I see that there is now a whole website devoted to the Mac mini and I realized why I have a bit of my own enthusiasm for the small unit and why I think my friends all want one, even though they’ve got more powerful computers already on their desktops: People like limits.
Now I’m not saying people prefer pessimism over optimism, on the contrary, the challenge of working in a limited medium and constantly finding clever innovation as you bang into the walls of constraint is an attractive place to work for many engineers and designers.
I think I (and many others) fell in love with HTML in the mid-90s because it was so limited, but within those bounds you could expresss your creativity in all sorts of ways. There were daily innovations being discovered and shared by folks around the world. I see that with the Mac mini already. It presents a new baseline set of capabilities to work with, and within the constrained environment I could see myself competing with friends to see who is the first to do something seemingly mind blowing with this limited device.
A lot has been written about the role of constraint and limits in design. I seem to recall Stewart had a talk about the 5k contest that explained why people would flock so enthusiastically to a contest that imposed strict limits on the participants. Problem solving is a core aspect of what design is and it’s a rewarding experience to innovate within boundaries to do something you didn’t think was possible.