MacWorld Expo: The Mac Mini I Want

I’m getting excited about the upcoming MacWorld Expo. Perhaps more-so than usual, as it’ll either be the last expo or the last expo as we know it. I’ve attended expo’s nearly every year since (roughly) 1988. All the Boston/NYC shows from then ’til the end with the exception of Boston 2004 when they had the nerve to schedule it against my honeymoon. (Then again my honeymoon was four months long so I’ll forgive ‘em.) San Francisco shows 2000, 2002-2006, 2008, and the upcoming 2009. So roughly 24 expo’s. I spoke at three or four expo’s, back when I was more heavily into Home Automation. All fun stuff. I suspect it’s all coming to an end, but that’s how it is.

I’m not sure if Apple will announce anything at the Expo. They might wait until the week after, or like last year announce nearly something every Tuesday all month. I hate that; I have customers waiting to make decisions. People wait when an anticipated announcement is near. I’d rather have them get it done and know no more announcements are coming in the next month or two. (They have good reasons to wait, mostly for inventory management, but I can dream.)

For my own self-interests I’m hoping for an updated Mac Mini that functions better as a small server. The Mini was meant to appeal to PC users looking for a cheap way to switch. I don’t know anyone who has bought a Mini for that purpose. PC switchers are drawn to iMacs and MacBooks. The Mini owners I know bought them as home servers and/or media servers. I have one for that purpose, but it’s growing old and if done right I’d replace it. A few changes would really help this out.

For the Love of God, ditch the laptop hard drive and use a standard 3.5″. Larger and faster storage for the same money, and only six-tenths of an inch additional height. I’ve read rumors they’ll allow swapout of the standard optical drive for another dinky laptop drive. Stupid idea. Go with one real (3.5″) drive and we’ll all be much better off. I suspect this will not happen, but it’s possible.

Everyone knows they’re going with DisplayPort, and I like it. Only downside is lack of easy Composite/S-Video output. This is a real downer for those without HDMI sets or other low-end needs (like public access cable folks who use Mini’s to drive a video signal). This one’s a dream (as NVidia’s chipsets don’t seem to support it), but I’d really like pass-through Composite and S-Video you can get with a dongle like on all non-DisplayPort Macs. External video converters are everywhere, but the quality suffers. Chances of this happening is slim.

Firewire 800. More likely than not they’ll ditch Firewire completely. The end of Firewire is very sad. And very confusing. Add Firewire 800 to the iMac, then pull it out completely from the MacBook. FW800 would make small servers (and MacBooks!) so much better.

eSATA. This one’s dirt cheap on the hardware side. Give us one or two eSATA ports with port multiplier support and I’d be pleased as punch. Apple hasn’t touched eSATA so the likelihood of this debuting on the mini is near zero.

8GB RAM, or more. My current Mini has 1.5GB RAM, half a gig under the limit. Way too low for a large iPhoto library and the small number of other apps I run. RAM is your friend, more-so than processor speed for most uses. Best chances any new Mini will be based on the MacBook, which has a max of 6GB RAM (4GB per Apple, but easy to get to 6GB with serious extra cash). I’ll be ok with that for now, but in 2-3 years I know I’ll want more.

So that’s the Mini I want.

And one more thing… We all know an updated 17″ MacBook Pro is coming. Not sure about Tuesday, but soon. Please take advantage of the extra room inside and add a second hard drive bay. Pretty-please?