Why Doesn't Apple make a cheap upgradeable Mac ?

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seth_381's picture
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Why Doesn't Apple make a cheap upgradeable Mac ?

Recently after seeing the Powermac G5 Cube (Aka Ubercube) it made me think why doesn't Apple take that design but do amazing things with it. Like say component wise give it essentially the same I/O as the mini but give it 1 or 2PCI-E and 4x AGP Slot for expandability. As for drives give it a standard Combo drive then a Superdrive as an option. For the processor equip it standardly with a dual and you can get a quad as an option. Now I thought as for HD's why not use a 2.5" HD, but have two bays and an on-board powersupply. I mainly thought of using 2.5" HD's to reduce size. So why doesn't Apple have a cheap upgradeable Mac, and what do you think of my idea ?

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Apple doesn't make a cheap up

Apple doesn't make a cheap upgradable Mac because then they wouldn't make much money. Apple wants you to buy a whole new computer every couple years, not upgrade the one you have.

Jon
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Markets. Apple is very good

Markets. Apple is very good at working within specific markets that maximize profits by selling with good margins. The regular low end PCs are sold at extremely thin margins. Apple, by not being just another "PC" maker by virtue of running OS X, can pick markets to sell in. The markets they are in are very different than most of the PC industry, aside from laptops, ie. Apple absolutely does not compete in the regular consumer-grade tower market. Apple does, however, compete in the super-small form factor market (mini) and the consumer all-in-one market, both of which are generally ignored by most vendors though there have recently been inroads by the likes of Gateway, Dell and Sony in the last one.

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Stability

I was under the impression that Apple keeps such a tight reign on the hardware aspect was for stability. By making sure what hardware is used, they have a better chance of creating a system that doesn't crash due to a bad driver or system call.

But, y'know, it's not like Steve consults me, or anything. I mean, after that whole "Flower Power iMac" thing, he's pretty much ignored my ideas...

Wink

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Upgrade-a-babble

One ironic thing that people fail to notice when clamoring for an "upgradeable" Mac is the fact that the one slotted Macintosh Apple does sell doesn't actually have any significant third-party "upgrades" available for it.

The most commonly stated reason for wanting a slot is for video card upgrades. Well... if you bought a Mac Pro a year ago the only video card choices you have for it are the same GeForce 7300, Quadro FX4500, or Radeon 1900XT cards that were offered as build-to-order options from day one. You can't even use the cards Apple puts in the "new" Mac Pros in last year's model, because Apple made changes to the PCI-E bus and EFI firmware which prevents the new cards from being backwards compatible with the older machine. (Which is frankly amazing. I haven't heard of *any* PC manufacturer doing something like that. The PCI Express specification dictates that PCI-E 2.0 *should* be backwards *and* forwards compatible, subject to a few limitations.)

So, in short, the one good reason for having an upgradeable Mac is at this point pretty much null-and-void anyway. If Apple actually *sold* a "volume" Mac with a video card slot the situation would probably be different. But it's seriously a "chicken and the egg" problem at the moment. No video-carded-Macs means no Mac video cards, while no Mac video cards means that for a consumer-level slotted Mac to be at all meaningful it'd really have to accept video cards with PC BIOSes instead of Apple's (essentially proprietary) EFI. Which is technically possible (as "Hackintoshes" demonstrate so easily), but Apple would never do it as a product themselves, since accepting off-the-shelf video cards would take Apple out of the upgrade revenue stream.

--Peace

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bottom line

...In other words, why should they?

Now, I'm trying to remember. What would have been the cheapest upgradeable Mac made? That depends on what upgradeable means. If you're talking about a video card, then any Nubus or PCI Mac would qualify, right? All the Nubus Macs were still pretty pricey, I think. Maybe the 6100 was the cheapest? PCI Macs, maybe one of the 63xx Macs or the 4400?

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While it would make sense...

... I doubt they'll do it. I kinda figured they'd follow the same naming convention as the MacBook/MacBook Pro with the Mac Pro; its counterpart would be the Mac, naturally. But it's been how long now?

Actually, what most people want to add on a Mac is either more drive space or a second monitor. With firewire and fast USB, there's really no reason to add drives internally when it's so easy to add external storage. And with the iMacs you can easily run a second monitor; all that's needed is a DVI adapter and a monitor. I work for a printing company and we compared the Mac Pro and an iMac, and went with the iMac and a 22" flat panel monitor. You don't get quite the horsepower with the iMac, but for most work we don't miss it at all. You can get an iMac and a nice monitor for less than the cost of a Mac Pro, so it made sense for us.

It'd be nice to have a middle-ground machine, but I ain't holding my breath waiting for it.

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One of the main reasons...

When companies build cheap machines, there is a reason why they are cheap. Usually, they skimp on parts. This could be the way solid state components are, as well as harddrives and CD-ROMs. Usually, when they do, machines no longer last over multiple years that apples do. When I work on machines (I am a computer repair Consultant) It is usually not older than 2 years. And I get disgusted when they come in, and they haven't been abused that they break in the most catostrophic way that it is not repairable without putting a lot of money in it. Although that will solve the problem, it's much cheaper to go buy a new machine.

With Apple trying to go green (making an industry example of at least trying the clean up the environment), it's not easy to be cheap on parts that are just coming out of the research departments. This is expensive and can sometimes be really deadly to a product line if you skimp on new technology and everything goes awry and breaks down within months of shipping.
Take for an example the iBook G3. because of apple trying to use lead-free (or reduced lead) Solder, it caused early failure of the solder on the GPU when they broke from flexing or heat due to the strength to hold the pins not being there.

That said, I am glad apple charges quite a bit of money for their machines, just like IBM, they are trying not to make throw-away machines which would put them at a disadvantage of having their quality control look horrible. And with Apple being as a small percentage of the computer market, they can't afford to ship a dud every 10 machines. it's not a good thing to have angry customers more than other companies.

I bought my MacBook about 5 months back, and I can't believe how well it was built. And not having problems out of the box is a big thing for me, compared to the iBook G3 that I got new which died within 2 weeks of me getting it. I am much happier that I paid the extra for a quality machine.

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Re: bottom line

Hawaii Cruiser wrote:
What would have been the cheapest upgradeable Mac made? That depends on what upgradeable means.

The relatively cheapest was perhaps one of the LC series. Even with a lowly LC PDS slot you could add a second video card, a sound card, etc.

However:
LC Original Price: $2500
Apple Mac Pro "Quad Core" 2.66 Original Price: $2499

From everymac

Still, show me a Mac based on the Mini logic board, with fullsized (ie cheaper) drives and an upgradable video card, priced around the iMac range, and I'd be all over it. Maybe an optional riser for two or more PCI(x,e whatever) cards and a minitower case.

Jon
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Re: One of the main reasons...

coius wrote:
And with Apple being as a small percentage of the computer market, they can't afford to ship a dud every 10 machines. it's not a good thing to have angry customers more than other companies.

It's been a bit since I've seen the numbers, but Apples may be a smaller percentage of the entire computer market, but really so is every other computer vendor brand. Compared against all other computer makers individually Apple is in the top 5 in size/sales, IIRC.

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I see your point

I see your point if Apple made machines cheap they wouldn't last but who wants all those firewire and usb drive all over their desk it looks like hell ! Now the cost is in it because there needs to be an upgradable mac that people can afford like " Consumers".

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Frankly, I'd like something a

Frankly, I'd like something along the lines of the G4 tower in terms of size and expansion. The G5 and Mac Pro are too big and pretentious for my tastes. Then again, the G4 tower, like the 15" Aluminum PowerBook G4/MacBook Pro is one of my favorite form factors for a machine.

As for why there is no expandable machine - it's just too easy to say to the captive audience (i.e. us Mac users) and dictate what machines we can buy that suit our needs. It's a model of leverage that no other vendor out there has.

Oh, Apple doesn't have a mid priced expandable desktop that runs Mac OS X - what am I going to do - live without the slots with an iMac, spend the extra dough on a Mac Pro, or buy a Wintel box? In two of the tree options - Apple makes money.

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Frankly, I'd like something a

Frankly, I'd like something along the lines of the G4 tower in terms of size and expansion. The G5 and Mac Pro are too big and pretentious for my tastes. Then again, the G4 tower, like the 15" Aluminum PowerBook G4/MacBook Pro is one of my favorite form factors for a machine.

As for why there is no expandable machine - it's just too easy to say to the captive audience (i.e. us Mac users) and dictate what machines we can buy that suit our needs. It's a model of leverage that no other vendor out there has.

Oh, Apple doesn't have a mid priced expandable desktop that runs Mac OS X - what am I going to do - live without the slots with an iMac, spend the extra dough on a Mac Pro, or buy a Wintel box? In two of the tree options - Apple makes money.

Jon
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I'm replying ot myself, but I

I'm replying ot myself, but I just had this article pop up in my RSS feed reader. Apple had leaped to 14% of the US computer market. That's just new sales, it doesn't measure the installed user base, which is much higher. That 14% is a seventh of the new sales market. That's big, and revenue is up on top of it. Even without the cheap expandable tower geeks want Apple is kicking major butt right now. It looks like the MBA is adding to sales, not pilfering sales from the Macbook Pro, so Apple has stepped into another new high margin market - ultra-slim portables. Apple products have pretty clear divisions between them, and for good reasons. A cheap tower with slots would kill most of the rest of the desktop lines they already have.

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firewire

No one has pointed this out, so I thought I'd chime in. Back in the day, an upgradeable Mac (or PC), meant just 2 things... processer and slots. Not too long ago there were many upgrades available on both these fronts. Lets look at slots first: there were fast scsi cards, ata cards, video cards, video processing cards, outboard processor cards, breakout slotbox cards, audio cards, audio processing cards, TV Tuner cards, fast NICs (both LAN & WAN), even 486 DOS compatability cards. Today, as Eudi. points out, there's really only one reason left to stick a card in a Mac (for Video), but he didn't say why. Nearly everything that was previously available for slots is now available using firewire, including A/V I/O, outboard audio processors and the like. Upgrading NICs is unnecesary, as all Macs have either megabit or gigabit ethernet, and WiFi & Bluetooth built-in. Also, SATA drives are so dang fast and enourmous, there is hardly need for the average user ever to need upgrading them, but if they need to they can, though I think most will opt for firewire/usb drive boxes as they are more convenient, and pretty flippin' fast too. If you consider firewire, todays Macs are more upgradable than they ever were, and arguably more upgradable than the average PC, because firewire is rarely included on them. As for processors, Eudi. points out that voiding warranty is the only option, and this is mostly true. But people do it. The Intels in the Mini and Pro are just as processor upgradeable as any other Intel based boards. But there's also at least one "processor upgrade" that won't void warranties... the Turbo 264, which speeds up h.264 encoding (probably more useful on 2003-2005 G4 PowerBooks than newer Intels because these dual-core machines are so fast, but its still an option). And I forgot to mention RAM... and unless you max this out on purchase, you can always upgrade that w/o voiding warranties. At any rate, I think all in all Apple's current machines are no less upgradeable than any tricked out gaming PC, it just depends on your perpective and whether or not you are willing to get your hands dirty.

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Re: Markets. Apple is very good

Jon wrote:
Markets. Apple is very good at working within specific markets that maximize profits by selling with good margins. The regular low end PCs are sold at extremely thin margins. Apple, by not being just another "PC" maker by virtue of running OS X, can pick markets to sell in. The markets they are in are very different than most of the PC industry, aside from laptops, ie. Apple absolutely does not compete in the regular consumer-grade tower market. Apple does, however, compete in the super-small form factor market (mini) and the consumer all-in-one market, both of which are generally ignored by most vendors though there have recently been inroads by the likes of Gateway, Dell and Sony in the last one.

I still think there is room for a 'MacPro LC' or something as there is so much hacking of OS X to make it run on generic hardware. Apple could be getting in on a piece of this action with an expandable mid-tower (like the afore-mentioned G4 towers).

Until that time there are a few options like the Mac mini Centris Drive Dock that speeds up the stock Mini in several ways:

http://www.amug.org/amug-web/html/amug/reviews/articles/mini/dock/

Though I personally prefer the LC form factor (it was my first Mac), the LC leaves little room for a CD drive.

The problem here is the poor graphics hardware in a Mac Mini, everything else is pretty expandable with some adapters.

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Re: Markets. Apple is very good

Unknown1 wrote:
the LC leaves little room for a CD drive.

If you were using it as a Mini expansion, you'd have the Mini's laptop form factor optical drive anyway. That and a 3.5" hard drive should fit in an LC.

Jon
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But, would it be profitable?

But, would it be profitable? It would have to not steal sales of the mini, not steal sales of the iMac, and still be at a price point to generate a good profit. A mid-tower would certainly eat sales of the Mac Pro, and depending on price vs specs would certainly eat sales of the iMac. Depending on how it would compete with the mini specs-wise it might totally kill of the model. I don't see much room in the product line up for an expandable tower to be placed and still maintain other sales, like they did with the MBA.

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It's a bit of a chicken-and-e

It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. How many cards are available currently for the G5/MacPro outside of the high-end? There's not much motivation for Apple to create another Mac with slots when there's nothing to fill them.

Let's say Apple creates a mid-range desktop with a PCI-E slot for expandable video. Apple ships it with an equally mid-range card.

Now...what are you going to expand it to? ATI or Nvidia first need to be convinced that there's a market for upgrade cards. Likely not enough of a market to bother with. Also, it's not Apple that would profit from the sales of the card.
Besides, if you want to play video games, you shouldn't be buying a Mac, and gaming's about the only reason to upgrade video beyond the non-Intel GMA video iMac models.

So...what else is there that's got anyone here needing expansion? The usual suspects - hard drive, CPU, RAM, DVD - are already upgradeable, USB 2 has already been mentioned, so what's left?

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modular devices

Good question.

I look at "upgrades" differently. Computers, if you haven't noticed already, are getting smaller. No longer does the monolitic 1980's PC-style desktop define what a computer should be. In my opinion, the energy consuming, large single core Mhz muscle machines with heat syncs, noisy fans and storage devices that include mechanical motors are museum pieces. With the exception of it's legacy CPU and built-in screen, I think that the Macbook Air is a step in the right direction.

Okay, I've got my USB hub, USB keyboard, USB mouse, USB ethernet and USB storage. Where's the USB CPU array, and USB screen?

I would be interested in more modular devices. USB is pretty much the way to go these days for a plethora of devices I can plug in -- to "upgrade" my system. Perhaps, the only things left to be modularized are CPU arrays and video. I would like to be able plug CPU arrays and screens directly into switches (hubs). And, not plug them at all using wireless connections.

And, even though USB has become fairly standard, my wish would be to do away with USB and make devices connect through both wired and wireless ethernet. We are possibly already moving this way with 802.11b/g Wifi IP phones. A video camera with Gigabit ethernet would enable me to copy my movies faster to other storage devices.

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Too Slow

USB, even USB 2, is FAR to slow to be used to video, let alone a CPU array. Its a good idea, but there is not really any sort of cost-effective external bus suitable for video output. Otherwise, we would have long ago seen USB and firewire vid cards. I'd love to have one for my G3 ibook, though, besides having the infamous video chip problem it is still a great computer.

Jon
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There were simple USB video a

There were simple USB video adapters, then there was DisplayLink. They've been working on getting better video compression over USB, and ethernet - by using the GPU in the PC to do a lot of the work, not by sticking a GPU on the USB bus. Realtime video compression is a whole bunch easier when you are dealing with a mostly static GUI display, and only need to run fast moving parts for small moving video sections, like YouTube video or whatever.

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There are actually a number o

There are actually a number of usb based "video" cards for the pc market. Most are designed to add a 2nd display to a laptop by forcing the computer to output a double wide video screen, and send half of it preprocessed over usb to a vga port.

What I would really like to see is a midrange desktop. Their lineup sort of jumps from mac mini to mac pro, while the imac is there some people just don't want an all in one. I already have everything, so when I upgrade from my G5 a few years down the road I don't want to be paying 3,000$ for a new desktop, but I also don't want a 2.5" HD with the lowest end processor available and only 1 optical drive etc. Dual 2.4ghz core2duo type deal with 2 gb of ram and video cards equalling those in macbooks with a BTO option for something up to that of the macpro would be great, while having a smaller form factor than the mac pro. Some people need decent processing power but want to keep their displays and not have a huge footprint.

Personally I'll probably go with a 24" imac if nothing else surfaces, but I would rather keep my existing LCD and have something I can actually open up (I don't really have any reason to, but it's nice to see how things are put together).

Jon
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[url]http://www.engadget.com/
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Interesting Gadget

That is quite a feat of engineering, seems like more work than it is worth, but I guess for an interprise setup where you really HAVE to have it...

I would like to see something like the widening of the application of eSATA with 3GB per second transfer speed. Faster than ANY current hard drive and probably useful for five to ten years (about the lifespan of USB?)

With this kind of bandwidth distributed computing with handheld portable plug-in (quad-core) processing units would be possible (I surmise at least).

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There's always [url=http://ww

There's always ScreenRecycler or the freeware Synergy

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