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Is the Mac Mini Apple's future 'smart' iPod Dock?

Probe points to integrated player port

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Was the Mac Mini originally intended to sport an integrated iPod Dock? That's the suggestion made by one electronics specialist who's taken a closer look than most at the compact Mac's internal workings.

The Apple machine's optical drive connects to the motherboard not by a cable but is attached directly to an Ultra ATA-100 riser card which itself fits into a slot toward the rear of the Mini's mobo. According to Leo Bodnar, the guy who figured out how to overclock the Mini's G4-class CPU, that's not all the riser does.

Apparently, it's got a Firewire bus on there too, though there's no connection beyond the riser card itself. In addition to the ATA-100 lines that feed the optical drive, the riser has a connector pinout that takes the Firewire signal and provides a number of other lines, whose functions remain unknown but are likely to carry extra control signals, Leo believes.

The Mini's Agere FW8028 Firewire controller, mounted on the underside of the motherboard, connects direclty to the riser card slot, itself installed on the top of the mobo.

Website Mini-ITX.com has some good Mini mobo pics here.

Leo's hypothesis: that the riser was designed to feed an iPod Dock connector moulded into the device's top cover. He notes that there's a fair bit of empty space behind the riser and above the Mini's output ports, though this could simply be part of the computer's cooling system.

Whether the Firewire feature was dropped from the first incarnation, or was put in place ready for the Mac's next revision isn't clear. However, early rumours surrounding the so-called "headless iMac" that was to become the Mac Mini, did indeed mention an integrated iPod Dock, fitted to help encourage Windows-using iPod owners to switch to the Mac platform,

Maybe it didn't feel the time was right. Certainly then Apple was still bundling a Dock with most of its iPods. Following the product line's recent update, however, no player now ships with a Dock as standard - they are only offered as optional extras. That now makes an Mini-integrated Dock more attractive to new customers, suggesting to us that a future revision of the computer might well include such a feature. ®

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