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Apple Computer today made a play for the digital living room, offering a new Intel-based Mac mini and a portable speaker system for its ubiquitous iPod.
Apple's hope that its mini will find a home beyond the office desktop can be read in its mention of TVs and home stereos in its description of the mini's connection options: "Mac mini includes a DVI interface and a VGA-out adapter to easily connect to a variety of displays, including many of today's most popular flat panel televisions, and now features both analog and digital audio outputs to easily connect to a home stereo," the company said in a press release.
Apple calls its $349 iPod Hi-Fi "Home Stereo. Reinvented." The digital boombox might also be thought of as the Bose SoundDock rebranded. Though similar in concept, iPod Hi-Fi features Apple design touches absent from third-party iPod speaker systems, such as the integration of the power brick into the body of the unit and support for AirTunes wireless networking through Apple's AirPort Express. And of course it looks great.
Apple's vision of the digital living room is unique in that it's less about adapting the computer to fit into the living room than it is about creating a seamless media ecosystem. With a Mac mini, Front Row software, the iTunes Store, a broadband connection, and a TV as a monitor, the digital living room is realized. Using the included Apple Remote, forward-looking couch potatoes can click through their stored content, or download more for listening or viewing.
Broadcast, cable, and satellite TV viewing isn't (yet) a part of the Apple media experience. But will those traditional TV delivery technologies become redundant with a PC in the living room with an Internet connection delivering video and audio? TV networks used to advertise, "Don't touch that dial." But what they should really be worried about is the off switch.
The Mac mini is available with two different processors: a 1.5 GHz Intel Core Solo chip ($599) or a 1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo chip ($799). Both models come with Mac OS X 10.4, Apple's iLife '06 media applications, and Apple's Front Row media management software.
The mini also includes 10/100/1000BaseT Gigabit Ethernet, AirPort Extreme 802.11g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), and four USB 2.0 ports.
Only Apple's G5 desktop systems, iBook laptops, and servers have yet to make the transition to Intel processors. Reports at various Apple rumor sites suggest the iBook will be running on Intel silicon shortly.