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11/5/2010
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Apple Discontinues Xserve

The company's rack-mountable server will be available only through January 31, 2011.

Apple has decided to stop selling its Xserve server line at the end of this coming January and it is encouraging its server customers to consider either a Mac Pro or Mac Mini as replacements.

"Mac Pro systems deliver performance and expandability equal to or surpassing Xserve, and offer an ideal server solution for customers looking for the highest levels of performance, storage, and expandability," Apple says in its transition guide.

The Mac Mini can't match the Xserve in performance, Apple acknowledges, but may be better suited for businesses or workgroups of up to 50 people. Another advantage is price: The Mac Mini starts at $700, while the Xserve starts at $3000.

The Mac Mini also consumes far less power than an Xserve, an consideration that has become increasingly important in recent years. Idle, the Mac Mini typically draws 11 W of power. Compare that to an Xserve which draws 116 W in its single-processor configuration.

Apple plans to continue to support Xserve customers.

Apple has offered no explanation for its decision but there are several likely reasons. First and foremost, Apple's recent success has involved consumer-oriented products, primarily mobile or portable ones. Its Xserve line appeals to businesses but presumably not so much that the company wants to maintain the product line.

Apple's recently disclosed decision to enlist Unisys to boost sales to businesses and government agencies further suggests that Apple wants to remain focused on its core competency, the consumer market.

By encouraging business customers to use a Mac Pro, Apple consolidates its professional business and also opens the door to sales of peripherals and software that wouldn't be bought in conjunction with rack-mounted servers.

Apple's decision may also reflect the increasing popularity of virtualization and cloud computing. The server business just isn't what it used to be.

Finally, Apple's apparent interest in bringing more touch controls from iOS to Mac OS may mean closer integration of displays and computers, an upgrade cycle that perhaps works better without having to bring Xserve along for the ride.

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