The Low End Mac Mailbag

iPhone Profits, Dead Ethernet, PowerBook 1400 Software, and More on the Mac mini

Dan Knight - 2007.08.01

iPhone Profits

Robert Boylin writes in response to The iPhone: Apple's $3 Billion Cash Cow:


I agree that Apple is making more profit from the AT&T rebates over time, and it makes sense for Apple to amortize the sale with the ongoing contract income. As to cost and profit, a gross profit of 28% would give a cost of $360 on the $500 model. As to AT&T making $100 on the retail end, I expect they are paying Apple more than that for the new customers. Retail margins contribute to reduction of the 28% gross to a much lower net. I've never seen the gross margin lessened by the retail discount in such calculations. It's normally part of the calculation of "net" profit. A Mac, regardless of who sells them, contributes the same gross profit margin in Apple's calculations.

With the substantial sales numbers of this and future models of iPhones I can see it contributing a significantly higher percentage of Apple's profits than the iPods. Next year we'll have to see where the Apple TV business matures.



Some items have a lower markup; some are much higher. In general, more expensive models (such as the Mac Pro) have a higher profit margin than less costly ones (such as the Mac mini). I don't know where the iPhone falls in this spectrum, but I suspect it has a higher margin than a Mac mini.

I can't imagine Apple selling the iPhone to AT&T below cost, nor can I imagine AT&T retailing it with no markup. I'd guess Apple's net cost at between $250 and $300 per iPhone, but that's just a good guess. Even at $360 cost, Apple is making money hand over fist with the sign-up bounty and monthly contract fees.


Working Around a Dead Ethernet Port

I'm not sure if you can help me, but I'm going to give it a try. I have a 700 MHz eMac purchased about 6 years ago. I live in Tampa FL, the lightning capital of the world. The other day, I left my router on, but the eMac was off. The router (from Verizon, I have FIOS) apparently got zapped and since has been replaced. When I hook the eMac to the router, the port on the router doesn't light up, and I can't connect to the Internet. I also have a PC laptop on the same router, and that port lights up just fine and can connect.

Do you sell just the ethernet cards for the eMac? I have tried my Apple Store here in Tampa, and they said it would have to be ordered, but they didn't know if they can get it in. I wasn't too impressed with the rep I spoke, with as he stated he wasn't very knowledgeable with the eMacs. By your ad, sounds like you know more about them.

Any information you can supply me will be greatly appreciated.

Sandy Hayes


Sorry for your loss. If your eMac's ethernet port is shot, it may be cheaper to go another route than to fix the motherboard. The cheapest solution might be a wireless router and an AirPort card. 802.11g WiFi routers are really cheap compared to the g-plus and 802.11n hardware that's supplanted it. And you should be able to score an AirPort card for under $100.


Hi Dan,

Thanks so much for responding to my dilemma of to fix or junk this eMac!! So, I can get an AirPort card, along with the wireless router, and that should solve the problem? Is it very hard to put it all together? I don't know very much about the hardware, but I think I get it though, the wireless router will find the FIOS connection, and the AirPort card will help make that connection?

Do you sell the parts to the public or are you strictly wholesale? Would you recommend a reputable place to purchase these items? I would be very grateful if you could either way. Just let me know when you can.

Thanks for your response. I look forward to hearing from you again.



I've never put an AirPort card in a 700 MHz eMac. A little research tells me that it's easy. Remove the black bezel surrounding the optical drive (CD, Combo, whatever), and behind it you'll find a slot for the card.

Both it and the WiFi router should be plug-and-play.

Low End Mac is more or less an online magazine/encyclopedia of things Macintosh. We don't sell anything. Any office supply store, CompUSA, or Best Buy should have a cheap WiFi router, and the LEM Swap list is your best bet for a used AirPort card.


Software for a PowerBook 1400

Richard Marks writes:

Hi Dan

Sorry if this is a stupid question; I keep getting my head chewed off on various forums for nothing more than being a newbie asking for help. I am a computer novice, outside of downloading shareware to my Pocket PC and installing stuff on our desktop iMac.

I have just inherited a free PowerBook 1400cs/133 OS 7.6.1 with 16 MB RAM and 1.3 GB hard drive and a CD drive fitted. I've also got a couple of Zip drives with it, one USB, one pin so I can save stuff to my iMac and swap it to my PowerBook.

It runs but has nothing on it. I am a school governor and am intending to use it as a document registry for all of the papers I have to have and meeting minutes, etc. mainly MS Word and Adobe PDF files, along with the odd Excel spreadsheet.

I am having all sorts of problems tracking down a copy of MS Office 98 for Mac, which I suspect is what I need, via Google/eBay/Apple/Microsoft sites etc. I've got a copy of Adobe 4.0 from System 7 site and have spotted a copy of Photoshop 5.5 for when I get a RAM upgrade.

I've had a quick scout on your site and links from it for Office 98 but without success.

I'm completely new to Macs and really haven't got a clue where to go looking outside of these obvious places. Do you know of any sites that deal in long obsolete stuff like this that may have a copy, or if it is very well hidden away on Microsoft or Apple main sites somewhere?

The other thing I would consider is teaching myself how to put a Linux system onto the PowerBook if that would be an easier option for Word and PDF access. Again I have no idea if this is viable or not.

I would be grateful for any advice or suggestions that you feel you are able to give as to where to go for stuff or if I'm flogging a dead horse and should give up on it now.

Thanks in advance,


Unless you can find more memory, you're going to find the 1400 very limiting. Mac OS 7.6.1 is a good operating system, but things like Word, Excel, and Photoshop like lots of RAM. Probably the best place to find it is the Low End Mac Swap List, which may also be a good source for an old copy of Word and Excel or MS Office 98.

Another option you might want to consider is ClarisWorks, Apple's integrated office suite that may meet all of your word processing and spreadsheet needs. I've been using it since version 1.0 shipped, and I have had no reason to use Word or Excel since.


Apple's Inadequate Lineup

Mike Perry follows up on Mac mini and the Workplace:


Apple's inadequate line up is particularly vivid this morning. The little laptop drive in my PPC Mac mini has been dying for several weeks. Yesterday it became noisy, and late yesterday seemed to be the cause of a major slowdown. Today it seems to have died completely. I booted off my external FireWire drive, and I'm getting this oft-repeated message:

IOATAController device blocking bus.

Fortunately, everything was backed up to the FireWire drive, and yesterday I burned all my books (I'm a publisher) to CDs. Nothing is lost. Just the hassle.

Why did Apple put laptop drives in Mac minis? They cost more, they're slower, and (as this shows) they're more prone to fail. They're also more hassle to replace. All so the cute little case could be an inch less wide. That makes no sense.

Hopefully I can keep this beast going a few more months in the hope that Apple brings along something - a mini tower or a revised MacBook, that's worth buying. Like a long-distance runner, I have my eyes on October. On my budget, even the cost of OS X 10.5 matters.

I agree that Bluetooth might make sense in a Mac Biz. I hope Apple is also quick to support wireless USB.

I keep repeating the argument that the Mac's market share is increasingly being limited by "at work" decision making. At home, people decide to stick with the OS they use at work. Every Mac sold to businesses is a potential sale to home users. Every Mac not sold due to this limited lineup is a Mac not sold at home. Maybe someone at Apple will listen.

- Mike


Apple had three reasons to choose laptop drives for the Mac mini: size, reduced power consumption and heat, and noise. Steve Jobs loves quiet, and a notebook drive is typically quieter than a desktop one.

Of course, there are three reasons for choosing desktop drives: higher capacity, lower price, generally better performance. You can see by Apple's choice what they believe is most important.

Apple has scheduled a "Macintosh event" for August 7. Maybe they'll unveil a new iMac, an updated Mac Pro (now one year old), and a revised Mac mini or a replacement for it. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Apple embrace wireless USB with the next generation hardware.


Taller Mac mini = Cube?

Paul Allen asks:

Wouldn't a taller Mac mini with more expansion essentially be a Cube?


Pretty much. The Cube was a good machine, just overpriced in comparison to the Power Mac G4, which was vastly more expandable. The only expansion slot was for an AGP video card, making it slightly more expandable than the Mac mini.

You'd think Apple would have learned from the Cube vs. Power Mac that expandability trumps stunning good looks without expandability.


The Mac mini Is Just Right

John Muir writes:

Hi Dan,

As an interested party in the Mac mini debate, I'll weigh in as something of a "low end power user" if you'll let me.

I picked up my mini on the refurb store in December; a fairly tricked out original 1.66 GHz model with a 1 GB memory upgrade and 100 GB hard drive. I had been tempted by the mini before, but I was always put off by the limited RAM, especially back in the single slot G4 days. This machine came along at the right spec and right price to finally make me ditch my decrepit desktop PC and go all Mac, joining my 2003 12" PowerBook G4.

As others have noted, the mini is very well suited to certain tasks, since it is such a unique computer. Its power consumption is ultra low - as is its noise level - which spells nicely for being used as a home server. In the Intel era, its Core Duo processor is up there with the G5 for pure brunt, and it handles the processor heavy tasks I often give it very nicely. My mini is also connected to a 21" Belinea CRT, which has been my screen of choice since 2000, with its powerful daytime-visible brightness when I use the machine face to face; along with all my other peripherals. Other times I control the mini with VNC and find it to be the best behaved little box I've ever had.

It wasn't the mini's closed case and iMac-style philosophy for external upgrades instead of internal ones which attracted me to the machine. Indeed, I've a long history as a tinkerer. It was the fact it just fits my desktop needs like a glove. As such, I've I found the Mac mini to be spectacular value for money.

Then 2007 rolls around, and I hear my mini is to go the way of my discontinued 12" laptop! Are Apple shooting at my second Mac now?

Hopefully they won't drop it. The mini as it is, is already a brilliant little machine for particular uses. Contrary to some statements, it is neither just a glorified Apple TV nor a low-end headless iMac. It certainly isn't a domesticated Mac Pro either! It's a wholly different machine, and Steve Jobs introduced it as such back when it first appeared. I'd like to see Apple keep it in production, and if they are minded to maintaining the gap in processors between it and its Core 2 counterparts, it wouldn't do any harm to knock a little off its price to set it back to G4 money. We know that Apple's margin on the mini is surely higher now than when it was last speed bumped back in 2006. They certainly made it worth my while with the price cut and feature upgrade I found on the refurb store.

As for the Mac midi dream machine of the screwdriver faithful . . . I fully support the idea. Just one proviso however: Add it to the lineup and don't drop the mini! Shouldn't there be ample room for both models?

John Muir


Yeah, the Mac mini is a great little computer for many applications. It's a very small, very quiet server. It's a decent media PC for hookup to modern TVs. It's a competent Mac in most respects, although it fails to meet the FPS demands of the gaming crowd.

I'd love to see the Mac mini stick around, either with a faster Core Duo or, more likely, Core 2 CPUs. And I'd love to see a midrange Mac for those who like to tinker, need expansion slots, etc. Something that sells for a lot less than $2,200!

We should know more on August 7.


How About a Mac mini Dock System?

Trevor Howard dreams:


Firstly, I'm a new LEM reader, but I'm so thankful for your resources and articles being on the Web. Despite having a Power Mac G5 Dual 2 GHz (Late 2005), I bought a Pismo PowerBook just to toy around with the idea of having a laptop as I save and wait for my MacBook Pro. Granted, the poor little Pismo struggles on a lot of tasks, but I still love the darned thing so much

Anyways, I converted to the Mac with the original 1.42 GHz G4 mini, and I loved it. (In fact, I kicked myself after I sold it at the end of the year for only a mere $350 thinking like a PC user that it was only worth that much . . . and I discovered your site and saw they still sell for more than that!) It was a bit slow, basic, but it got me into the Mac way of thinking so much that I bought one of the Late 2005 G5s, a computer that I've actually gotten so attached to I don't want to replace it (a rare event for me, only one PC ever got my attachment!)

Anyways, enough babbling - on to my idea.

Start with the basic mini, keep its form factor the same (maybe upgrade the styling a tidge, add a way to easily pop the case off to do a RAM upgrade, make it maybe a little larger to facilitate the rest of my suggestion better), drop the price to $500-600 base, offer a $700-900 model that has the 8600 GT graphics chip from the MacBook Pro in it .

Also, on the bottom of the mini add an expansion connector or two . . . these can be proprietary, obviously. For an additional $100-200 you can purchase an "expansion" bay that maybe makes the whole thing the size of a mini on its edge, adds an additional pair of 3.5" Drive bays and 2 or 3 PCIe slots, including one x16 slot for a graphics upgrade. It would also offer an extra FireWire 400 port, a FireWire 800 port, and an extra pair of USB 2.0 ports. It can and should include some sort of small fan to cool it from the graphics card (I'm guessing the primary reason people would buy such an expansion device would be additional graphics horsepower).

Bam, for maybe a little over a grand, you have an upgradeable, small, inheritor to the Cube form while retaining the original Mac mini's size (which is useful in so many ways).

Anyways, just thought I'd throw this out there,

Trevor H.


Great idea! Back in the day, someone made a family of SCSI drives (hard and optical) that docked to a powered base and could be stacked.

To go a step beyond your suggestion, what if you simply popped the lid off the mini II and snapped on the expansion bay there? Give the new motherboard a socket for a PCIe riser and offer one module with two slots. Offer another module with room for a single 3.5" hard drive, and another for use with any standard 5.25" drive. License the dock specs (as Apple does with the iPod dock connector).

Hmm, maybe even a module with an iPod dock.

This would require a more robust power supply than the current mini has, but I think it would fly.


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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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