Silver Apple LogoWhen I laid out my business goals for the Year of the Dragon, I expressed the need to finally replace my home computer. In the brief item detail, I included a link to the official Apple website where it provides information on the little engine that could — also known as the Mac mini.

But when I ventured over to the page via my link, I noticed one small, yet important change about the mini. It no longer has a disc drive.

I know Apple released some statement a year or two ago blathering on about how the CD was on its way out the door, but much like Apple’s pissing contest with Adobe in 2009, I saw it for what it was. Apple’s marketing ploy planted the seed to convince people that CD and DVDs were dated technology, sending the message that everyone should embrace the world of streaming, instant access downloading and USBs.

And like the Adobe Flash argument, it was premature. Technology is always changing, but you can’t design machinery that takes us there before the consumer is ready. Or maybe you can … if you’re Apple. After all, millions of people now own smartphones and tablets that won’t let them access websites or videos that require a Flash plugin, but they’re not angry at Apple. They’re angry at Adobe. Go figure.

Also, I recognized then that Apple was steering the public toward a complete dependence on iTunes as the portal for accessing movies, music, podcasts, audio books and TV shows. As a matter of fact, they expressly admit it on their Mac mini design page.

“Mac mini is designed without an optical disc drive. Because these days, you don’t need one. It’s easier than ever to download music and movies from the iTunes Store. And you can download apps from the Mac App Store with a click. …  And removing the optical drive gave us room to do one more thing with Mac mini: lower its price. If you still want to burn discs, consider the external MacBook Air SuperDrive, which connects to Mac mini with a USB cable.”

Here’s the thing, ladies and gents: The price of the mini in 2012 is the same as the price of the mini in 2006. $600. Removing the optical disc drive didn’t lower the price at all.

And personally, I do need the disc drive because I keep my music downloading to a minimum. Why? Because I don’t like paying to license the music I download. You know, as opposed to actually paying to own the music I download. So the majority of music in my iTunes is from real CDs. And that ownership allows me to add it to as many playlists as I like, burn mix CDs for my car, and own the music I purchase outright without Big Brother Apple telling me it’s ok.

I bought my Mac mini in the summer of 2006 right around the time Apple decided that Intel wasn’t a bad idea and not every end-user is interested in editing film, recording audio or playing Portal until the wee hours of the morning. The mini was perfect for my writing and editing needs and it helped me practice my keyboard shortcuts outside the office of my full-time magazine gig.

But as Apple has become one of the most recognized and respected brands around the world, the more I’ve become dissatisfied with their quest for global domination and insistence that they’re the perfect home computer for everyone. I’m not anti-Apple by any means, but I am anti-corporate manipulation and smokescreens. I’m also anti-brainwashing.

Macs are not flawless. They’re not easier to use. They’re not impenetrable.

Audio by Derrick NohI recently had a discussion with a few denizens in the Cult of Mac who insisted that Macs almost never get viruses. One person even said, “I’ve used a Mac for 20 years and I’ve never had a virus.” Um … yeah. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he’s probably had quite a few, but didn’t know it.

With every Apple software update that rolls out, they’re fixing bugs, vulnerabilities and viruses that have infected his computer. Unlike Microsoft, Apple simply doesn’t draw attention to it.

But hey, that’s his vision, so I leave him to it. The problem is where does that leave me? I was perfectly willing to once again buy a $600 computer that I have to supply my own monitor, keyboard and mouse. Since I already have those peripherals and only need a new CPU, is going back to a PC the right answer? Or just the easy one? I have a Windows-based netbook that I use when I travel so my PC skills aren’t rusty by any means, but is that my only option?

I also own an iPod that’s configured to a Mac operating system. I have to worry about the transfer of over 25 GBs of music from my iTunes and I’m not entirely certain I want to sacrifice the desktop real estate for the CPU.  I love the compact strength of the mini, but it’s not the end-all be-all of technology.

One thing I’ll also have to contend with is the incessant criticism, ego baiting and immaturity of Apple worshippers. Last week, I mentioned to someone that I’m considering going back to a PC and getting rid of my Mac, and her response was “Ewww! Why?” I almost did a double-take because this person only knows how to use 5% of the iMac’s capabilities and has expressed no desire to learn more. She can’t even find the password storage window in her Preferences menu, but she looks down on anything that isn’t Apple? I guess that’s the power of branding, marketing and status-symbol popularity.

I’ve been using Macs for 17 years and PCs for 22 years. At the end of the day, I just need a machine that will allow me to manage my business and daily life with relative ease and understanding. Yes, you have to download drivers and whatnot for PCs, but you also have to download codices and programs that are compatible with Macs.

You must have a virus-protection software for a PC, but you’re only asking for trouble if you use a Mac without a firewall no matter what fanboys tell you. Microsoft and IBM are underhanded in their policies and distribution, and Apple has clearly lost its mind in the quest for dominance.

Come July, I don’t know what I’ll decide. As the excitement over the rollout of OS X Mountain Lion builds, will I cave and purchase a machine with a hefty price tag simply for its familiarity and slick design? Or will I stand my ground, choose to do what’s best for me and my business and dive back into the Windows pond?

Have you ever bucked the trend of technology and gone again the grain?