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New Mac Mini Due In January, Says Rumor

Within Apple's stable of products, the beast that's recieved the least official attention for ages is the Mac Mini. But that's due to change in January, according to a new rumor from an "Apple corporate employee."

The much-loved Mini hasn't been upgraded since April 2007, leaving it lagging behind in processor technology, memory, and the all-aluminum design that's been lavished upon other Apple computers. The new Mini is rumored to be revealed at Macworld Expo, which starts January 5th, in line with Steve Job's custom of unveiling new products during his keynote speech.

Over at Wired they're speculating that the Mini will also adopt the aluminum body, have a greener build to improve Apple's eco-credentials and contain new graphics cards—as in the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros—that support its typical role as a media-serving machine in home AV-setups.

I'm pretty sure that the theory that it'll cost $100 less than current models "in light of the recession" is nothing more than wild hope. Though, indeed, the price cut for the original iPhone and the new "low" price of the iPhone 3G suggest that Apple might be addressing the issue of a perceived "Apple tax."

While we have no idea what the machine will actually look like, there's this intriguing concept to look at {pictured left) from Sait Alayali, which adds a stackable right-angle shape to the Mini.

But is this rumor true? This rumor may carry a bit more weight than similar rumors of an Apple netbook, since the Mini is an existing product. The Mini has gone unmentioned for a while in any Apple future-thinking communications, though there has been a few assurances that it's not being forgotten. It's also tagged as "The essence of Mac" on Apple's own Mac Mini web page, pointing out how seemingly "core" the device really is. And for Apple to remove the machine from its product inventory would seem crazy—it's in third place on Amazon's list of best-selling desktop machines, so that would be a ridiculous income line to give up, especially in the current economic climate. Also Macs are increasingly used in business contexts, and the Mini is a business favorite due to its size and convenient design.

But it's also quite possible that the Mini will be replaced by something completely new, taking up a niche somewhere between the current Apple TV and current Mini. A different form-factor is also possible, though perhaps nothing so radical as the concept shown above. If the product went for a unibody aluminum enclosure, it would seem simplest to machine this in wide, shallow box-shapes, versus the "chunky" existing Mini.

Or Apple may just go for the low-maintenance approach, and slightly tweak the Mini's innards specs, leaving it a "hanger-on" from previous-gen tech like the white plastic low-end Macbook it still sells. But that's just one piece of speculation in what will undoubtedly be a large list.

[Wired via Tech Digest, and TUAW, Crunchgear and Macrumors:Guides]