Taiwan-based vendors of small-form-factor (SFF) PCs are optimistic about the influence that Apple’s new Mac mini will have on the PC market, since it should draw more mainstream attention to the SFF PC segment, according to sources at the vendors.
The recently introduced Mac mini is only two inches tall and 6.5 inches square, with retail prices starting at US$499. Apple is positioning the Mac mini as an affordable alternative to Windows-based PCs, and the company hopes that it will help win over more customers to the Mac operating system. However, Taiwan SFF vendors point out that Apple has only about a 2% share of the overall PC market, and interoperability issues will prevent many users from switching operating systems. So Apple’s market share cannot be expected to increase that much, the vendors explained.
However, the SFF vendors do think that the Mac mini will have an influence on the PC market, as Apple will grab a fair portion of mind-share among mainstream users. Users will be attracted by the idea of an affordable PC that is small and stylish, and this in turn will make more mainstream users consider purchasing SFF PCs, the vendors argued.
Although not as compact as the Mac mini, when compared to traditional PCs, SFF PCs are still smaller, relatively more stylish and run more quietly.
Over the past few years, most SFF vendors anticipated that demand for their products would grow steadily, but although there has been good uptake among gamers and enthusiasts, SFF PCs have yet to make a dent in the mainstream market. In 2004, SFF PCs accounted for about only 1% of the total computer market, stated a source at one of the vendors.
One obstacle SFF PC vendors face is that their products are generally more expensive than low-cost, traditional tower PCs offered by large brands, such as Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Dell. However, with Apple now entering the mainstream PC market, SFF vendors expect buyers to begin comparing affordable Windows-based systems, with similar products from Apple.
One of the vendors noted how the success of the iPod has boosted sales for MP3 players used with Windows-based machines. If the Mac mini sells well, and Apple grabs more market share, it will drum up more demand for similar types of Window-based machines, the vendor stated. If the Mac mini sells extremely well, the vendor added, then things would get very interesting, as it would make Microsoft sit up and take more notice of the SFF segment.