Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Apple introduces Intel-based Mac Mini, IPod stereo

Here are a number of articles and posts with analyst quotes after Apple made its product announcements this morning. Apple announced the new iPod Hi-Fi, a home stereo compatible with every model of iPod that will sell for $349, leather iPod cases and Intel-based Mac Minis, selling for $599 and $799 and includes wireless connectivity to Apple's Front Row software so one iTunes-equipped computer can access media files of another iTunes-equipped computer wirelessly.

In a United Press International article, Michael Gartenberg at JupiterResearchsaid, "The announcement confirmed that the iPod is a platform itself. Many customers are already willing to pay a premium for a premium experience. People are looking for the Apple brand."

He also noted that the "the wireless connectivity of Front Row software in Mac Minis is a step toward creating an interconnected home theatre with Apple technology." He said, "The evolution begins as Apple begins to integrate the TV and the PC experience."

The The Consumer Electronics Stock Blog picks up a research note that Bear Stearns analysts Andrew J. Neff, Bill Hand and Ted Chung sent out today. They wrote that "while some investors may be disappointed with a lack of a revolutionary product launch (e.g., true video iPod/tablet iPod), we see today’s announcement as signs of AAPL’s expanding entry into consumer electronics and see more products to come."

  • Mac mini with Bonjour software — stream content wirelessly. Keeping with AAPL’s theme of simplifying technology adoption, Mac mini incorporates revolutionary software called Bonjour that positions the device as a true media center for home. Mac mini directly hooks up to TVs and Bonjour enable it to automatically find any other PCs or Macs over a wireless network and share content (music, photo, video). Mac mini is priced starting at $599/$799.
  • “Hi-Fi” stereo. iPod Hi-Fi system with a native iPod docking station , priced at $349
The Sun-Sentinel picks up a Bloomberg piece.Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray said, "This is their move into the living room. The Mac Mini will be the first media center that will work. The remote control is the key, bridging the gap between the technical and non-technical user."

Robert van Batenburg at Louis Capital Markets added, "For underlying sales and fundamentals, the Mac Mini is the most important, but from a strategic point the iPod boom box is interesting because it signifies they want to move more into the living room."

Before the announcement Ken Smith at Munder Capital Management said, "They are doing reasonably well on the Intel transition, and the strength of iPod has provided a window of opportunity" to sell more Macs.

Lastly Michael Gartenberg at JupiterResearch posts that although it "seems like pretty evolutionary stuff from Apple today but I think there's more at stake." He writes that "it does seem Apple has listened and integrated Front Row to the Mini and that's good news. Apple is really moving in steps to capture another endpoint in the digital home and that's the importance of this news. Notice there's still no TV tuner support, but the infrastructure for media sharing is now in place beyond music and Apple as the provider of an end to end networking experience can deliver on what they promise. This is the next move in what is still an early game."

Gartenberg concludes that "likewise, look at the new iPod accessories as further validation that Apple considers this device a platform. Aside from making sure that they capture their share of what is a lucrative accessory market, this move also validates the vision of the iPod as a hub in the digital home for music. Think it's expensive? Perhaps, but it's cheaper than a Sonos system and you don't need to do any networking. Expect to see more moves like this in the short term that add up to a much larger end game."