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Will Apple ever make a "normal" Mac?


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#1 of 91 DaveF

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Posted November 02 2006 - 02:17 PM

Having been using my wife's Mac recently, a dual-processor G5 from '04, for some lightweight iMovie editing, I've become intrigued by the prospect of buying a new, Intel-bas Mac. But I find myself a bit frustrated that Apple doesn't sell what I consider a normal, mid-range Mac.

The mid-range price tier, $1500 - $2500, are the iMacs. They are elegant, attractive designs. But they are essentially laptop computers with high-pricing and upgrade options to match. Not my ideal layout. The tower versions, with more traditional PC form factor, suggest what I want. But with Xeon CPUs, meager graphics card, and $3000+ pricing, they priced beyond my means, and ill-designed for my hobbyist, gaming, office-style interests.

I wonder if Apple would again make a mid-range PC, tower or desktop style, in the $1500 - $2000 range, available without keyboard or mouse? I don't think they've had such a machine since the PowerMac days, 604 processors, and the ill-fated clones.

#2 of 91 Phil Kim

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Posted November 02 2006 - 06:44 PM

I don't think they will. Apple is marketing Mac Pro as a workstation for music/video/photography professionals, scientists/researchers, and design/print designers. Both Mac mini and iMac fill the other extreme, both of which work great for "hobbies and office style interests", although its GPU is not powerful enough for serious gamers.

The fact is, Mac OS X is not yet an ideal gaming platform. Most games are about 6 months behind the PC counterparts, for instance. And like it or not, Mac is not after "traditional PC form factor" market.

If you want expandable Mac without paying Mac Pro's price, consider refurbished Mac Pro (go to Apple's online store and look for Save red tag). Currently, the cheapest refurbished is $2199, but it should drop more significantly over time.

#3 of 91 MarkHastings

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Posted November 03 2006 - 06:56 AM

No offense to PC users, but I doubt Mac is going to 'dumb down' their systems to make 'mid-level' entries...

It's a double edged sword, as a long time Mac user, I LOVE doing work on my Mac, but I prefer buying PC's at home becuase it's cheaper to do so. If it means keeping the qulaity up for Macs, I'm all for not having them produce lower end machines.

#4 of 91 DaveF

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Posted November 03 2006 - 08:17 AM

Quote:
but I doubt Mac is going to 'dumb down'
I don't I want a "dumbed-down" system -- in terms of power I want something more powerful than the iMac but less than the PowerMac. But I want it in a standard configuration so more of the cost is placed into hardware rather than miniaturized form factor (e.g. the the price-penalty of the laptop-derived iMac and mini Macs.)

I also want a PC style design to save money. I want to skip Apple's monitor, since they're double the price of everyone else and not pay for the keyboard and mouse as I don't care for them.

#5 of 91 Carlo Medina

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Posted November 03 2006 - 12:50 PM

That's just not Apple's philosophy. "Think Different" and all that.

Design is, perhaps not more important than function, but in the eyes of Apple, it's just as important.

So for what you want, you're options are pretty much limited to the WIntel world. Maybe in the future, with the emergence of MacTel (or MacIntel)
Mac will move towards something you suggest, but I doubt it.

Their strategy seems to be this: you want power, real power, then go server class with the MacPro. Otherwise, it's the iMac line for the "decent power but great looks/ergonomics". And then the Mac Mini for the "I want to buy it for my kids so they can be seen as cool by the other kindergarteners".

I think they know that powerful yet affordable midlevel PCs, like the ones gamers on a budget covet, have traditionally very low margins of profit, and are currently (and for the foreseeable future) dominated by the mass makers like Dell and HP or the DIY'ers, and are choosing to not even compete at that level.

#6 of 91 MarkHastings

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Posted November 03 2006 - 01:00 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlo Medina
I think they know that powerful yet affordable midlevel PCs, like the ones gamers on a budget covet, have traditionally very low margins of profit, and are currently (and for the foreseeable future) dominated by the mass makers like Dell and HP or the DIY'ers, and are choosing to not even compete at that level.
Excellent point! Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image and completely agreed.

Perhaps this is an avenue they should persue, but would sales be worth going this route? It seems that the majority of Mac purchasers are looking for biggest/best/all bells and whistles.
Quote:
I want to skip Apple's monitor, since they're double the price of everyone else
True, but again, that's the double edge sword thing. The montiors are expensive because there's no competition, but while that drives up the price, it's best not to have competition. Everything works perfectly and you never have to worry about researching which monitor to buy Posted Image

That's also the nice thing about paying the price for one of these montiors. I have 2 at work and they are IN-FUCKIN-CREDIBLE!!! Better than anything I've ever worked with! The price may be high, but it's hardly considered overpriced.

#7 of 91 Carlo Medina

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Posted November 03 2006 - 03:07 PM

You know, I think at one time they did try to compete in the mass market world and quite frankly, lost.

So now they know that their fan base is an esoteric bunch (and yes I'm a fan) and are just trying to build something that appeals to them, and if the fanbase grows, that's just gravy. Meanwhile, despite making what I consider to be good hardware, they are still able to have a healthy profit margin for themselves and their dealers (ever seen a Mac sale? Pretty rare, except for academic pricing and clearances).

I think this is the business model that works for them. I really don't think they are interested at all in competing in the mass market world. And they really could, witness their success with the iPod. They know how to make something that can appeal to the masses. But with the low profit margins, and other already established (and very large) competition, it would be an uphill battle that they won't win (especially with Windows entrenched in Corporate America and in the average American home).

#8 of 91 Thomas Newton

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Posted November 03 2006 - 03:52 PM

Quote:
The tower versions, with more traditional PC form factor, suggest what I want. But with Xeon CPUs, meager graphics card, and $3000+ pricing, they priced beyond my means, and ill-designed for my hobbyist, gaming, office-style interests.

You don't have to get one with the Nvidia 7300 card, you know. You can custom-order one with an ATI Radeon X1900 (for $250 more).

#9 of 91 Thomas Newton

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Posted November 03 2006 - 04:00 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveF
I want to skip Apple's monitor

There's nothing preventing you from buying a third-party monitor as a second monitor for an iMac, or as the only monitor for a Mac Pro.

#10 of 91 DaveF

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Posted November 04 2006 - 05:43 AM

I enjoy and appreciate the comments.
Quote:
I think they know that powerful yet affordable midlevel PCs... have traditionally very low margins of profit,
Quote:
I really don't think they are interested at all in competing in the mass market world.
Baseline models, the sub-$1000 bracket, have even thinner margins, yet Apple has the mini. I assert that Apple could design a mid-range system and meet their profit and style criteria.And Apple is clearly a mass-market product -- they're selling from CompUSA and mall stores. They dominate the mass market for "MP3" players. And their ad campagins for the past few years target PC users, trying to bring more into the fold; not just re-selling to the existing user base.

Clearly their product requires, and has, strong distinguishing factors to survive. So they will never come close to the market penetration of Windows. I believe Apple recognizes that and sets their goals appropriately.

But I don't think it's correct to say Apple is not, and doesn't try to be, "mass-market". They've been targeting it since the beginning, and continue to do so.


As for my desired, but not-available Mac computer, I guess I'm really a PC user. I want to install the Mac OS on cheap hardware of my choosing. I'd like to buy a system according to my specs and install Mac OSX on it.

In part, this is because I don't care for certain aspects of Mac hardware. I find their keyboard and mouse, well, sucky. Sure I can replace them with another USB system, but I've got to double-purchase further increasing my costs.

As for their monitors: they may be aces but I can't tell the difference. A $400 Dell 20" LCD is just as good as a $600 Apple 20" LCD to me, so why would I want to pay a 50% premium?

I could buy the mini and get my own accessories. But with the Core Solo, it's too low end for my desires. And the Mac Pro is just priced far beyond my budget for even a base model.

That leaves the iMac. A gorgeously designed machine. Wonderfully svelte. And except for the graphics card, has a strong hardware combination. But this all-in-one design is at odds with my (perhaps ossified mind's) view of PC hardware: expandable, user upgradeable. And home repairable if things go amok.

Still, I'm learning to use OSX 10.3 with my wife's machine. And I hope to upgrade her to 10.5 next year (Time Machine looks great.) If I choose to buy Mac, iMac is my best choice. But I wish Apple would "Think Different" from its own product line and offer a "normal" mid-range system for a Windows addict like me.

#11 of 91 MarkHastings

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Posted November 04 2006 - 06:20 AM

Quote:
But I don't think it's correct to say Apple is not, and doesn't try to be, "mass-market". They've been targeting it since the beginning, and continue to do so.
I'm sure they'd like to be in the mass market, but it doesn't seem like they're willing to go the Windows route to get there.

This reminds me a lot like gas stations. My car has to take nothing lower than 91 octane. Most gas stations only offer 87, 89, & 93 so I'm usually stuck with paying for 93. Whereas there are stations that offer 87, 88, 89, 91, & 93.

It would be great if all the stations would offer more grades, but they must realize that it's not worth having to store 5 grades of gas and just offer the more popular grades. Posted Image

#12 of 91 Andrew Pratt

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Posted November 04 2006 - 10:08 AM

Quote:
I want to install the Mac OS on cheap hardware of my choosing.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that Jobs opts to let a version of OSX be installed on non apple hardware soon. It would be a very strong counter move against Vista if us PC hardware people could install OSX (legally) as I know a fair number of friends that would stay with XP and install OSX instead of Vista if given the chance to do so.

#13 of 91 Ken Chan

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Posted November 04 2006 - 11:01 AM

Quote:
I could buy the mini and get my own accessories. But with the Core Solo, it's too low end for my desires
All (both) Mac minis are now Core Duo.

iMac is Core 2 Duo. Mac Pro is dual Xeon; i.e. dual dual-core Core microarchitecture, or dual "workstation Core 2". Intel's marketing department should be lined up and whipped with a wet noodle. Confusingly, the Intel Core 2 is the first chip in the Core microarchitecture; the Core-no-2 in the mini is not, it's more like a dual-core Pentium M. The big difference is no 64-bit, which currently doesn't matter much.

Aside from the integrated graphics, the Mac mini is pretty capable, and not just for kindergarteners. It is the "normal" Mac, since normal does not including gaming. (What percentage of Windows boxes are used for gaming?) Of course, as always you can wait six more months and see what happens.

Quote:
I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that Jobs opts to let a version of OSX be installed on non apple hardware soon
Apple makes its profits selling hardware/systems, and then supporting all these non-Apple configurations would be a nightmare. Unlikely.

#14 of 91 Carlo Medina

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Posted November 04 2006 - 11:20 AM

Quote:
Baseline models, the sub-$1000 bracket, have even thinner margins, yet Apple has the mini. I assert that Apple could design a mid-range system and meet their profit and style criteria.And Apple is clearly a mass-market product -- they're selling from CompUSA and mall stores.
But the mini is not designed to compete at the $1000 level. It is horribly underpowered compared to any WIntel machine you can get at a comparable price (and remember, I'm a Mac fan). So even though a Mac product exists at sub $1000, doesn't mean it competes for the market of other sub $1000 machines. It's still an overpriced piece of machinery in my mind, which means that Apple still retains a healthy profit margin on it, unlike the sub $1000 WIntel PCs. Used to be that building your own PC was way cheaper (I've built a half dozen between 1999-2005). Now it's almost not worth it at all, other than being able to customize the parts you want there really is barely a savings benefit.
Quote:
But I don't think it's correct to say Apple is not, and doesn't try to be, "mass-market". They've been targeting it since the beginning, and continue to do so.
I agreed they targeted it in the beginning, but failed (clearly, 5% is failing). But the success of the iPod has allowed them to have healthy corporate earnings without needing to be mass-market successful with their computer line. Look at the current offerings and tell me what's supposed to compete with the mass market WIntel computer line?

1. Mac Mini? Horribly underpowered, unexpandable, small HD, limited RAM upgradability.
2. iMac? A prime example of form and function being equals, with a price premium to boot. Mass market is the triumph of function over form for cheap (i.e. bang for buck), which the iMac is not. Though I personally am eyeing the 24" version to replace my PC when it dies (gotta love 1920x1200!) that's the $2000+ model (more if you want the 500GB HD and 7600 video card).
3. MacPro? Yeah, $2500 base config, no monitor, that's not gonna compete at the WIntel machine prices.

So I still contend that Apple is not eyeing the mass market with their PC line. They've already won it on the iPod front and that's allowing them to keep designing their esoteric (yet in my mind wonderful) PCs.

Can't wait for my new Macbook Pro Core 2 Duo to come in next week!

Oh that's another great example where they are gaining ground: the laptop. I think Jobs claimed 12% (or more) share in laptops, and that also is keeping their profit margins up. It seems like the portable market (for computers and for MP3 players) are where Apple's "aesthetics equal to function" really resonate for the average consumer, not in the desktop PC market.

#15 of 91 Andrew Pratt

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Posted November 04 2006 - 12:16 PM

Quote:
Apple makes its profits selling hardware/systems, and then supporting all these non-Apple configurations would be a nightmare. Unlikely.

I don't disagree but its being done already via hacked versions of OSX so its not that difficult to do and there's a huge demand for it. Like it or not I still believe we'll eventually see OSX being made available to PC's. Now that Novel (Suse) and Microsoft are working closely there could be pressure on Jobs to make the move.

#16 of 91 DaveF

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Posted November 04 2006 - 03:35 PM

Quote:
I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that Jobs opts to let a version of OSX be installed on non apple hardware soon.
I'd love it, but I don't think it will happen. Apple is a hardware company. They've been urged by pundits and analysts to get out of the hardware business for years. The one time they came close, by licensing clones, it nearly killed them and they quit the clone licensing not long after. Jobs tried it with NeXT and it didn't do anything to help the company or the OS.

Quote:
All (both) Mac minis are now Core Duo.
I mispoke. What I meant is they're not Core 2 Duo, which is a good deal more powerful than the Core Duo.

As for "mass market": In my book, a company with around $23 billion in annual revenues, 30 million iPods, and 4 million Macs shipped is "mass market." Posted Image (http://money.cnn.com....pple_earnings/)

I agree with your assessment of the Macs, Carlo. But what I've read is the MacPro is, ironically, priced competitvely with Dell and its ilk for that class computer.

I think I'd be a lot more amenable to the iMacs if they offered a more recent graphics card, suitable for some mid-range gaming under a dual-boot Windows setup. I can always get a new console system, to supplement a Mac, but it's not the same in some ways.

#17 of 91 RichP

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Posted November 07 2006 - 05:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Pratt
I don't disagree but its being done already via hacked versions of OSX so its not that difficult to do and there's a huge demand for it. Like it or not I still believe we'll eventually see OSX being made available to PC's.


I can guarantee you that this will never happen as long as Steve Jobs is running Apple... Never.

Dave,

You don't mention what it is you actually want to do with this Mac. Wanting a "powerful" system is nice and all, but apart from "geek chic" its really besides the point, no? The idea is that you get a machine to perform a task, not simply because its powerful.

You mention lightweight iMovie editing; I can tell you that even the Mac Mini can perform iMovie editing flawlessly. Any of the iMac core duo systems can run Final Cut Pro extremely well. I can understand not wanting the "all-in-one" nature of the iMac, but that's how Apple's positioned itself. Incidentally, the iMacs are all user upgradeable and easily repairable. One last thing... if you're looking for the equivalent of a PC gaming rig, don't bother... that's not Apple's strong point and if you're a gamer, you should stick with PCs. But if you're looking for an outstanding workstation for video editing, then any of the Core Duo Macs on the market today will be more than adequate for your needs. Posted Image

#18 of 91 nolesrule

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Posted November 07 2006 - 06:40 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichP
One last thing... if you're looking for the equivalent of a PC gaming rig, don't bother... that's not Apple's strong point and if you're a gamer, you should stick with PCs. But if you're looking for an outstanding workstation for video editing, then any of the Core Duo Macs on the market today will be more than adequate for your needs. Posted Image

And in reality, a PC gaming rig would be just as adequate for video editing.

#19 of 91 MarkHastings

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Posted November 07 2006 - 06:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by nolesrule
And in reality, a PC gaming rig would be just as adequate for video editing.
This is very true, but for serious video editing, there can be some draw backs, depending on what systems you purchase.

For example: Last year, a co-worker and I were both looking to get new laptops. We both wanted Dell's, but he was concentrating more on Gaming and I was concentrating on graphics and video...

He ended up with the XPS and while I liked the look, I didn't like that they only offered (at the time) single processing on the XPS's - I ended up with the Inspiron because of the Duo Core.

Now, the XPS's are offering Duo Core, but the other main difference is the video cards. The XPS's use NVIDIA and the Inspiron's offer ATI. I know that I've always had troubles with NVIDIA and a lot of the multimedia apps that I use, so I would avoid Dell's 'gaming' systems because, while they are capable of multimedia apps, they aren't best suited for them.

I know this isn't always true with every company, but the point is, if you are serious about video editing, the Macs are all built for video and graphics capabilities, so you can't go wrong with any of their configurations.

#20 of 91 DaveF

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Posted November 07 2006 - 11:40 AM

Quote:
You don't mention what it is you actually want to do with this Mac.
Good point.

I will doing normal office stuff, which any old computer can do. I'm also interested in hobbyist movie editing & DVD production. I've found that that a dual 1.8GHz G5 PowerMac is too slow for this.

I also want to play some games. I'm not a hardcore gamer, but I always enjoy playing some games for the first 6 months or year with a new PC. Finally, I tend to keep computers for 5+ years, so I like something that is high-end to start and can be upgraded a bit as I go along.

If I drop the gaming, the iMac is a good solution; if a bit pricier than equivalent Dell.

As for upgrading the iMacs -- they seemed to be un-upgradeable for RAM, hard-drive, CPU, and video card. What can a user replace in them?


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