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Mac mini

Apple now have a cookie tin measuring 6.5 inches square by 2 inches tall. It's a complete OS X box. It's the old cube minus most of the height. It's self-contained and is a complete system unit and will hook up with existing peripherals such as a USB keyboard and multiple button mouse with or without roller wheel - the works.

This might not be interesting for Mac users, but for others it's the kind of package that's almost impossible to resist.

If you don't yet have an Apple box, buy a Mac mini and buy it today. Stop thinking about it - just get it.

And whilst most reviews are highly positive, there are a few holdouts, and the general trend with these is that there's less bang for buck than with, for example, a Dell in the same price category.

Which to an aware Internet user is downright risible. This is no longer a matter of banner waving: connecting with Windows is not a viable alternative. x86 hardware is horrendous. Dells fall apart faster than they're delivered.

Millions of iPod users have finally discovered how easy and reliable things get once you leave x86 and Microsoft behind. And even if most of the 'Apple is more expensive' talk is engendered spin, junk boxes on the extreme low end have in the past been cheaper than what Apple had to offer.

But Apple do not cut corners. Apple test hardware before it leaves the factory. And Apple run Unix - which is about as secure as you can get. Unix has a security model and Unix won't require hundreds of dollars of additional software just to do what a good operating system should have done in the first place.

Potential switchers eyeing the Mac mini are not looking at the MPG or the GHz or the GB of the HD: they're looking at Apple in the first place because Windows is hopeless. Potential switchers who haven't done their research don't see that any Apple box is a better and cheaper investment than x86 jalopies. The Mac mini makes it all clear.

Cheap hardware has always been both an oxymoron and a lie. x86 hardware is a market full of deceit. OEMs supposedly under great pressure to produce cheaply and sell at the same low level have in fact always been taking more money for their products at all possible levels but the absolute nadir - and even there it's been 'raunchy'.

Special discounts, mail-in rebates - it's all calculated to get you into the site or showroom, interested in the brand - and when you look further into their product lines, you end up contemplating spending more money than you'd ever dreamt of.

x86 hardware is shitty. It's thrown-together junk. It's not made to last. It's not cheap and it's a direct rip-off when you think of the short lifetime and the rather scandalous methods these companies use to cut corners.

Products are not checked before leaving the factory. It's cheaper to send out bad hardware and wait for the customer to complain than to implement proper quality and stability controls in the factory before shipment. This is cynical and it sucks.

But that's the hardware issue. The other 'sociological' issue is more overreaching and perhaps much more important.

People need a fast viable alternative to Windows. All but the most backward hayseed communities have today begun to understand in their own way how bad Windows and all Microsoft products are.

It's not just about cleaning out your pocketbook - it's also about getting a halfway decent product. And Microsoft will never be very interested - or capable - of giving people such a product, and more know that now.

Migrating to Linux is an option, but it's not an easy option. Linux is not 'turn key': it rarely works right out of the box or works well. It's riddled with issue after issue, about device drivers and what-not, about motley user interfaces, with documentation that isn't really all that helpful or complete.

For all its virtues and its viability in the corporate server market, when it comes to the office or kitchen table end user, Linux still doesn't 'just work' - and byte for byte the Linux desktops can never stand in the shadow of OS X and its NeXTSTEP/Cocoa/Aqua brilliance.

OS X doesn't crash and doesn't hang. It's not vulnerable. It's not a headache forcing you to buy additional software. You get a computer that's complete 'as is' and you really won't need much else at all.

People will 'dig' this - they'll understand this at a gut level. The word will spread. 'What's $500? What would a year's subscription to Symantec, Zone Labs, and who knows what else cost you for a single year? And for what? So you can still get hassled all over the place?'

The Mac mini strikes a blow at the most prevalent fallacy in consumer thinking right now in the computer hardware market and makes it bloody obvious there is no reason to balk any longer.

It's a bit of what Bill Gates told Steve Jobs years ago - getting your operating system 'out there' so you're no longer a 'niche player' - except that now it's not just the prosperity of Apple that's affected, but the status of the world at large.

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