Many moons ago, I started an online video game rental service. It was one of the first in the industry and for a brief time flirted as the #1 company in the market. It rose, it fell, but that's another story.
During the very early days of my start-up, we used to make GameStop runs to buy our inventory because it was much cheaper than buying new games at wholesale prices. The fact that we got 10% off used games by using the GameStop Rewards card made it a no brainer. Even after I exited the video game business, I still bought most of my games from GameStop out of some weird sense of nostalgia and loyalty. Price-wise they are never the cheapest and you do get shafted when you sell back games but I get a certain sense of joy when walking into the store to peruse the game titles and chat with the employees.
I'm not so sure the sordid news regarding GameStop employees removing items from game packs changes my perception that much of the company. No one ever said GameStop was the bastion of retail purity plus this is more a corporate directive than a "theft/stealing" issue. Still, it's not a positive and given that places like Amazon gets you the same exact game at a slightly cheaper price, no tax and free shipping, it may make me think twice about where I buy from moving forward.
Simply put, don't buy RAM from Apple. I just ordered 8GB of RAM from Amazon for my newly purchased Mac Mini. Total cost? $54.99 no tax. The same 8GB from Apple via the Mac Mini config menu? $300 plus tax. Of course that price includes the installation but it should take even the most novice of people about 5 minutes to swap the RAM from their Mac. Do yourself a favor and buy a precision screwdriver set then do a Google search. Your bank account will thank you.
Of course, after speaking of the coolness of the new Mac Mini, I ordered one from Amazon - $595, no sales tax, $3.99 next day shipping. Just this morning, I sold my current Mac Mini on eBay for $644.98. I did upgrade the RAM to 8GB at one point which cost me about $100 so the total cost of my old Mac Mini was about $745. The price difference of about $100 could be viewed as a "lease" for the use of the old Mac Mini for about 13 months worth of use or about $8 a month. Not too shabby and I get the latest hardware for another XX months (I'm guessing about a year). I've been playing this game for about 2-3 years now with my Macs (Mini and laptops) and it's a very acceptable way to upgrade your machines at a very nominal cost. I think the one year churn is perfect since your outgoing hardware still has great value. As I've stated before, Macs hold their value pretty well compared to PCs. Add in the fact that Mac productivity software is cheaper than PCs ($79 versus $279) and you don't have to buy anti-virus software (yet), the value of buying that Dell laptop doesn't really look that great.
Along with today's Mac OS X Lion release, Apple refreshed the MacBook Air and Mac Mini with new chipsets and beefier configs while keeping prices the same or lowering them in some cases. While no major structural changes were made to the MacBook Air (Thunderbolt added and backlit keyboard brought back!) the Mac Mini lost its internal Superdrive completely. Last year's server version removed the optical drive and now the desktop version is DVD free, as well. Yet another sign of Apple's march towards zero internal optical drives for all its machines.
The move is hardly a surprise. Forget about Apple's desire to be cutting edge. CDs and DVDs as a technology are just outdated. People don't carry around CDs for listening to music any more. Virtually all movies released to date are on Blu-ray or are being streamed via Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, etc. CDs and DVDs to deliver software is dying a slow death (hastened by App Stores of all types) and optical discs never really caught on for on the go data storage. USB thumb drives are more practical and the combination of continuously falling prices and ever increasing sizes make it a no brainer. Would I want to carry around 4-8 DVDs or one 32GB USB flash drive (currently priced at about $40 and falling). Also, Apple just killed another reason for you to use an optical drive by letting all new Macs reinstall the operating system over the internet (very cool).
I'm not against optical drives in general. I do see the need for them when watching Blu-ray movies (though not available on a Mac) or when needing to store huge files cheaply (about $1 per 25GB blank disc or $7 for 50GB blank disc). I just don't need to use them ALL THE TIME. That's why a laptop (or Mac Mini) coupled with an external USB Blu-ray drive is a great solution. You shouldn't have to devote 25%-35% of your machine's internal real estate to a peripheral you only use 1% of the time, if that much.