Mini and MaxThe long-neglected Mac Mini, which hasn't been updated in almost two years, got a big boost in technology as well as being split into two models. The new model introduced at the existing $599 price point features a 2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of memory with room for up to 4GB, a 120GB hard disk and the GeForce 9400M processor. For $799, you get 2GB of RAM instead of 1GB and a 320GB hard drive instead of 120GB. When idle, the Mac Mini uses just 13 watts of power. The case has been redesigned to feature five USB 2.0 ports. The Combo Drive has been replaced with the dual-layer 8x SuperDrive, thereby supporting more formats. The FireWire 400 port was replaced with a FireWire 800 port and a Mini DisplayPort was added to support Apple's new monitors.
The Challenge: Selling the New MacsOn the top end of things, the Mac Pro has gotten an upgrade and price cut. Like the iMacs, it had $300 shaved off its starting price of $2,799, but internally it's had some big changes. The machines, which run two quad-core Xeon processors, have migrated to Intel's Core i7. Preliminary benchmarks show that processor to be more than twice as fast as the previous generation of Xeons. The new Nehalem architecture supports three channels of DDR3 error correcting memory, which offer up to 2.4 times the memory bandwidth of older systems while cutting memory latency up to 40 percent. Mac Pros come with the GeForce GT 120 with 512MB of GDDR3 memory or, in a first for AMD, users have the option of a ATI Radeon HD 4870 card instead. The Mac Pro includes four direct-attach cable-free hard drive carriers for installing up to 4TB of internal storage when using a 1TB Serial ATA drive. All of Apple's new computers feature the same environmentally-friendly components and designs as the MacBooks introduced last year. They exceed current Energy Star 4.0 requirements and meet Energy Star 5.0 requirements, which will become effective later this year. They use no polluting materials, like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or brominated flame retardants and meet the requirements for EPEAT Gold status. Apple has long been a premium product sold to a well-heeled customer base willing to pay extra for its product. That may be changing. NPD Group reported that in January, desktop sales fell 19.4 percent from January 2008 in terms of revenue and 10.9 percent in units. Apple desktops fell at three times that rate, but there may be an explanation. New MacBooks came out in the fourth quarter and laptops account for an increasing percentage of Apple sales. Plus, the first rumors of dwindling iMac inventories began to hit the thriving Apple blogosphere, which hinted at new product to come. So customers may have held off buying. Apple did not return calls seeking comment. Still, 2009 is not looking rosy. Gartner expects PC sales to drop 11.9 percent in 2009, and that's with mobile sales going up by nine percent. It all points to a collapse in desktop computer sales. So can Apple sell these desktops? Yes, this is Apple, after all, noted Mika Kitagawa, principal analyst in Gartner's client computing group. "I could imagine Apple's growth will be the same or above the worldwide average," she told InternetNews.com. "They still have a broad loyalty and there will be people who will spend extra anyway, but it won't be as strong as they were before. The good news is Apple is adjusting the price as much as they could. The 24-inch iMac at $1,499 is a pretty good price for their standard system," Kitagawa added. No PC vendor introduces product on the line between the first and second quarters, traditionally the slowest time of year, but Apple is positioning for a different market. "Their main customers are consumers and education, and their education business is suffering big time," Kitagawa said. "Education typically starts buying in second and third quarters. I believe they are not looking at the consumer market, they are looking at the education market." This article appears courtesy of InternetNews.com.
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