Actually, the answer to CNET's question is, "YES!"
Since its announcement, CNET and others have been comparing the new Mac Mini to other low-cost entries from the likes of Dell and HP. The problem with these comparisons is that they seem to include false and misleading information.
This puts the two Mac Minis' price tags at about $100 to $150 more than those of similar PCs. Right now, an HP Compaq Presario with an Intel Celeron or AMD Sempron--configured to match the Mini's 256MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive and combination CD-burner-DVD-ROM drive--sells for $399 or $389, after a $50 rebate, via the company's HPshopping Web site.
Gateway, meanwhile, offers a $499 (after rebate) desktop with a competitive configuration to the $599 Mac Mini, but it also comes with a 17-inch monitor, a keyboard and mouse.
First, to compare the post-rebate PC price to Apple list price is, I think, disingenous and a sham. It's common knowledge that most rebates are never redeemed. Further, at some point, soon, resellers like MacMall and CDW will likely be offering Mac Minis with "free printer", "free memory upgrade" and other perks, as PC vendors are doing with their "rebates". A true comparison should be based on quoted list price.
When I check HPshopping.com, for instance, I can find a Compaq Presario model SR1010V configurations starting at $359 (after $50 rebate), but they do not include monitor (The picture of the PC states "Monitor sold separately", but another link suggests "Get up to $100 back with mail-in rebate on your...PC & qualifying monitor").
Typically, when I click "Specs" to see what that includes, the information is a jumble of what is included for $359 and what might be included for additional fee. Clicking "Customize" is equally frustrating, as it seems impossible to actually configure a model for the advertised $359. The closest I could get was $379 ($429 less $50 rebate). But, this configuration does not include some standard Apple Mac Mini features such as a DVD-CDRW combo drive and Quicken. Add these features to the configuration and the price rises to $445 ($495 less $50 rebate). The RAM, hard disk and video for this configuration match that of the Mac Mini. The CPU is roughly equivalent.
Of course, the Mac Mini is still missing a keyboard and mouse. A quick check of newegg.com reveals that such a USB keyboard, including a mini hub, and USB mouse, will run about $30. The Apple-branded equivalents would cost about $60, per the Apple Store. That raises the price of the Mac Mini to between $530 and $560, which is $35 to $65 more expensive than the PC. (The monitor is an added cost for both the Compaq SR1010V and the Apple Mac Mini.)
The Mac Mini has fewer USB ports than the PC, but includes a FireWire port and a DVI/TV out. The PC includes Microsoft Works and the Mac Mini includes AppleWorks: a wash. But the Mac Mini also includes iLife! How much would it cost to add the PC equivalent of iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand to the PC? More than $65? Definitely!
A visit to Dell's site reveals a similar scenario. A stripped-down Dell may be advertised at less than $400, but take away the dubious rebate and add the options to bring the configuration in line with the Mac Mini and the prices converge.
So, the assertion that PCs continue to maintain $100 to $150 price avantange on the Mac Mini is just plain false.
All of this ignores the obvious market for Mac Mini: upgraders. In fact, no one is going to buy a new monitor, keyboard or mouse. They're going to replace their existing white-box PC tower with a new Mac Mini, keeping their existing monitor, keyboard and mouse. In this scenario, the Mac Mini is a steal, with the combination of OS X and iLife marking the tipping point. In fact, it is the Mac Mini, that owns the $100 to $150 price advantage on the PC.