Is a headless Mac on its way?

I got slammed a few months back for suggesting (in print) that Apple needed to sell a cheap and cheerful Mac without a monitor, and for suggesting (in this blog) that Macs were too expensive compared to PCs. However, according to Think Secret, a super-cheap headless Mac is on its way.

With iPod-savvy Windows users clearly in its sights, Apple is expected to announce a bare bones, G4-based iMac without a display at Macworld Expo on January 11 that will retail for $499, highly reliable sources have confirmed to Think Secret.

Apple has been working on the low-end Mac for almost a year, sources report. Indications are Apple has been working mostly on finding the right mix of price, performance and features that would motivate Windows users to consider a Mac, and less on the actual engineering of the product. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to design a bare-bones PC,” said one source familiar with the project. “What it takes is a team of marketing and software experts to find the right mix to convince Windows users to buy a Mac at a price that is not much more than the cost of an iPod.”

Sources familiar with the product cautioned that the low-end Mac will be marketed towards a totally different audience than those who traditionally buy even a $799 eMac. “This product is not going to be about performance,” said a source close to Apple. “This is going to be the basics, but with just as much of a focus on software as any Mac could ever be.”

It might not be a flying machine, but a G4’s still fast enough for media recording and playback; depending on the outputs, it could double as a PVR or media centre. That’d be fun.

A Mac for less than a Dell? Yes please.

Update, 11.30am

The Register’s Tony Smith comes to the same conclusion as me:

One other thought occurs to us. While the reports of the new machine are pitching the box as a low-end personal computer, we recall recent Wall Street analyst suggestions that Apple is well placed to capitalise on the emerging ‘living room PC’ market. A Mac sold without a display would make a good candidate for connection to a TV, particularly if it comes in a slim, DVD player-style casing. Apple is expected to promote the new machine more for its software and functionality than performance. What if it’s got media streaming via Wi-Fi and TiVo-like PVR features? All for half the price of a Media Center PC – and with Apple’s stylish, more living room-friendly looks…

Incidentally, if the rumours are correct then the headless Mac will have a 1.25GHz G4 chip. That’s essentially the same chip that’s in my PowerBook, which is no slouch.

2 thoughts on “Is a headless Mac on its way?

  1. Squander Two says:

    As long as they don’t do anything really stupid like not give it any slots for memory upgrades, that sounds fantastic. Will it plug into an old G3 iMac, d’you think, so you can use the old Mac’s screen? That’d be good.

  2. Gary says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it lacked expansion slots – that way there’s a clear upgrade path to the iMac. I’d be surprised if it could utilise a G3’s screen, though. Reports so far suggest a DVI/VGA connector and possibly a TV-out too.

    Of course, it’s all rumours just now so what it has or hasn’t got – and whether it even exists – is still very much a matter of conjecture.

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