I've been following quite a bit of Apple news lately in light of the launch of Yosemite and new Macs, namely the Retina iMac and the Mac Mini. I've never personally been interesting in owning an iMac -- the thought of an all in one desktop never jelled with me -- but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Mini and I currently own a 2011 Mini (the model with the discreet AMD graphics card).
In the recent Apple keynote, Phil Schiller dismissed the Mini as basically the first Mac for many switchers. This was not the case for me and many others. In fact it was my forth Mac and will likely be my last.
Apple regarded the Mini as a gateway machine, something to get people into the Mac ecosystem back when desktop computer's still ruled the roost in terms of market share and performance. Since then the Mini has been many things to many different people; it's a highly versatile, performant and green little computer that's outstanding for anything from casual computing to development to use as a server or home theatre PC. My 2011 model with it's Radeon graphics cards is even halfway decent as a gaming machine albeit for older titles.
The 2011 and 2012 models are so performant in fact that I suspect that they were cannibalising sales from the iMac and even the Mac Pro. They were upgradable too, with aftermarket RAM and solid-state storage, again denying Apple of BTO revenue for their overpriced RAM and SSD/Fusion drive prices.
So with that in mind I'm not surprised at that the recently announced Mini is a downgrade in terms of CPU performance and Apple has made it much more difficult for owners to upgrade the machine themselves.
Not surprised, but disappointed.
The Mini was a pioneering device but now there's plenty of small form factor computers on the market with comparable energy usage and performance. Many of these devices, like the Intel Nuc and Gigabyte Brix, are tinker/upgrader friendly with the ability to upgrade both RAM and storage.
They are also much more flexible in what they can run, fully supporting Linux and Windows out of the box. They can even run OS X, making them a great candidate for a mini 'Hackintosh'.
I'm not the only one disappointed too. On Macrumors.com, I found two very long threads (here and here) where people are voicing their opinions of the downgraded systems and the disappointment of Apple's treatment of Mini users after more than a two-year wait.
Beyond the disappointment however, it's made me realise (again) on how risky it is to peg your computing needs to a single company. With Apple the risk of disappointment is high and the consequences are great because Apple produces both the hardware and software. If you love OS X, you have to accept Apple's hardware and their design choices unless you go the perilous route of creating a Hackintosh.
For a long time this was quite acceptable to me but as time has passed.
I like to spread my risk; it's better for me and my work if I'm not tied to a single way of doing things. This is why I prefer open source software and use only open formats.
I like to be able to upgrade my hardware to prolong it's life; it's better for the environment and my wallet. A business model based on planned obsolescence in a world of increasing resource scarcity and widening economic division is quite frankly obscene.
I like the freedom to choose what software I install on my hardware even if that means changing the entire operating system.
My 2011 Mini will likely be the last Mac I buy because it is not in Apple's business interests to respect these freedoms. Fine, I accept that; it's apparent that I'm not the kind of customer that Apple wants. I'm happy for a desktop to last 5 or even 10 years.