The Mac Webb

Mac Design: Little Room for Improvement

- 2002.08.26

Once you reach the pinnacle of good design, what do you do for an encore? This is a question that I ask each time discussion turns toward updates of the Apple product line.

Apple is a company that prides itself on design innovation. They are the only company that considers the user experience in every aspect of a system from software to hardware. Place a PowerBook of any generation next to a comparable PC laptop, and you will immediately see the differences. The build quality and attention to detail will soon make you a fan.

Need to see if your battery is charged? Check the green lights on the battery without turning it on. Need to swap a battery on the fly? Simply swap them and go without turning off the machine. These touches are aspects that are extremely important to the Apple user base.

The most commonly used analogy is automobiles. If you are just looking to get from point A to point B, any car will do. If you are looking for style and elegance, you pay more for those features. Apple machines fill a similar roll.

Looking at the current Apple line, I see three machines that are at the pinnacle of form and function. The Titanium PowerBooks, the iBook, and the LCD iMac all highlight the brilliant design philosophy coming from Cupertino. All three stand leaps and bounds ahead of the competition when you judge the overall offering. From a superior OS to wonderful styling, these machines are a joy to use.

This does, however, create a bit of a problem for Apple regarding the next revision of these machines. In order to keep interest in the lines, Apple has traditionally made major changes PowerBook G4approximately every 18 months. As of this writing, the Titanium PowerBooks are the next in line for an upgrade, as they entered service in January of 2001.

As I look at that unit, I wonder what Apple could unveil that will capture interest as readily as this machine has. PowerBook fans want portability, capability and design excellence in the next machine. What direction can you take when you are leading the field by such a wide margin?

PowerBook G4s are full featured desktop equivalent machines in a wonderfully elegant Titanium case that measures only 1" think and has a 15" screen. I am not sure where you can possibly go from there and maintain the features currently enjoyed.

Beyond the PowerBook, I look at the Power Mac G4current Power Macs. The current case design has remained essentially unchanged for the last three years. The design has remained in place because it is one of the finest in the space. These cases allow users to open the machine without screws and access the components with the cords still plugged into the peripherals. They feature built in wireless antennae and molded handles for easy travel. This is a wonderful design and good designs are timeless.

What should they do for an encore? LEM

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