22 December 2005

The Evesham MiniPC Plus

A succinct review of this new machine is to be found from Trusted Reviews via The Register

Why mention it here? Well, read on....

The first two pages of the review appear to indicate that we have after 11 months (or 12 as it is not on sale until January according to the Evesham site) something that is a real competitor to the Mac mini. I was particularly surprised that they have replicated the Mac's ports pretty much exactly - 2 USB ports and one Firewire. Surprised? Well, firewire is less common in the Windows world, and 2 USB ports is pretty low by most standards. Apple do not target the Mac mini as a media centre device - though it is used by many of us that way. On the other hand, Evesham markets this specifically as a Media Centre device. Used in this way, you will almost certainly need both USB ports - one for a tv tuner, the other for a surround sound output. Even then, try connecting up an mp3 player. So, in the case of the Evesham machine where does the keyboard go? Unfortunately, there is no bluetooth option available (that I could see), so it seems it's one port short right away. A more logical approach would surely to have put 4 USB ports on it, and drop the firewire - probably a similar price in all? Apart from the mention of it being somewhat noisy - something the Mac mini is definitely not, at this stage in the review, the machines appear very similar indeed.

However, turn to page 4 of the review and it is clear that this is far from a competitor. The price is an astonishing £699 inc VAT - 40% more than the Mac mini equivalent. In the case of the Mac mini, that model has Bluetooth AND wifi installed (only wifi is an optional extra on the Evesham). The mini also includes a dedicated GPU, and, as mentioned, is much quieter. Software-wise Apple's iLife apps are considerably more advanced than anything offered on Windows today, and arguably Mac OS X 10.4 is more advanced than current Windows XP (and the Evesham will be constrained for running Vista given it's graphics architecture).

So, you may ask, I'm still not sure why this is relevant to what you normally blog about and why you're bothered by a review of a me-too copy.

Well, I think it is notable because it demonstrates to me clearly a problem that Apple is having in perception of it's (computer) products - most particularly that it is expensive. It has taken one year to have an off-the-shelf direct competitor to the mini (rather pathetically mimicking it in fact). During this year, I have heard over and over that even the Mac mini is expensive for what it is compared with PC products. Yet when a PC comes along that allows you to tick most of the same boxes, it's 40% more!

The issue for Apple is that there are hundreds of makes and thousands of models of PC available and that choice allows people to select a model that does what they want at a price point that they want. Want a cheaper laptop than anything Apple makes? You can find them by the dozen. Want a cheaper desktop than anything Apple makes? Loads of them. It's simple to ignore the models that are higher priced than Apple. Conclusion? Apple is expensive. And that's what sticks. I can see Apple doubling their market share over the next few years. But if it is to considerably exceed 10%, it is going to have to lose that perception or do a lot more to educate the masses as to what it's value is about.

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