is because the music industry and users disagree on what rights they get when they buy the music. And in a related vein, the president of Sony’s video game division admitted recently that it was their insistence on DRM (and, frankly, their lame-o ATRAC format) that cost them the digital audio market. Imagine that. Somebody at Sony finally woke up and smelled the coffee. The rest of the company can’t follow along soon enough.

And that’s about it for the month, as far as the Mac mini and the iPod shuffle are concerned. Don’t forget to check the addendum for all the rest of January!

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