According to this piece by Kasper Jade at AppleInsider, the Mac Mini may be on its way out. The article outlines what most Mini-followers already know: The Mini has been pretty low key in Apple’s lineup, with very few updates or price breaks.
There are a lot of Apple rumors. Many of them are ridiculous, and a large percentage are dubious, but this one has merit to me. However, I don’t necessarily think it’s because Apple doesn’t want to have a low-cost, quality machine. Rather, I think it’s because the very design of the machine that keeps it cool also prevents it from ever getting real price breaks. Look at it. A six-inch square is likely using a few custom boards that do not lend themselves to cheap mass quantities and efficiencies of scale.
In my opinion this happened with the G4 iMac (a.k.a. the “iLamp”). Many praised its dome base and hovering display, but the custom boards necessary for that dome were likely responsible for the prices not sufficiently lowering over its life cycle. When it was replaced by the G5 iMac (the one like the current model), the price break at the low end was $500 (almost 28%)! A much better machine, yet it cost $500 less. I believe this was because it was less expensive to manufacture, and required fewer custom components.
Back to the Mini, so here is a machine into which Apple can maybe put better processors (with its small space is the heat generated by faster chips too much?), but can’t really lower the price anyway. It becomes less and less of a value as time goes on. It only makes sense to can it.
My hope is that, like the G4 iMac, the Mini is replaced with something that serves the same purpose while keeping an eye towards the fact that it’s a consumer model and must make concessions to cost. Only time will tell, but I can certainly understand why the current Mini might have to go.
Another option would be for Apple to just forgo profits on the thing. A “loss leader”, if you will. I don’t believe Apple would take an actual loss, it’s not their style, but they may skip some profit to get more people in the Mac fold. Still, that seems dubious to me. If Apple wants to remain in this arena I think they’ll design a new model. I hope so.