Recently I bought a mac mini, for reasons I’ve mentioned before, primarily to take care of a little bit of iOS app-making. I was tempted at one point to splash out and buy one of the nice and light macbook airs, but at the time I wanted the best bang for buck, so I went with a compromise machine, the low-end mac mini.
I decided to buy this machine whilst on the road, at this point somewhere in Mexico. I went with the lowest end machine possible, really, though I wasn’t expecting to be as wowed (in both the positive or negative) as has been my experience to date.
I noticed Ben Brooksposting his thoughts on a similar purchase, made recently to replace a broken mac laptop. Given how closely his experience has matched mine (and given how we’ve both been spoiltusing iPads and Macbook Airs), I thought I’d share some of that with you here;
On the mini every single thing I did felt like it was being bogged down by the hard drive. Want to search for a file, sure thing, just let me think about that for 15 seconds.
Boot up and shut down was slow.
Search was slow.
Opening apps was slow.
Scrolling large lists of files in a Finder was slow.
To which, I might add;
Emptying the trash is slow.
Writing text is slow.
Having two windows open at the same time is slow.
In short, the mac mini has not been the whiz kid I hoped for, nor even the mildly lazy teenager I’d anticipated. It’s been sloooow. Switching from the SSD iPad, or the lovely Air, it’s a clunky beast, unhappy and unwilling to help me out. It probably doesn’t help that I’m (as often as not) using the machine through a funky screen sharing app on the iPad, but still, even when I’m on a dedicated monitor/keyboard/mouse setup, it’s a pain. I expect I’ll do some upgrades when I get back (the RAM for one), though at this point it’s hard to justify the cost of a 500GB SSD – so it’s likely that I’ll be mentioning this issue again at some point in the future.
Overall, I’m not unhappy with this machine. It’s given me the tools I needed to pull off a spot of iOS development (I can’t wait until the day that it’s possible to write, review, compile and distribute all from the iPad), and it’s been reasonably reliable. Unlike Ben, I’m not going to send it back for the refund (it’s too bloody hard to do that in Mexico, anyway!).
I’m generally happy with the Mac Mini, once given a bit of a speed boost (via RAM), it will certainly make a welcome addition to the apple commercial our household is becoming.
So, I’ve decided to try out a bit of an experimental setup whilst I’m on the road. I’m in the midst of a small spot of ios development, and in need of a place to call my own whilst doing c++ debugging and reading through internet forums. Obviously, this is a bit difficult to do even when you have a home and an office and a stable Internet connection and speak the language. Nevertheless, my spirit is high and my ambition great, so I’ve decided to give it a spin (also, my girlfriend needs her laptop for her work also, and i don’t like feeling like an eager schoolboy waiting around for hours just to touch the shining alumninium…). I’ve decided to buy something I would have never considered before – I’m going to buy a Mac mini.
I’m going to use it as a portable hard drive, a stable development environment, and a place to put my photos. I’m going to VNC into the thing using my iPad, either through a wifi connection, or through some kind of clever USB magic. It’s either going to be a nightmare and a royal pain, or the second heaven I’ve heard others talk about in hushed voices..
I really like iCloud. It syncs my contacts, my apps, my photos and more, all without really asking for much in return. But there’s one area where iCloud falls over repeatedly – and it’s an unacceptable failure for a service which (at face value) looks like yet another move by Apple to dislodge the MS Office behemoth from the default position in spreadsheets, presentations and documents. The failure I’m talking about, is Documents over iCloud.
At first, it seems like a dream come true. Syncing on an iOS device, just like dropbox for the mac. Sure it only works for 3 apps, but those apps are well designed, great to use and make for any must-have app list today. But the current implementation of this syncing is painful to say the least. I can’t count the number of times I’ve opened up numbers.app (it seems to be worst in numbers, but I don’t use pages or keynote anywhere near as often), only to have the spreadsheet I want to work in ‘updating’ over the air. I can’t open, edit, delete the spreadsheet, and worse I can’t manually control the sync (there are no play/pause, or selective sync features to iCloud), so I’m stuck watching a file upload to the cloud with no recourse to prevent this. Up until now I’ve just given up and waited for it to sync, but it’s worsened to the point that I can’t even work on the single spreadsheet file I have on the iPad because it’s perpetually syncing to the cloud.
To make a bad situation worse, from time to time I’ll spot a mysterious ‘document deleted in other location’ message, with that one spreadsheet disappearing with no other explanation. Sometimes it comes back, other times I have to quit the numbers.app, then reopen it for my document to reappear. The iCloud document sync behaves more like a beta level service, and it’s disappointing to see such an immature syncing service being touted as a big selling point for iOS 5. The sync service is just not good enough for me – I expect it will mature over time but right now it’s going to be turned off.
So today I made the call to cut off iCloud syncing for my documents. I’ve left on the sync for all other features, but documents are off the cards – at least for the meantime. You might think that the documents I synced via iCloud would be wiped from the machine, given their somewhat temporal status – but that the documents created on the iPad and then synced over iCloud would be kept on the device. Not so. This was the last slap in the face for my iCloud experience – after turning off iCloud sync, i opened numbers.app to discover that all of my files had been erased, with a reassuring message that they were safely in the cloud. Not good enough.
I won’t be turning iCloud document storage back on anytime soon, once bitten, twice shy. I love dropbox, I love the rest of the iCloud features, just this one is so patchy and jarring it completely turned me off. I would love to hear if you’ve had the same experience, or if you’ve had a much better experience with the cloud.
I made this argument to a friend of mine the other day. If the sole function of this thing, is computing data (image, text, sound, video, etc..) rather than making phone calls, I’d say it’s much closer to a computer than a phone. Just sayin.
Looking back, I can’t remember ever owning an Apple product and not loving it. All the way back to the PowerMac G4 days, I haven’t ever regretted buying an Apple product. The ones that do seem a bit silly now (PowerMac G4? really?), only do so in hindsight and through the lens of really incrediblefuture-esque technology.
That, for me is the secret. Do whatever you can, to create things that people can love.
Cliff Kuang, on the minimalist Apple design, over at Fastcodesign.com;
Not only do HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung make boring black boxes, but every single black box they make seems to have no relationship with the others. As Apple has proved, that’s a massive missed opportunity. Each one of Apple’s gadgets quietly sells the others, every single day you have it. When you buy an iPhone, you’re buying into the Apple design language, and the little details you come to appreciate are details you know you’ll find in all their other products–from the laser-etched buttons to the stunningly beautiful screws to the dead-simple UI layout. When you finally decide to buy another Apple gadget–say, an iPad or a MacBook Air–you’ve already been primed to love it.
Apple have been pulling this one off for decades now. Nobody seems to have taken them seriously until now, but again the focus is all wrong. Samsung and HP may be able to ape the design of Apple products, but they’re missing something serious under the hood. A quality experience all round. Beyond the hardware, including the packaging, the day to day seamlessness of the software, the tight-knit app and iTunes ecosystem — these are not all accidents. And to boot, they took years, literally years, to come into being. A look at Apple today doesn’t reveal the countless effort, iteration and foresight it took to get from A to B.
It would extremely hard to pull that off without a minimalist design language. The wilder your detailing and form-factor are, the harder they are to translate to totally different products. Not so with a minimalist palette–in that case, simply lifting a few, select details such as an aluminum case or a particular rounded corner, is enough to suggest a strong, familial relationship.
I really think the key idea that Cliff misses is that Apple has great design taste, but more importantly they work constantly to create the best end user experience possible. This misguided argument crops up from time to time, and I have three main problems with it;
It assumes that design style equates success in the marketplace, which we’ve seen proven wrong in the 90’s and again today with Apple competitors who prefer to copy the design style of Apple.
It ignores the notion that the real value to the user, comes from the many complementary elements of the ecosystem (the iPod was complemented by iTunes, the iPad is complemented by the iOS app store), not one element in isolation, due to the overall improvement in user experience, and it ignores the notion that the real value to the user, comes from the many complementary elements of the ecosystem (the iPod was complemented by iTunes, the iPad is complemented by the iOS app store), not one element in isolation, due to the overall improvement in user experience, and
It forgets the over the complete vertical integration Apple has created, passing off the minimal design style as the key innovation rather than the whole ecosystem and value chain. It’s like praising Carl Sagan for his penmanship, rather than the quality of his ideas.
The goodwill that a company can build with a remarkably designed product can disappear overnight, if its successors don’t live up to expectations. Over time, and with greater and greater successes, the inherent risk that you carry with a redesign only grows.
It’s remarkable how easy these claims are to make, that Apple is just one bad product away from impending doom. The iPhone 4S was a remarkable flop, in the eyes of the tech press. Last quarter Apple reported a record breaking revenue of $46M, and a profit of $13M. This is on the back of the iPhone, which sold in the order of 37M units. Sold, not shipped. The tech press was full of praise and wonder at the success of such a company, even moreso given that they’d essentially written them off due to the incredible flop that was the 4S. Ridiculous.
Brands are only as good as their last redesign….It’s no surprise that Apple’s own designs have grown more conservative over time.
Apple is a business. A highly successful one. Their profit margin on the iPhone 4S is in the order of 50%, according to reasonable estimates. For Apple to iterate the design of the iPhone, in order to please the tech press, they could do a few things;
redesign the whole enclosure
make the screen bigger
Make the system more ‘open’ i.e. open to theft, grift or unwelcome behaviour.
For Apple to make any changes to the physical design of the iPhone, affects everything & they’d need to have damn good reason to do so. Changes to the product design have consequences on their overheads, their ability to ship immediately, the lead/lag time for scaling the new operation, and so on. Changes of that nature really do need to have solid grounds. If anything, I’d be more inclined to buy the argument that Apple isn’t getting more conservative, rather they’re getting better at focussing their efforts in R&D, and are reaping remarkable rewards for it. Keep in mind this is the company that almost went bankrupt in the late 90’s. With Steve at the helm, Apple is nothing if not a company with a long view, and plenty of focus. They take a stance on the design and experience qualities of their products, and not an ounce of it hinges on minimalism.
ICloud during genius, nevertheless iPhone rip-offs.
Profit why Siri is better than TellMe and Google Voice put together immediately awful user experience, as well as profit on the other hand pleasure to use thus gorgeous in addition Apple will only get better, on the whole Steve Jobs was a genius.
Battery drain soon gorgeous, however Jony Ive’s incredible design, at the end battery life.
While it’s no flop when it comes to sales figures, the iPhone 4S remains one of 2011’s biggest consumer letdowns…
After spending the better part of the year salivating over a reinvented iPhone with a larger screen, a thinner profile, and other untold Apple-flavored wonders, Apple aficionados were presented with the iPhone 4S — a nominal upgrade over the previous model that touted the now much-parodied Siri app as its main selling point.
Which apple aficionionados are yearning for bigger screens? Isn’t that the Android differentiator? And how does the iPhone 4S, the biggest selling iPhone yet, compare with the $100M loss (otherwise known as the HP touchpad)?
Great linkbait, but very little else.
Another difference between Apple and Google: as Apple grows more successful, they make their users happier, with better-designed products; as Google grows more successful, they annoy their users with ever more intrusive advertising.
Google’s main business is advertising. Is it then any surprise then, that google’s success comes hand in hand with more advertising? It’s misleading to compare Apple and Google, their drivers are so inherently different.
via daring fireball.]]>
Apple publishes data about its “retail segment” which ifoAppleStore.com catalogs. Here are some statistics I was able to compute from the data: The stores generate over $100k per employee per quarter. In 2010, revenue was $481,000 per employee. This year the average is around $320k excluding the fourth quarter. In 2009 the average revenue for the technology sector was $388k/yr. A retailer like JC Penney generates about $124k of revenue per year per employee.
Fascinating. Horace is on the money so often, it’s almost scary. Well worth a read.