Looking ahead to the G5 Mini

So looking around a bit at the Mac web this weekend, it appears the PowerBook G5 rumors are about to start gaining steam. Supposedly the current PowerBook G4 line is about to be EOL’ed. EOL is retail/manufacturing talk for End of Life, as in, we’re not making this any more, and when we’ve sold what’s out there, that’s all there is.
I won’t dignify the rumor-mongers with links, but I do have a couple of thoughts.
First, if we see a PowerBook G5, I’m not sure we’ll see a PowerBook G5 12-inch right away. I would like to be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a G5 available in only the 17- and 15-inch PowerBooks to start with. It all boils down to how well Apple and IBM have managed to work around the heating issues with the G5 in the smaller spaces.
Second, if Apple solves its heat issues and wedges the G5 in to the PowerBook form factors, it’s not a stretch to then dump the G5 in to the Mac Mini. Not that this would occur any time in the near future after a PowerBook G5 release, but one could reasonably surmise when it will be coming, because it will eventually happen.
If you look at the six product lines of Apple’s computers, two are already on the G5: the Power Macintosh towers, and the iMac. Next up for the new processor is the PowerBook line, which would leave the iBook, the eMac, and the just-released Mac Mini.
Those same rumors hinted at above also say that the eMac is about to be EOL’ed as well. Should that prove true, then this means Apple is pushing the Mac Mini in to the education market, and schools will have to buy cheap third-party monitors, because they sure as hell aren’t buying 20-inch Apple flat-panel displays that cost twice as much as the baseline Mac Mini. Seeing as how these schools never purchased displays from Apple before, Apple’s not losing revenue there, though one can theorize their margins on Mac Mini sales will be lower than on eMacs. As John Gruber has observed, Apple looks to make up for reduced margins with volume. So if the eMac is indeed dead in the near future, Apple’s computer product line falls from six to five, and after the PowerBook G5 is released, only the iBook and Mac Mini will be on the G4.
The G4 is just about tapped out in Apple’s product line. The 1.5 GHz processor is the highest speed being offered, but third-party upgrade vendors are offering faster G4 processors. Apple may bump up the G4’s speed in its product line one more time, but it all depends on how aggressive they want to be with the G5.
I can see Apple bringing out the PowerBook G5 some time in the first half of the year, before or after the release of Tiger. At some point within the following six months, the speeds of the Power Macintosh G5 will be increased. At Macworld Expo next year, you’ll see increased speeds for the iMac G5, and by mid-year, faster PowerBook G5s. This would open the door to then add the G5 to the iBook line, and maybe at the same time the Mac Mini line, though Apple is known for only refreshing one line at a time, for the most part. Earliest time for a G5 Mini? I’m betting on Macworld Expo in January 2007. It all hinges on IBM’s G5 fabrication, however, so it’s not all up to Jobs and the Apple brain trust. And hell, I was way wrong on the flash-based iPod and the iCheap, aka the Mac Mini, so what do I know? This has all been stream-of-consciousness blogging any way.