I’ve been working with Mac mini for nearly thirteen years. I was there when it launched and I feel confident in saying that no one has watched this little machine grow more intently than I have watched it. It's been the little aluminum block with which I’ve built my career.
To celebrate this great machine, I thought it’d be fun to put together a timeline of highlights from the last fourteen years.
With Macworld 2005 nearing, there are rumors of a headless iMac that may cost around $500. The rumors get so loud that it was being reported on TV and international newspapers. As the rumors grow, Apple files a lawsuit against Think Secret for their report on the headless iMac and a potential new "iWork" office suite.
Steve Jobs introduces the Mac mini at Macworld 2005. "This is a very robust computer, but it’s very, very tiny." Apple calls it the "most affordable Mac ever" at just $499. I was at this keynote and I remember the surprise in the room at the size and price of the mini. Apple Also introduced the iPod Shuffle so "small, cheap and without a display" was a bit of a theme.
Just two days after the announcement, and before any machines are even available, Macminicolo is founded. We already had a fantastic data center and internet connections so we thought we’d figure the rest out as the machine arrived. As with any new idea, things were thoroughly mocked on Slashdot.
It was an exciting time for Jay, Patrick and me. Ten years later, still going strong.
The Mac mini is now available for purchase. The first model actually has the model ID of "PowerMac10,1" which tells a bit of its roots. Customers are excited to see how everything fits in the small space and quickly determine that a putty knife is the best way to get inside the machine.
Apple makes a small update of the Mac mini with faster processors and a faster hard drive. (So small that they didn’t even offer a press release on the the upgrade.)
Customers spend the whole year finding interesting things to do with the Mac mini. It ends up in data centers, in cars, and in POS systems. With some digging into the G4 Mac mini, it was observed that there is an empty connector on the top of the machine and people wonder if it is for an iPod dock. It’s not until 2014 that the guess was confirmed. The Mac mini was supposed to be released with the iPod mini but the iPod was running behind so it shipped without the dock.
The Intel Mac mini is released. The machine is the third Mac to feature Intel inside.
The Mac mini now ships with IR and an Apple remote to be used with the fantastic new Front Row software. This was a natural fit as more and more people are connecting the Mac mini to their TVs. In addition to the power increase, the price is also increased. For the first time, the base Mac mini is $599.
In the only time that I can remember, Apple also used the product page to showcase third party Mac mini projects. (Of course, MMC was listed.) Steve Jobs says "people are doing all sorts of things that we never dreamed of when we introduced it."
Apple released the Apple TV earlier in the year, and gave rare updates to the Mac mini so the Mac mini was officially confirmed dead.
Oh, how I loathe this article. Since that time, I’ve received weekly emails of "so what do you do when Apple kills the mini?" If you bought a Mac mini this day in 2007, you could have used it for 11 years so far. Buy one today, you can use it for 7 years from now. Apple will not come and take away your server.
A Mac mini with Intel Core 2 Duo is released. It is officially Macmini2,1 and is released alongside the first aluminum iMac. This was the iMac with the black back and the glossy screen. There was a lot of "looks like I’ll be getting a new Mac mini so I can pick my own screen to pair with it."
The State of the Mac mini was interesting in 2008 because it had been so long since a new version had been released. People were getting nervous. We wrote a post to explain some of the things that made the Mac mini unique. In addition, we mentioned that the next Mac mini would be changing to a SATA connection for the upper drive, allowing the machine to have either an optical drive or a second hard drive.
For the first time, the Mac mini offered a server version with two internal drives. Since Apple had recently introduced the MacBook Air with Remote Disk, customers were becoming more comfortable with no optical drive. The $999 machine also included an unlimited license for Snow Leopard Server, which retailed for $499 on its own. These machines also increased to 8GB of RAM officially. (Though, the previous version also supported 8GB of RAM with a firmware upgrade.)
We were the first to give a thorough look at the 2009 Mac minis.
Apple introduces the aluminum Mac mini as the first redesign since the original Mac mini. There were three major changes that people loved.
First, the new machine had an internal power supply so there was no longer a large external power brick. Second, the mac mini now had a HDMI port. And last, you no longer needed a putty knife to upgrade the RAM. The Mac mini could be upgraded with a quick twist of the bottom cover.
The least popular change was the price. With Macmini4,1, the base price was now $699.
Apple announces that the Xserve will be discontinued in January 2011. They point to the Mac Pro and Mac mini as the best options if you want to host a Mac server.
In a XServe Transition Guide, Apple states: "Since its introduction in the fall of 2009, Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server has become Apple’s most popular server system."
The Mac mini is updated with the power of i5 and i7 processors. With Macmini5,1, the machine really hit its stride. The Mac mini could now support 16GB of RAM (unofficially) and also came with a 7200 RPM hard drive and a Thunderbolt port. This build of Mac mini is still sought after because it’s the most recent one you can buy with a dedicated GPU. The base price is back to $599.
The machine also became more popular as OS X Server was now just $50 via the Mac App Store. All of a sudden it was easier and much less expensive to run your own Mail, Web and Chat server.
After a few Mac mini updates that only debuted online, the Mac mini actually saw some stage time at the October 2012 event. Phil Schiller called it a "beautiful, simple, small design."
The 2012 Mac mini brought USB3, official support of 16GB of RAM, and for the first time offered 2TB of internal space. (2x1TB drives in the server version.) The benchmarks were a big jump from 2011.
This Mac mini is still popular as it’s the most recent build with a quad-core processor.
We waited and waited for a new machine. No Mac mini update for all of 2013 and most of 2014. The Mac mini went a total of 723 days without an update.
Customers were very glad to see a new Mac mini, but not all were happy with the update. The interest in this machine was very high, with a post we wrote getting over one million views in just a couple weeks. We confirmed the RAM could not be upgraded. The Macmini7,1 also did away with the quad-core processor and the dual-drive server version.
However, the GPU and single core performance both had a nice upgrade. In addition, the base price is now back to the original $499. That hasn’t been seen since 2005.
In late 2015, I began talking with the folks at MacStadium. It was becoming apparent that Mac minis (and other Mac hosting options) were going to become more and more important. If I was going to promote it the way that I had hoped, I was going to have to offload some of the other parts of running a hosting company like managing the data center, etc. MacStadium was a perfect fit. We decided to merge our companies and build the largest Mac hosting company in the world.
In the span of a few months, both Phil Schiller and Tim Cook offer some hope to us mini fans. When asked at the Mac Pro Hope Summit about the Mac mini, Phil responded, "On that I'll say the Mac Mini is an important product in our lineup…”
A few months later, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to a message with much of the same hope, “I’m glad you love Mac mini. We love it too. Our customers have found so many creative interesting uses for Mac mini. While it is not time to share any details, we plan for Mac mini to be an important part of our product line going forward.”
I’m still wondering what Krar did so right. I never had my emails responded to by Mr Cook. Maybe daily is too often?
In order to be closer to developers around the world, we opened new Mac mini data centers in Dublin and Las Vegas. We also offer Mac mini subscriptions in all of the locations so customers can expand quickly and also start without a large upfront cost.
Do you remember that fantastic TV show called 24? The plot of the show was to follow Jack Bauer, a counter-terrorist agent, over a real-time 24-hour period. It was intense and exciting and unbelievable. The plot line would be so enthralling that it surely lived up to the “fiction” genre. The show started with "I'm federal agent Jack Bauer, and today is the longest day of my life."
Well, I won’t be quite that dramatic, but "I'm Mac mini aficionado and MacStadium VP Brian Stucki, and today is the most mini day of my life."