Let me start off by stating that I AM a mac user. I've got a MacBook Pro, and intel iMac, and having been using macs almost exclusively for the last 6 years. Now, with all of that said and all of my great love of Apple and Apple products (most of the time anyways), Apple is really messing up in one VERY key segment of the market, and it's a strong reason why they won't progress into the mainstream. Quite simply, they've got all in one systems, such as the iMac, and they've got their fancy Mac Pro towers, and on the low end they've got the MacMinis. The trick is for most people, none of those are things people are interested in. Let me explain:
My brother a while back asked me to price out a gaming machine for him. I looked around, and tried to convince him to go to an Apple product, due to ease of use, a number of features that were far better, reliability, amazing design, and quite simply – I won't support windows machines anymore unless I absolutely have no other alternative. SO, note to those asking for windows help from me – here's the advice I'll give now, go get a Mac. If you won't follow that advice, here's the next and final bit of advice: get FireFox, don't install software off the net because often you are downloading a virus/spyware (no, they don't really love you), don't open attachments you receive via email even if it says PDF or "You've won a milliion dollars" or "Naked chicks here", close yourself off into a box and disconnect your internet, and otherwise realize you're dealing with a horrible OS that drives me nuts due to how much frigging breaks in the thing.
Anyways, off of the rant, I finally gave in and specc'd out a windows box for my brother, and it was then that I realized why Apple was going to fail. I've known some who say Apple will fail because it doesn't have the developers, or because they're overpriced, or because windows is what the whole world uses, or any number of other reasons. Let me tell you now, that NONE of those reasons will really matter, because quite simply, those aren't the people who drive the market, who drive innovation, who get dear ol' Mom & Dad using computers. It's little Jimmy begging them for a game system. It's the college kid building his own computer so he can play the latest game at full resolution with all the settings maxed out. It's the home guy who just wants to play around and build a cheapo system that has a max'd out video card, or to customize it to his hearts content. You can't customize the Mac's to any decent extent, and the price of the system where you CAN replace your video card puts it out of the range of any home user, or kiddo's, or people like my brother who want a gaming rig and not a processing rig. The iMac's though beautiful don't have the greatest video card in them, and the Mac Mini's… well, don't get me started on those things.
SO, the end result, was when I was pricing out a system for my brother, with a near top of the line video card, a GeForce 8800gt, it came in under $1k. Even adding the crappy windows OS onto that system still didn't increase the price that much, and since he had a monitor, keyboard, etc. already, the 20" iMac didn't really appeal – particularly since at that time, it had a slower processor, and a MUCH slower video card in comparison. THIS is why Apple will fail to ever break windows. It's not because the major University uses Exchange for mail and calendaring, it's because home users want systems they can customize, at least somewhat, which are gaming systems.
The solution for Apple? There's a simple solution, but I don't expect them to do this, because it would be a change of emphasis, and require a bit more mobility in development and product support. Apple needs to drop the MacMini, or turn it into a DVR type box, perhaps specialize it in some way, or make it an ultra cheap, not an entry level box, because at the price they're asking it's not all that great of a system. Then, they need to release a "desktop" system, that's got virtually the same specs hardware wise as the iMac, but with upgradable harddrives (doesn't take much, two bays at most for drives), and an upgradeable video card with a decent selection of video cards, with a max of 4gb of memory (4 slots total available) using standard DIMMS. I tell ya now though, Apple won't do this for one simple reason – this would kill their MacPro systems. Though the MacPro's are truly amazing boxes, with the number of CPU's they support, etc., I DO think a lot of people buy the MacPro's just so they can get extra harddrives and upgraded video cards, and having a lower end machine where you could have that would eat into that market segment. Of course, I also think that if they did so, that lower end market segment would skyrocket, but I'm biased obviously
SO, this is my "wish" from apple – a low end, gaming Mac, that can use someone's already existing Laser Mouse and 20" LCD monitor that they've been using for gaming (not to mention head sets, game pads, and other gaming devices.) This is what drives the market, and what could drive Apple to expand their market share. Will it happen though? Probably not, but I can definitely hope, cause my brother isn't the only one who likes gaming machines!