Low-End Macs: Why Apple Needs a Headless Model for Education and Home Users
I was reading Stephen Van Esch's article, Small and Stylish PCs Are Hot, So Bring Back the Cube, and it reminded me that I've written about the headless iMac = Cube equation before (How a Revised Cube Could Save Apple Education for example, which started a whole series of arguments on this topic two years ago).
So now we've come full circle, and the topic is coming up again. I have had another couple of thoughts about this and thought I'd share them.
If there were a headless iMac in a Cube box for schools, I would strongly recommend the following changes to the original design:
- The drive should be mounted on the side, not the top as in a toaster, because if you can spill stuff in it, kids will.
- Make a flat panel option for a screen that mounts on the side. This minimizes desk space in overcrowded schools.
- Don't use a touch sensitive switch. Just don't. It needs to be big and go clunk when you push it.
- If the Cube had drive bays, like the Xserve, you could plug in whatever size hard drive you wanted or even swap out a backup if you liked. That would be a nice feature to keep the "but you can't expand it" crowd at bay.
Undoubtedly all of these ideas would increase the expense and ruin the form factor. And then it wouldn't be a Cube, would it?
You know what I really want, now that I think about it?
I want a headless iMac. Not a perverted Cube that ruins the form factor. Just an iMac with no monitor and no monitor arm.
How hard could that be? Simple, clean, versatile. Just add one of those newfangled digital screen ports (on top?) and be done with it. I want it for, say, $499 on the low end. I could really run with that.
How about a headless iMac designed to hang on a wall? It wouldn't use any desk space at all. Use a slot drive on the top, like the Cube. That, and plugs, are the only time you touch the CPU anyway. Put holes on it like an AirPort. Hang it on the wall and get it out of the way. Use Bluetooth and AirPort for connectivity, and you only need power and video cables for most people.
The eMac doesn't cut it for me because the thing is tall. Have you seen it? It won't even fit under the cabinets in my classroom.
Oh, well. I just feel like we've all been here, done that before. We need something fresh and new to drive users to the platform.
Maybe iLife will do it.
It ain't doing it yet, though.
Remember when we all used to say "If only Apple would stand up for themselves in advertising, then they'd sell some more computers." Well, they tried the Switch campaign, and you see where that got them. Obviously a beautiful form factor and good taste aren't helping increase market share.
We know Apple resists marketing to the low end because the profit margins are higher for the stuff they do now.
I suppose if I knew how to increase Apple's market share, I wouldn't be pounding this stuff out. I'd be working for the company.
I do think most of us believe that Apple has reached the point where the "market share doesn't matter if you have good profit margins" argument isn't going to keep the critical mass of users happy that Apple needs to survive as a computer company.
We here at Low End Mac obviously think getting a low-cost, low-end machine on the market would help grow market share. Maybe, maybe not. Won't know if you don't try.
It sure would be nice to see some fresh advertising for OS X or the iMac or something besides the iPod.
Apple, let us know when you figure it out. We're waiting.
is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.
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