Can the Mac Mini Gain Enterprise Traction?

At the Macworld Expo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched the Mac mini model at consumers. But longtime Mac customers and analysts say the forthcoming sub-$500 machine, as well as the Mac's solid security standing, may provide traction for the enterprise.

SAN FRANCISCO—Following Apple Computer Inc.s announcement Tuesday of a sub-$500 Macintosh, analysts, vendors and customers are upbeat about its prospects. While consumers are expected to take advantage of this new entry-point to a "digital lifestyle," questions remain on whether the forthcoming pint-sized Mac mini can beckon Microsoft Windows users and generate market pull with IT managers.

"The Mac mini is exactly what Apple has needed to capture Windows users to the [Mac] platform," said analyst Charlie Wolf with investment bank Needham & Co., of New York. He said the low-priced box combined with the "secret sauce"—Apples easy-to-use iLife content-creation tools, such a iMove and iDVD—were a compelling story. "Theres nothing like it for Windows," he said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about the Mac mini, the iPod shuffle and other products being announced at Macworld.

"The Mac mini will create switchers: There are a lot of Windows users in the $500 to $600 range who want to buy a new machine without investing in a whole new system," said longtime Mac developer Rich Siegel, CEO of Bare Bones Software Inc., of Bedford, Mass.

"Its sure to generate more Apple customers, and thats a good thing for Mac developers, Apple shareholders, everybody."

At the same time, Peter Glaskowsky, an analyst with the Envisioneering Group in Seaford, N.Y., said thered be little traction for the Mac mini in the enterprise world. "Its hard to imagine an enterprise-level corporation thatd want a Mac but not prefer the power of an iMac or the portability of a PowerBook," he said.


Still, he predicted the new, small Mac would be a hit product. "Its the Mac half-cube," he said, referring to a previous compact Mac model that saw disastrous sales due to a combination of limited expansion and high price. "But Apple will sell 10 times what it sold of the Cube because people can afford the Mac mini."

"Im tempted to buy one for my dad to get him off Windows," Glaskowsky said, adding that his fathers Web browsing experience was nearly crippled by Windows-specific spyware and viruses.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here for the details on Apple CEO Steve Jobs keynote at Macworld.

Some analysts, however, said the security considerations may influence IT managers as well as home users in favor of the new Mac mini.

"IT shops may become more interested in the Mac mini and OS X," said analyst Bob ODonnell, director of personal technology at IDC, of Framingham, Mass.


"It can save enterprises a lot of money on support costs and the security issues. Before, viruses and spyware were [considered] annoyances, but now the whole enterprise can go down. The stakes are higher. The Mac is a more secure choice."

"The Mac has the Microsoft Office productivity suite, browser, e-mail and even a Lotus Notes client," ODonnell added. "Most enterprise needs are covered [by the Mac platform] except for custom apps—thats always the trip-up. For sites that dont rely on custom apps, the Mac may become an acceptable choice."

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