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Wither Mac Mini?

The Mac Mini, the cheapest Mac in Apple's lineup, could be headed for the exits after years of playing third fiddle to the MacBook and iMac.

Apple may have finally decided to kill the Mac Mini, according to a report.

After relegating it to the hinterlands of its Mac lineup for years, Apple might be finally ready to put the Mac Mini to sleep.

That's what Gizmodo thinks, having talked to two European retailers who say they can no longer order the $599 box from Apple. It's possible Apple could be getting ready to simply update the internal hardware in the Mac Mini, which has languished for quite a while with outdated chips, but Gizmodo reports that the retailers have been told that this is the end of the line.

The Mac Mini was an experiment in affordability and minimalism on Apple's part back in 2005. The small desktop was initially a hit with critics and consumers, but as the world's PC preferences tilted strongly in favor of notebooks over the last several years, Apple spent more time updating and promoting the MacBook and iMac all-in-one desktops than the cute little cube. And the Apple TV has fulfilled the desire of some for a small media server that fits snugly in an entertainment center, even though as designed it doesn't have nearly the flexibility offered by a real computer like the Mac Mini.

Rumors of the Mac Mini's demise have circulated for at least a year. The Mini could desperately use a hardware boost, but Apple may have concluded that it's simply not worth the effort at this point. The company has made it very clear that it considers mobile computing the future of its business, and the Mac Mini simply doesn't work in that context.

It would, however, eliminate the cheapest Mac from Apple's arsenal, raising the starting price of (officially, at least) entering the Mac OS X universe to $999. Analysts have been a little worried that the Mac is expensive in the midst of this year's economic turmoil, but consumers don't seem to have noticed, given Apple's market share gains of late.