Time to resurrect the Cube?Well, I think it is.
I recently read the Ars Technica review for the Power Mac G4 Cube, which sadly didn't even survive long enough on Apple's product matrix to get a speed bump. The product itself was quite lovable actually. An eight-inch cube hovering in a plastic shell, it was quite the work of art… beautiful and silent because it was passively cooled. However, it was very modestly powerful even for the day, packing only a 500MHz G4 on the high end.
But the Cube was so upgradeable you can even swap out the original processor for a new, screaming fast 1.8GHz G4 or dual-1.6GHz G4 from Other World Computing. And any Mac whose processor can be easily upgraded is, in my opinion, very adequately upgradeable or VAU. And the Cube was meant to be VAU. Jobs even showed off the incredibly elegant method for accessing the Cube's insides on stage when he introduced it - it was that good. It was clearly a brainchild and there's no way you can make a computer that's that innovative without someone driving it. Unfortunately, the Cube had one minor issue - pricing. The original prices for the 450MHz and 500MHz Cubes were $1799 and $2299. And these were sans monitor. There were very few people in the market for an overpriced, underperforming, albeit goodlooking hunk of plastic, and the Cube was discontinued in 2001. And Apple's executives probably told Jobs to shut up and keep his silly computer ideas to himself after that - let Jon Ive and the pros design the cool stuff. (I'm assuming the Cube was Jobs' idea because of the NeXTcube.)
The way things are laid out in front of us right now, one thing that Apple seems to be doing is not using Intel's Core 2 Duo "Conroe" processor in any of its products. The new iMacs seem to be using "Merom", the Core 2 Duo intended for laptops. Also, what Apple needs is a product in the mid-range tower market - hobbyist gamers and professionals for whom the Mac mini is underpowered, the iMac might be powerful enough but they don't want to pay for a screen they already have and the Mac Pro is a server-level workstation that's simply overkill. The design is something Apple can come up with, but here are the specifications I'd want from such a machine:
- Intel Core 2 Duo "Conroe" processor ranging from 2.0 to 2.93GHz*
- Upto 4GB of RAM with 2 slots taking a 2GB DIMM each*
- Choice of various graphics cards from the NVIDIA GeForce 7600-7800 series and ATI Radeon X1600-X1900 series*
- Space for a single 3.5" hard drive on a SATA II bus which can be custom configured to hold a 160/250/500GB disk*
- A DVD±RW drive
- 3 PCIe slots, one of which would be taken up by the graphics card*
- Gigabit Ethernet/AirPort/Bluetooth/IR
- Audio In/Out through Analog/Digital
- Apple Mouse and Keyboard Optional
A Mac like this would be best introduced with TiVo-like functionality software and should become the perfect Media Centre Mac. The PCIe slot would ensure that you can plug in your favourite TV tuner card.
So, uh, Apple, when's it coming? I'm waiting.