Mac Scope

Bring Back the Cube

Stephen Van Esch - 2002.03.06

My recent articles have focused on the need for Apple to somehow convince consumers that they are playing in the personal entertainment realm as well as the computer business.

There are several problems with Apple's current strategy. For those who haven't been tuning in regularly, the main one is that a computer, in the average consumer's mind, is not designed and not used for personal entertainment. It's a productivity machine first and foremost. Dedicated entertainment centers are designed to handle the entertaining.

One of the main hurdles Apple must overcome is to create a machine that looks like it belongs in the living room, not the office. It must be compact, attractive, and blend nicely with the furniture.

Of course, most recent Apple machines fit the bill in this regard. However, a reader (Rick), pointed out that one computer is perfect for a digital hub.

Power Mac G4 CubeThe Cube would be a perfect machine for the living room. Compact, attractive, and neutral in color, it would fit just fine alongside the stereo or TV. Of course, black would be better suited to the home entertainment environment, but I imagine it would be easy enough to create a graphite Cube.

Apple may be sitting on a good idea and not even know it. With the Cube, they can save millions in product design and leverage their existing technologies. It's likely that a graphite Cube without a monitor would really appeal to the average consumer.

Of course, the computer aficionados would automatically howl that it's a just a Cube with a new name, but that's beside the point. Repackaging an existing product and slapping a new name on it is not a new tactic.

Bringing back a revamped Cube would do several things for Apple.

It would give them a chance to recoup their loss on the original Cube. Design hours, training for production, advertising, and much more could be revived and repurposed for a new Cube.

It would help Apple save face. The Cube was a failure and was killed for a very good reason. Reviving it in a more suitable environment would give it a second shot as well as muzzling the "I told you so" crowd.

It would establish Apple as a serious player in the digital hub arena. A dedicated box that far outstrips the competition in connectivity, power, and appeal would go a long way in what is becoming a more crowded market.

As always, there would be some drawbacks.

The Cube wouldn't need all the power it was originally endowed with. If it was, computer geeks would have it reverse engineered and would be snapping up $600 Macs.

The margins wouldn't be as high. Apple would be making less per machine than the original Cube. Not really a big deal if they move a lot of them.

Of course, re-releasing the Cube before the market is ready for the digital hub revolution would relegate the Cube to the computer dustbin again. Best to leave it on the shelf until its time really comes.

Apple was too far ahead of the times again. LEM

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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