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Apple Watch: Pre-Expo Rumors Validated
Tuesday, 2005 January 11 - 7:47 pm
In a series of major announcements today, Apple validated most of the significant rumors that had appeared on Mac enthusiast web sites prior to this week's MacWorld Expo. Among the announcements: a $499 entry level "Mac Mini"; a $99 flash-memory-based "iPod Shuffle"; and, an "iWork" application suite that includes a new word processing application called "Pages".

Several Mac pundits had argued there was little chance Apple would introduce the rumored "headless" Macintosh this week. The most arrogant assertion came from someone named Bill Pallmer, who said on Friday: "I gave the headless iMac rumor a zero percent chance of being true prior to the lawsuit [filed against rumor site Think Secret], and I give a zero percent chance of being true now." He went on to berate anyone who lent any credence to the rumor. On some message boards, Bill is now being fed his appropriate servings of crow.

Today Apple announced the Mac Mini, a $499 entry-level computer. At 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) square and 2 inches (5 cm) high, it's really deserving of the "Mini" moniker; it is certainly one of the smallest desktop computers ever produced. It is quite clearly aimed at folks who already have an existing (Windows-based) computer and are looking to upgrade; the strongest evidence comes from the fact that the computer is curiously offered without a keyboard and mouse. While one can purchase a keyboard and mouse as an additional option, it's notable that this is the first Macintosh ever to be offered without them bundled in as standard equipment. Apple seems to be assuming that folks who already own a Windows PC also own a perfectly good USB keyboard, a USB mouse, and a VGA or DVI display. This is the logic Mac fans had used for years in arguing the need for a headless iMac; apparently, Apple finally agrees.

Of course, Apple can also make some good money by offering up accessories and build-to-order options. A fully tricked-out Mac Mini can run as high as $1300, and hundreds more in software and accessories can be purchased on top of that. If anything, Apple's profit margins are higher when the add-ons are sold separately; meanwhile, customers will still be lured in by the $499 advertised starting price. It's a strategy Dell and other PC manufacturers have long exploited, and it may prove to be a smart one.

The announcement of the iPod Shuffle validated another widely circulated rumor. With the rapid decline in flash memory prices over the last few years, it has finally become feasible to offer a high-capacity music player at an entry-level price. The 512MB version of the iPod Shuffle is $99 and holds about 120 songs; the 1GB version is $149 and holds about 240 songs. The ultra-portable (0.78 ounce/22g) iPod Shuffle has no display and no moving parts; it will surely appeal to athletes and those who put portability at a premium. It remains to be seen whether this is a distinct enough market from that of the fashion-conscious iPod Mini. But at $99, this is almost an impulse buy; I think sales for this will be healthy.

Apple also announced its iWork office application suite. It's somewhat of a stretch to call this a "suite" since it only has two applications, Keynote (a presentation application) and Pages (a word processor). But it's nice to see that Apple has finally moved past its aging AppleWorks application. From the looks of things, both of these applications are very elegant, capable of producing highly polished results. Priced at $79, this will give entry-level users a nice alternative to the expensive Microsoft Office suite.

Apple also showed off the new version of its iLife multimedia application suite. One thing that caught my eye is the fact that GarageBand will support music notation; that's a boon for musicians like me. But the more significant announcement, and one that many might overlook, is iMovie's support for high-definition video. Steve Jobs made an emphasis on high-definition during his speech, even calling 2005 the "year of high definition". I would not be surprised to see a future announcement involving QuickTime, HDTV, the Internet, and DVRs... perhaps in conjunction with the Mac Mini (which would make for an excellent media center PC). Stay tuned on this one (no pun intended).
Permalink  1 Comment   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: techwatch


Comment #1 from Ken (realkato)
2005 Jan 12 - 1:12 am : #
By the way, one of my favorite things about today's announcement is this: on Apple's iPod Shuffle web page, there's a footnote for the picture that compares the iPod Shuffle's size to a pack of gum. The footnote reads: "Do not eat iPod Shuffle". Gotta love it.

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