The Apple Store has a Special Deals section where they sell refurbished hardware, and there are some sweet deals going on (don’t let the word “refurbished” scare you off; you get what is basically new hardware and the standard warranty without the new hardware price.)
For instance, you can pick up a 1.25GHz Mac mini (256MB SDRAM, 40GB HD, DVD/CD-RW) for $399. That puts it within swinging distance of Dell’s bargain basement offerings without dealing with second-rate hardware and a hobbled OS. And going this route is a far, far better way to get the beauty of OS X than trying to hack together an OS X-on-generic-Intel install. There’s something to be said for running software on supported hardware.
I just bought a fully buzzword-compliant mini from the Special Deals page for a new employee at work — 1.42GHz, 512MB SDRAM, 80GB HD, Bluetooth, AirPort, DVD-R/CD-RW — for $599, (I know a guy who bought a similar machine for a whole lot more and is still bitter about it) and plan to buy one of the $399 minis for home. There are also G5 iMacs for $900, iPod Shuffle’s for $79… save from 10 to 43% on everything listed. You can even get an extended warranty if you want.
Before anyone gets their underwear in a bundle, this is in no way a suggestion or even the merest hint that everyone dump their commodity Intel machines and adopt Macs — there are too many narrow-minded developers who build their software tools only for Wintel. If you’ve got apps that you simply cannot live without that are Windows-only, you know what you have to do.
But for those who need a system at home or at work to do the basics — word processing, e-mail, web browsing — the Mac mini is the perfect solution. Solid hardware, near bullet-proof OS, zero vulnerability to worms & viruses, a good suite of software bundled with it, and a low, low price… just the ticket for anyone who doesn’t want to further enrich Bill Gates & Symantec, and doesn’t have the time or skill set to deal with Linux.
And don’t be too surprised if once you get past the minor paradigm shift using the Mac OS and figure out that it will do most everything your beloved/hated PC will do, with less hassle, that you decide your friend Dave isn’t as crazy as you once thought. He really does have your best interest at heart!