Apple is now selling a new range of Mac Mini computers with Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and a Thunderbolt port.
There is also an HDMI port for connection to an entertainment system, FireWire 800, 4 old-style USB 2.0 ports – not USB 3.0, presumably to focus on Thunderbolt – and an SDXC card slot.
There is one thing missing, though, which is the DVD drive. Want to rip CDs, play a DVD, or install an application from optical media? Here’s what Apple says:
With the Mac App Store, getting the apps you want on your Mac has never been easier. No more boxes, no more discs, no more time-consuming installation. Click once to download and install any app on your Mac. But if an app you need isn’t available from the Mac App Store, you can use DVD or CD Sharing. This convenient feature of OS X lets you wirelessly “borrow” the optical drive of a nearby Mac or PC. So you can install applications from a DVD or CD and have full access to an optical drive without having to carry one around.
Of course you can also purchase an external optical drive, though hanging a device like that off the Mini so spoils the attraction of its small size.
By omitting the optical drive, Apple is also promoting its App Store over shrinkwrap software. This is good for usability, and means the user will get the latest version of the application rather than having to update immediately, as is often the case with shrinkwrap installs.
A side-effect though is that more transactions are subject to Apple’s cut of the sale price. Third-party resellers are hammered. Further, Apple gets to approve what software appears in the store.
The desktop Mac is unlikely ever to be locked down like the iOS devices; though it would not surprise me if some future Mac Mini actually does run iOS rather than OS X. Nevertheless, you can see how well this plays into the overall strategy.