Hello: Macs Are About to Get Interesting Again

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Update: For a well-reasoned rebuttal to at least my views on design, check out Leigh’s counter-post once you’re done reading here.

I’ve been alluding to this for a few months now, but let me repeat: The Mac is poised for innovation over the next few years on a scale that we haven’t experienced since the initial move to OS X in the previous decade. After five years of focusing on new categories like the iPod and the iPhone while gradually improving its Mac product line, the company has now freed up the resources to strengthen its core and highest-revenue business: Macs. And at the same time, new technologies are emerging to take the Mac to the next level. To read why, click through.


The Future of the iPod and iPhone Are Incremental Improvements
When Apple released the first iPod in October 2001, the company’s future was very much in doubt. Despite years of cool Mac designs and the roll-out of Mac OS X, Apple’s market share was worse than ever, and the PowerPC roadmap was already starting to show signs of trouble. Initially seen as a desperate, niche product, the iPod went on to save Apple, establishing it as a media powerhouse. But Apple didn’t sleep on its success, immediately beginning work on what became the iPhone, and in the process creating a new platform for its portable media devices. With the iPhone 3G just more than a week from release, this platform is stable and just starting to take off. Multi-touch works great, the processor is plenty fast, and storage is getting cheaper and cheaper. Most of the complaints that remain about the iPhone and iPod touch are software related. Apple can easily get another two years out of both devices doing little more than increasing capacity and developing new software. They need maintenance, not innovation. At most, an iPhone nano or touch nano might come, but these devices won’t require nearly the development effort that the original iPhone did.

Implication: Apple’s best hardware and software teams have time to work on Mac stuff. Really interesting Mac stuff.

The Architecture of Computing is Changing Dramatically
As you might have noticed, the era of the megahertz myth died a long, long time ago. Four years ago, the fastest chip that Intel made for desktop computers ran at 3.8 Ghz (Never quite got to 4 Ghz.). Today? The high end is just 3.2 Ghz. While, I would gladly take a Core 2 Extreme over a Pentium 4 any day of the week, it’s clear that the way to greater performance these days is not through clock speed but in more efficient use of lots of processors. Intel has led the way with its Core Duo and Quad lines of chips, but things are about to get really weird. First of all, NVIDIA, the graphics chip leader, now claims that the CPU has become irrelevant, and future performance advances will come through optimizing the GPU. Intel, for its part, is introducing Larrabee, an integrated graphics platform that can natively execute CPU x86 code. That means that when note rendering 3-D graphics, it can also add a few dozen processing cores to pump up performance in all regards. Even more amazingly, Intel will, in late 2009 or early 2010, introduce the Sandy Bridge platform, which is expected to integrate Larrabee onto a single die with Core 4 (or whatever Intel calls them) processors, leading to lightning-fast performance.

While that might all sound like electrical engineering inside baseball, it’s actually revolutionary. The move to hybrid CPU/GPUs is a computing architecture change bigger than any we’ve witnessed since Floating Point Units became standard on-die equipment instead of a nice-to-have add-on. Once hardware truly becomes standard, software becomes optimized for it. In this case, software will become optimized for incredibly high-bandwidth applications that barely function on today’s gear. And Apple has already made it clear in the release notes for OS X Snow Leopard that it will be ready for the advent of GPUs that act like an extension of the main processor before they even ship:

  • Fully 64-Bit – If you’re going to be tossing around extremely data-intensive applications, you need a ton of RAM available. Snow Leopard will.
  • Grand Central – Having two, four, eight, or, as Intel says Larabee will offer, THOUSANDS of processing cores is nice, but having an OS smart enough to efficiently use all of them is even better. That’s what Snow Leopard’s Grand Central technologies are designed for. It’s a taskmaster, routing jobs to multiple processors and cores in the most optimal way. Better, it allows application developers to do the same.
  • OpenCL – Open Computing Language is designed to allow developers to take advantage of all that untapped GPU power to pump up application performance, so even graphics architectures that can’t natively execute x86 code like Larrabee can pump up general processing tasks.

Then, there’s also all kinds of cool new tech, from WiMax and LTE to USB 3.0, eSATA, aGPS, and SSD. It’s time to showcase some great ideas that are ready for prime-time.

Implication: Powerful new hardware coupled with an operating system that’s prepped for it. Start your engines!

The Entire Mac Line is Due For a Face Lift
There is much to be said for a genuinely classic design. Lovers of the ThinkPad still get misty thinking about how today’s models look like ones from 16 years ago. I, and most Mac people, are not like that. We cherish each Mac as a unique icon of its era, and then we move on to the next era. But that’s been hard to do over the last few years. Apple’s computer designs are pretty much where they were three years ago, before the move to Intel processors happened. Today’s 17″ MacBook Pro looks virtually identical to the 17″ Powerbook introduced in January of 2003. Seriously. The main difference between the last generation of iBooks and today’s MacBooks are its latch mechanism and the keyboard. The Mac Pro is literally identical to the original Power Mac G5. The iMac has seen the greatest change, and that was just to put an aluminum finish on an existing design. The MacBook Air is really different, but it isn’t a core product, nor does it signal a new design direction for the rest of the line. Heck, the MacBook that’s available in black is downright revolutionary in this light.

All of which is to say, it’s time for Apple to make a new statement with the design of its computers. The time couldn’t be better. All the kinks and problems that came along with the move to Intel chips have been worked out. People know that Macs are still Macs, and they’re all safe to use, so the designs can get more wild and divergent again. I can’t wait until they take that leap.

Implication: Jonathan Ive, I hope you’re really turning up the heat on the design of the next generation of Macs!

The iPod and the iPhone Have Put the Mac Back in the Spotlight
For years, most experts were skeptical of Apple’s so-called “Halo Effect.” That is to say, the idea that just by hooking people on iTunes and iPods, Apple could convince people to trade in their PCs for Macs. It took a long time, but it’s now clear that this theory was correct (though the switch to Intel chips made a huge difference, too). According to research firm Net Applications, 8 percent of all computers on the Internet now in use are Macs. That’s up 32 percent in just 14 months. In sales of new computers, Apple is doing even better. As of May, NPD estimates Apple sells almost 14 percent of all new personal computers in the U.S., which is the kind of market share the company hasn’t seen since the early 1990s. Apple is actually gaining on the PC guys.

Implication: We’ve got the demand; Apple needs to make with the supply.

Sing it with me: We want new Macs!
The public is ready for Apple to really tear it up with a killer line of new computers. The iPod and iPhone lines don’t need as much attention as they have for the last seven years. Incredible new hardware and emerging standards will push the limits of what we thought Macs could do. The existing designs have been around for what seems like forever. The company’s computer market share is way up. For all these reasons and more, Macs are about to get really interesting really soon. And it’s about time — innovation in new markets is fun, but innovation at the core of the company is even better.

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  • ole9

    We already got brand new cool Macs, the product line was totally refreshed. It is called the iPhone. You’ll like it :)

  • rdas7

    The statement “the main difference between the last generation of iBooks and today’s MacBooks are its latch mechanism and the keyboard” isn’t quite accurate, as a ton of engineering and design work is done under the hood. There are only so many ways you can fit the same components together, which is evidenced by the gradual evolution of the Titanium PowerBook’s design into the current MacBook Pro. Although the shell has remained visually similar, the insides of an iBook and a MacBook can only be described as distant cousins.

    Over time, Apple’s hardware engineers have done a fantastic job of optimizing the design, minimizing space and addressing structural weaknesses that became apparent through mass production. For example, the flaking paint of the original Titanium PowerBook, the now robust hinge mechanism of the MacBook Pro, or the now uniform keyboard backlighting. Along the way there have been some changes which have been more major than others, such as the magnetic latch, or the trackpad design, but most (if not all) of these belie an advance in technology (such as new components; trackpad, screen). Along the way, ounces and millimeters have been shaved off and optimized.

    If you look inside a last generation iBook, you’ll be amazed at how much empty space there is between components, not to mention how many screws!

    What sets the MacBook Air apart is the absence of an optical drive (which dictates 90% of a laptop’s form factor), and custom motherboard. Until these components (or lack thereof) become standard, there are only so many ways you can combine a screen, a hinge and a keyboard. The current MacBook Pro design represents almost a decade of hardware engineering, optimized, and quite simply it represents the state of the art.

  • cstar

    Two reasonable reasons I’d buy a new MacBook Pro now : up RAM to 4 Gig. And Java 6. (Additionnal power by moving from a MBP Core Duo to a Core 2 Duo welcome though)
    The bad reason for waiting next rev : I want a new form factor !

  • JoeP

    Good insight.

    More Pete Mortensen, and less Lonnie Lazar, please…

  • leigh

    @JoeP: Lonnie is doing a **great** job, his daily coverage of news and events frees up Pete and the rest of us (albeit to a lessor degree) to focus on real insight.

    @Pete:
    On OpenCL
    Couldn’t agree more. OpenCL is going to give each of us the power of a true supercomputer on our desktops. That said, I think the real compelling issue is not power for powers sake. Desktop applications already run fine on existing hardware, it’s why Intel and AMD are in a slump.

    I think the “Next big thing” application of OpenCL will be Artificial Intelligence. The Matrix processing power of GPU’s is very adaptable to Neural Networks for example. Imagine, instead of the processing power of a retarded ant, if with the addition of a few next gen GPUs my MacPro could have something approximating primate intelligence… that would be something, and usher in a whole new age of human/computer interactivity.

  • ryan

    Design is great but I would rather make the Apple design team to also give much more emphasis on structural integrity and durability – especially for their laptops.

  • Neil Anderson

    MacBook Pros are still beautiful machines. I’d like to see MacBooks go to metal-clad though.

  • Quix

    Along with some new designs, it’s also about time Apple give up some of its stubborn “We know best” mentality.

    Why, on a massive 24″ iMac, do I only get 3 measly USB ports (one of which instantly goes to my keyboard/mouse), necessitating the use of a hub and the cable mess that comes with it?

    Why can’t Apple cave to a legitimate, universal customer need for a built-in media card reader? Again, there’s one more thing to clutter up my desk. The iMac is the sleekest computer I’ve ever had the joy to use. Too bad the rest of my desk looks like a garbage dump with all the external devices my iMac forces me to use.

    And how about some decent graphics processing power in the consumer line of Macs? Seriously, how will gaming on the Mac ever get any developer support if you need a $3,000+ Mac Pro to competitively run 3D intensive games? I don’t bother playing FPS games any more because my iMac simply doesn’t run them fast enough to keep me from getting waxed by the PC-using horde.

    And here’s the biggest “Why???” of all: why can’t we have a headless expandable Mac at a consumer-level price point? Remember the days of the sub-$1,500 Power Mac? I do. I miss those days.

  • imajoebob

    I’m torn on MBPs. I’ve always liked the design, and it’s pretty timeless. But at the same time, it’s no longer exciting. Same with the Pros. The iMac switch to aluminum was a step backward. And don’t get me started on the black MacBook. You can barely tell it from a Gateway. Exciting design used to be a big part of the caché of Macs.

    The Pros ought to be easy to change – I’d love to see the Cube’s return, but… I don’t have any design solution for the MBP, but I’m pretty sure it’s only going to be as exciting as a change to the (ugh) “whack-a-mole” inspired new keyboards. Remember, it’s a MacBook PRO, Apple. Mr./Ms. Executive doesn’t want it to look like their 14 year old daughter’s computer. And I’m still hoping to see a product(RED) MBP. Too cool.

    Believe it or not, I can see the iPhone as a TRANSITIONAL product (why can’t I add html emphasis? I can do it at HuffPo). Your iPhone becomes a dockable computer, maybe even an connection-free docked computer, so it stays in your pocket. Perhaps some sort of RFID in the peripherals or a central dock with a SIM to keep it secure. Everything you need is in your pocket. You can even take calls while using a keyboard and monitor.

    Just think of it – the form factor for EVERY Mac is based on the iPhone, with different levels of feature sets. Don’t need the phone? Don’t get it. Don’t want the computer? Just get the iPhone. Just want an iPod? Just get the touch. Want a full notebook? Slide the iPhone into the slot.

    Yeah, I know. And we’ll be living on Mars and eating lunch with Vulcans. But it’s not really that farfetched, and makes some sense from a manufacturing/design standpoint.

    All right, which one of you wise asses said “Live long and prosper?”

  • Lantz

    It is sooo time for Apple to put it’s mental juices into Mac development and not with just Snow Leopard but also design. I remember seeing a crude drawing of what looked like an iMac in a recent patent. The idea was that a portable slides into the side of the iMac screen. With that picture I began to think how cool it would be to have this “insert-able” device be a tablet Mac with the touch capabilities and many of the Wacom Clintque features. It would be a whole computer on its own including the primary hard drive. The iMac portion of the equation would a larger screen, extra hard drives (Time Machine), more ram, robust GPU and countless connections. It would be so cool to slide the portable out, use it on the go and be able to insert it into any other iMac “body” like at work or elsewhere. They could make it so the extra hard drives are married to a single portable much like an iPod is to an iTunes Library so nobody can tamper with them. The possibilities are endless!

  • INTPMann

    I’m looking for the larger cousin of the iPod Touch, with a virtual keyboard (instead of thumb action on a postage stamp-sized area), to make its appearance. It will be sort of the great great grandson of the Newton. It will store its data on a next-generation Time Capsule that will serve as primary data and media storage for an entire household, as well as Time Machine backup of the same. And you can watch live TV on this device, or you can use this device to control your home theater.

  • Sock Rolid

    >> The public is ready for Apple to really tear it up with a killer line of new computers.

    Agreed. It’s almost a perfect storm for Apple. Their brand recognition and image as innovators are way, way up, their hardware and software technology are rock solid and steadily getting better, and the competition (Vista, LOL) is flailing around helplessly.

    Overall Mac market share is up, but Apple laptop share is up even more. I don’t recall specific numbers, but I do remember that Apple laptops are #1 on US college campuses.

    Other more conservative companies would simply coast along with their current designs. But Apple has a history of “eating its babies,” or updating extremely popular models long before competitors could copy them. (The iPod mini-to-nano transition is an example.)

    >> I’d like to see MacBooks go to metal-clad though.

    Hear hear! The MB is the last all-plastic Apple product. They’ll probably need to visually differentiate the Pro from basic MacBooks somehow. Maybe the MBPs will be black? Dark gray? Slightly tapered like the MBA?

    I can’t wait to see what Apple will do.

  • Hogwallop

    Okay, I’ll say it: Tablet, tablet, tablet.
    Who do I have to f to get a damn Apple tablet? Steve, your core market, that has floated your Mac boat, are ARTISTS. Please reward us with an Air we can doodle on and I promise I’ll buy 2 iPhone 3Gs. I’ll buy an Apple TV and rent all my movies through it. I’ll buy all my music through iTunes even though I don’t need to. Just give me a pressure-sensitive tablet. Aren’t all of your animators and pixel-monkeys begging you for this daily? wtf?

  • Jeffrey Jennings

    Leigh McMullen wrote…..

    “Imagine, instead of the processing power of a retarded ant, if with the addition of a few next gen GPUs my MacPro could have something approximating primate intelligence… that would be something, and usher in a whole new age of human/computer interactivity.”

    I have a perfect NEW name for the new AI Mac.

    I think it should be renamed…… “HAL”

    Jeff

  • Brian

    So long as they keep the design philosophy similar, I’m cool with a MBP change. And by that I mean light, design tempered by functionality, and preferably, a metal enclosure (which resists scuffs and scrapes better than any of the plastic enclosures, IMO.) The obvious problem would be this would probably be more of an evolutionary change, but the Powerbook-to-Macbook change added a lot of features without compromising the design.

    Just so long as we don’t get a clamshell MBP.

    And while they’re adding stuff, how about removable hard drives?

  • slavoie

    I just switched to mac, from a windows pc desktop to a macbook pro high end computer. I’m loving it! really, love the OS, a lot of cool programs for web programming and design. and if I ever need to use some windows things, I got an XP VM running smoothly just around the corner…in fact running faster than my old 3Ghz PC…

    :)

  • John

    Please, what innovations occur, can Apple think of what users want – rather than just focusing on design razzmatazz.

    Specifically, many of us (not all, but a substantial number) want Apple to bring back the matte antiglare screen for the iMac.

    Do the following searches.

    “refuse to buy” glossy imac
    “will not buy” glossy imac
    “cannot buy” glossy imac
    “cannot stand glossy” imac
    “will not get” glossy imac
    “won’t buy” glossy imac

    “hate glossy” imac
    “glossy sucks” imac
    “do not like glossy” imac
    “dislike glossy” imac
    “detest glossy” imac
    “cannot use a glossy” imac
    angry glossy imac
    “glossy crap” matte imac
    “cannot stand glossy” matte imac

    “I prefer matte” imac
    “I like matte” imac
    “bring back matte” imac
    “I need matte” imac
    glossy matte livid imac
    “eyes start to hurt” glossy matte imac
    “eyes hurt” glossy matte imac
    “get a headache” glossy matte imac

    I am not a pro graphics user, and so the loss of the matte screen will not push me up to the MacPro. I am style conscious, and don’t want this whopping big PC-like MacPro box. So I am forced down to the Mac Mini.

    I stare at a screen for around 16 hours a day, mostly word processing and email, so even though the gloss screen looks cool, pop and snazzy, I cannot buy one.

    I was forced to buy the best run-out matte screen imac there was, and cannot upgrade annually, even though I could do so for tax purposes. I will not buy a gloss screen.

    I am willing to pay a premium for a matte screen, if that is what it takes.

    The following poll is from macpolls.com

    What type of screen do you prefer on the MacBook (Glossy or Matte)

    Glossy 32.31 % (10007)
    Matte 44.04 % (13639)
    Don’t Know 23.65 % (7324)

    Total votes: 30970

    86% preferred matte. according to this Ars Technica article:

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ar

    Sure, many people like gloss screens because of its pop colors, but there are many who like matte.

  • SlimJim

    You said: “All of which is to say, it’s time for Apple to make a new statement with the design of its computers.” I say: “why?” I like my MacBook Pro and MacBook Air just as they are and look presently. I think Apple, with the concept embodied in Snow Leopard, is making the right move. Simplify, reduce the size, increase security and efficiency, etc., of OS X. I think this is much more substancial, and more beneficial to users, than just changing the looks of Macs.

  • BeardedSeals

    Ditto on the tablet. Come on with it!

  • shemp stielhope

    “Believe it or not, I can see the iPhone as a TRANSITIONAL product … Your iPhone becomes a dockable computer, maybe even an connection-free docked computer, so it stays in your pocket. Perhaps some sort of RFID in the peripherals or a central dock with a SIM to keep it secure. Everything you need is in your pocket. You can even take calls while using a keyboard and monitor.”

    exactly. your phone contains your identity and enough processing power for most basic tasks. i called this exact strategy during lunch one day at WWDC.

  • TS

    I was in Akihabara (Tokyo) yesterday and stumbled upon a shop selling these:
    http://tinyurl.com/57ugkk

    A laptop with an extendible, swivelling screen. It was amazing. So easy to get the LCD _exactly_ where it needed to be for optimal use. I would pay double for a MacBook Pro with a screen like this!! Apple, license their design, or better yet, improve it with your own design.

  • Camperton

    Years of refining the Macbook Pro and they still haven’t refined away those cruddy rubber feet that inevitably fall off way too easily. I don’t care about radical evolution, I care about rubber feet that don’t fall off a 3000 dollar notebook in a month. ; )

  • crack

    now that mac are more mainstream they won’t risk upsetting their growing consumer base by radically changing anything.

  • Steve Dorsey

    I do NOT want new macs (necessarily).

    The new processor design and latest hardware upgrades are ALWAYS welcome. I cannot wait until I’m using a 256-core Mac Pro with 3TB RAM. But that’s not where I’m going.

    I do not think that Apple needs to redesign the enclosures of its computers. I feel that a main reason these machines have not changed in recent years is because they have reached a “perfection” in design. The entire product line (more or less) is durable, attractive, functional, and smart.

    Why should they upgrade the deigns just for the sake of new designs? They would be introducing all sorts of new hardware bugs that they don’t need to.

    Stick with what works.

  • Joe Ranft

    The iPhone could be but is not a computer, because Apple has focused too much on the physical design and no enough on the user interface design.

    There are just a few minimal features the iPhone, or any computer, must have.

    1. copy and paste
    2. ability to save, retrieve, and browser files
    3. multi-threading of tasks

    There are probably more, but I would not buy a computer that did not do these things, and I own an iPhone. It’s a nice enough phone (could be louder in my ear though) and a nice enough video iPod, but too hamstrung to be a computer.

  • Tai Kahn

    Lets hope so. I picked up the new iMac 24 and its the best mac I’ve ever owned but I still want to see a small, fast, cheap mini-tower.

  • Frank

    The assumption of this article is that *normal* people buy computers solely based on design and/and power. I am sorry to say this but only *geeks* buy because of those reasons. It goes without saying that cool design and the coolness factor of owning the brand has propelled Apple’s growth in it’s entire history.

    However, *normies* buy because it’s useful, it has what they need and it’s cheap. In that respect, Apple has dropped the ball in more than a few occasions. Don’t get me wrong… IPhone an IPod fill the bill to a “T”. However, a computer is an entire different beast.

    The normal household does not care about 64bits or multiple cores or new programming interfaces or addressing a TB of RAM. They care about surfing the net painlessly without being told they need IE. They care that they can read e-mail and see those pictures of their grand kids and if they can open that Word or Excel document of their finances without any problem.

    The problem is that Apple is so anal retentive about controlling the experience that sometimes it hinders portability. Until this gets resolved, Apple computers will be the most powerful paperweights seldom used outside of *geek* niche markets.

  • Grub

    How about a MBP DS?
    Get rid of the keyboard and trackpad and replace it with a second screen. (I guess that would really just be a folding tablet)

  • David Badash

    Great, well-researched piece. Thank you.

    You’re right in thinking now is the time for Apple to go back and re-tool, re-group.

    My two cents: What Apple also needs to do is not buckle to its increasing base of shareholders, who will want more product lines, too fast. Apple has done a good job so far of managing its relationship with the market, despite the volatility of its stock price. If half of what you suggest is true, Apple is still one of the best bets in the market, regardless of sector.

  • Tice

    Hmm… the MacBook Pro looks still like the PowerBook G4 I have. Right. But you know what? Thank god!

    I like to see nearly all of the features like better CPU usage, 64bit or OpenCL, but when it comes to design I hope they stay at this clean design. Form follows function – these words are nearly 100 years old and still right.

    Keep up the good work Apple. Make it stable. Make it better, but don’t ruin it just to change something for a bit eyecandy nobody really needs.

  • Ryan Ray

    Don’t you think the revolutionary design of the iPhone carried over into the new iMac? The aluminum and glass, plus black bezel is very similar to the iPhone. Besides that I can not wait for a new redesigned MBP. Even better would be if they made the Macbook in an aluminum enclosure. I don’t need the 15″ screen or graphic card if I have an iMac at home, I just need portability. Just not in white plastic please!

  • Tucker

    We want lower priced Macs… I would love to own a Mac but they really do need to drop the price of their laptops. If they do everyone will have one.

    -Tucker

  • landzin

    aren’t all those things going to be out for pc, but alot sooner than apple will put them in macs for hundreds of dollars more?

  • dogStar

    Don’t buy Macs. They’re boring and sh*t.

  • Rick

    I agree, Apple has got the consumer world fixed up, now they REALLY need to concentrate on the business end of things. Unluckily a lot of their issues on that side are software – not hardware, so I personally don’t want to see new designs.

    I want LDAP and Active Directory lookups to function properly. I want them to finally fix all the weird issues with Appletalk/Bonjour. I want them to secure the OS better so that more settings can not be changed by the user thus breaking their system and causing a help desk call. I want USB and CDburning disabled reliably for security. I want them to fix the weird Finder bugs that cause folders not to be seen on NFS filesystems.

    Fix these pretty major problems and Apple would be dropped onto more users desks in business’ around the world in a heart beat. They need to remember, the Business market is much huger then the consumer market ever will be.

  • Eric Tufts

    Great article!

    you wrote… “The MacBook Air is really different, but it isn’t a core product, nor does it signal a new design direction for the rest of the line.”

    The Air design is pure genius. It’s thinner and lighter not to mention very cool looking. It’s also “different” than all the look alike notebooks out there (including the current MacBooks). What do most people want in a notebook? They want to be able to easily carry it around without much effort. What better way to do this than to make it thinner and lighter?

    I really do think Apple will carry the Air design to at least the MacBook Pro. And because of the larger 15″ and 17″ format, they should be able to fit a CD/DVD in there. I would also love to see a 19″ MacBook Pro which nearly all PC manufacturers already have (even though they amount to desktops due to their weigth). The difference would be, Apple’s 19″ would be thinner but comparable in weight to today’s 17″ MacBook Pro by utilizing the new form factor.

    I would love to see it come in the matte black aluminum that’s on the back of the new iMac as an option. I would also like to see less border around the screen (larger screen or smaller notebook). And certainly the new MacBooks will incorporate the larger touchpad that’s currently on the Air.

    One more thing… there is mounting evidence that Apple will release a touch screen portable in one form or another. Perhaps they will introduce a new line and revive the iBook name. It is unlikely Apple will incorporate touch screen in the MacBook line this year, but in the long term I believe all MacBooks will eventually have it.

    My dream MacBook… .5″ width, 3.5 lbs., 19″ screen, 5GHZ, 10GB RAM, black matte, touch screen dream machine.

  • Josiah Pugh

    Great write-up. It’s all very true!

  • Me

    The main improvement in macs you want is *style*? Me, I want a mini that has support for 8G user accessible ram (virtual machines), 2 hot swappable drives (raid) and 1080p video (htpc), base machine starting at $500. You do that and mac will hit 50% market.

  • James Malone

    #1 Release MAC OS to PC users ( tell me that won’t sell )
    #2 Increase capability of gaming on MAC OS ( bring over the gaming crowd )
    #3 iTunes BLOWS absolutely let users have it as an option instead of a necessity. A simple folder like structure would be awesome. ( keeps me from buying an iPod/iPhone )

    Apple will NOT do any of the things I’ve listed because they are both smart and complete utter idiots.

  • jeff

    macs are garbage fuck the iphone fuck the shitty os and above all fuck all these little fanboys

  • Me

    PS: I agree with Steve: the Mac Pro is perfect and needs no change for what it is. I mean, it’s got memory cards with finger holes to make them easy to pull out, and rubber supports so you can put the memory in without the conductive parts touching the table or breaking the thing in the process. It’s a beautiful design and it would crazy to mess with it.

    The imac, however, they can just scrap. I have one at work: it’s designed to cook itself. optical media comes out of it too hot to touch nearly. If it fails completely, you’re out both monitor and computer, and in the first year, it failed twice: once the motherboard ($1K, thank goodness for warranty!) and then the video card. I had planned to get one of these instead of the Mac Pro, but when I took it on for repair the first time, they wouldn’t swap the hard disk into the rental because it was too hard to get to. A hard disk! Normally the most likely item to need replaced, requires disassembling the entire machine to get to it! I was hoping the new version would improve things, but when it came out with a glossy screen… I traded the 24″ monitor I was hoping to get for a decently designed machine instead, at about the same price.

    Though it’s still overkill — I’d rather have a mini with enough resources to be useful.

  • Logan

    Great article.

    I think the MacBook air is a glimpse into the future of apple design. I expect the future revisions of the Mbp and mb will begin to move that direction– slimmer, more angular, and silver and black color schemes. Give me the bastard child of the mbp and the air and its all over!

  • GypsyMoth

    Frank, Im pretty sure you dont know what you are talking about.

    On the surface things like 64bit and openCL mean nothing to the average user, but as you say, “They care about surfing the net painlessly without being told they need IE. They care that they can read e-mail and see those pictures of their grand kids and if they can open that Word or Excel document of their finances without any problem.” That is where that stuff comes in. My parents were PC users forever and they did nothing with their machine but read email on AOL and search the web for vacation reservations and financial news. I recently got them a mac and wired the house with a time capsule and appleTV and now my parents are creating slide shows and movies and sharing them out to the appleTV to watch on their HDTV. They can browse the web and get their e-mail flawlessly and guess what, it’s fast. It doesn’t require norton and spysweeper. The OS and the stuff that they don’t even know exists or care about allows the machine to work the way they want it to.

    People may not care that a computer utilizes Grand Central or runs a 64bit OS, but when they can, in a matter of minutes use a program to simply and flawlessly create meaningful content with their media, then they find value in the machine.

    Apple controls the experience because when you let others control it, you lose the ability to make it seamless. It’s not anal-retention, it’s a company making a design decision and operations decision to ensure a solid end-user experience.

    -the moth.

    p.s. those “powerful paperweights” are probably designing 75% of the media you enjoy, most likely, including this website.

  • Doctor X

    Now on my second MBP I really think the plastic case on my wife’s MB is far superior does not dent or scratch not as hot better wifi performance. I too would like to see some cool new cases… carbon fiber anyone?

  • gbh

    Contrary to popular belief the brand of computer you use doesn’t somehow boost your artistic talent. Adobe Suites work equally well on both platforms and probably design 95% of the media you enjoy.

    Don’t waste our time turning every interesting discussion into a simplistic Mac VS PC battle.

    Your thousand word post about how Macs are better posted on a website called ‘cult of mac’ is frankly moronic.

  • Chris

    Macs have never been interesting and never will be, unless they turn into PCs. I don’t feel like paying thousands of dollars for a name just so I can say I’m trendy.

  • Mike

    I just switched myself, picking up a MacBook last week. I’m loving it!

    @tucker and @landzin: Sure, you can buy a PC with a similar spec sheet for less money, but the software is what makes it a Mac. In my short experience, OS X is superior to Windows in many ways, and inferior in practically none. Plus, it comes with many essential applications where equivalents cost extra for Windows.

    Sure, OpenCL will do next year what NVIDIA CUDA does now. The difference as I see it, is that CUDA is not part of the Windows philosophy, and will therefore be limited to specialty applications. OpenCL will be an integral part of Snow Leopard, with a more general-purpose API, and available to mainstream applications.

  • Mike

    I don’t know what anyone is expecting for new case designs. With the iMacs Apple has basically made the computer disappear. You basically just have a monitor in front of you. That seems like the end of the road for design. You can make that monitor look different, as they have with the newer versions, but what else would you want to do after making the computer disappear? I sure don’t want it to reappear in some clunky format.

  • Fraser

    Ditto “where’s the ‘Mac’?” – the cheap, rugged, expandable, headless iMac that’s about the size of two Shuttle boxes. Enterprise, anyone?
    Ditto – too – “the iPhone is the new form factor-type comments” – You want a bigger display, BYOKDM – maybe the display has a 3D accelerator built in. All the new machine has to do is provide a connected terminal (voice / display / input) between you and all your data in the Cloud. All that’s required is a nice display (24-bit colour Kindle display with fast refresh), low power transceiver (for ubiquitous WiFi), and a solar cell for infinite charge :)

  • michelle

    I think with how “cool” and useful the ipod and iphone have become, apple as a brand will only continue to increase it’s popularity with the college and younger demographic.

    As long as this continues and there is no other “cool alternative” marketed looks like they will succeed!

    michelle
    http://www.yoursash.com

  • Pete Mortensen

    Mike, you’ve actually articulated what I was trying to say better than I could. All of Apple’s designs right now feel like the end of the line, except for more thinness or something. The iMac in particular is stagnant and, at this point, redundant. It’s a monitor, nothing more. The Mac Pro is an optimized tower. The MacBook Pro is a big, beautifully engineered and thin professional laptop. The MacBook is a nice, if still slightly chunky consumer laptop. The MacBook Air is a super-light, super-thin laptop that really stands out.

    But the reason why that isn’t enough, and why it won’t be everything, is that Apple’s designers won’t have much to do unless they start to really rethink some of these products.

    As to the iPod touch and iPhone — the essential hardware form factor of both devices will be the same for at least two years. The iPod Classic will be gone by then, and software will provide most of the excitement on the cutting edge. Because of the iPhone’s design, future revisions will have to keep the screen in the same proportion in order to run its existing applications. Again, there’s not much for designers to work on there, other than experiments in new colors and materials.

    I reiterate — the heat is going to come from the Mac line, and it’s going to come in the next two years.

  • american

    Typo: – That means that when “note” rendering – should be not.

  • The Bone

    I only hope the Knowledge Navigator is still alive in the design department at Apple. Not many people remember this vision of the future. Some of the parts are falling into place. Interactive avatars and voice recognition still seem to be stumbling blocks

  • Scott Bryson

    The shame on Apple is that in the beginning, the GUI was the key thing–fonts, appearance of windows & buttons, screen resolution, and usability.

    Consistently they have trailed the PC industry in laptop screen resolution to save money, and the current generation of screens look worse than any of their past efforts.

    I have tried all including the new 17″ with WUXGA resolution, and the fonts have the jaggies, both at the optimal or zoomed settings. There is a mottling–like grid visible in the LCD.

    At the native WUXGA setting even the fonts of the menu bar are jagged. Its like Apple can’t tune the video card or something is wrong in the display settings.

    Granted photos look OK–that implies something in the font display technology is wrong.

    Our Dell Inspiron 8100 15″ about 7 y/o with 512 meg memory has a 1600 x 1200 screen that is still better than Apple’s current crop, and its light has faded some. In Windows XP fonts stay sharp even at 800 x 600 or sizes inbetween, and display options let you change from 96 dpi to 120 dpi to compensate for the tiny fonts at full resolution. On the Mac, enlarging the fonts by screen resolution change just gets unreadable, while the native WUXGA is sized for ants that might be near the screen.

    Come on Apple–don’t consistently trail the PC world for laptop innovation. Swivel touchscreens, Toughbooks, 20″ and greater laptops, multiple use HD bays, eSata ports, cheap hard drives-memory upgrades-Blu ray burners etc.

    Look at HP, they put a docking connector on most of their laptops. And you can get WUXGA 18″ PC laptops with upgradable processors, that can take the latest Intel offerings, for about $1200. Stick that up your $3200 laptop with a lame LCD!

    Now if Apple would PORT their OS the the Windoze world–that would be a coup, and like Microsoft did before, would make more money on software than than their current market share provides.

    Come correct Steve, I love Macs anyway…

    Mac Voodoo DR

  • J Max S

    What I think will revolutionize all PCs is the incorporation of Memory (think RAM) on the chip. Any thoughts on this aspect? Free up some of that die space for real performance!

  • AAA Copywriter

    …”The computer for the rest of us”, remember?

  • Hogwallop

    I know this is a Mac thread, but a tablet that looks like an overgrown iPhone, perhaps with a retractable cover, seems like a no-brainer, which, for a company as thoughtful about design as Apple usually is, is puzzling to me as to why it doesn’t already exist.

    Or a fold-flat, rotating flip screen style tablet that has been around for other PCs now for a couple of years.

    Speaking of iPhones and thoughtful design, Apple anticipated the just criticisms of 1st gen (no 3G vs. EDGE, no GPS ve. quasi-triangulation). Yet other obvious design flaws were overlooked, like the sunken headphone jack (really!? really.)

    But the lack of a factory wireless stereo headset is so obvious that the design and executive team must have intentionally omitted this. This actually makes me angry and more than anything else (overpriced, AT&T choice, etc.) was the reason I didn’t buy the first gen iPhone. I’d been waiting for this style widescreen, touchscreen iPod since the original iPod. And I’ve been waiting for Apple wireless stereo headsets since the first iPod too. Double-wtf?

  • Ron Bannon

    Well, what I really want is an ultra mobile Mac, somewhat similar to the MSI Wind PC, but with an iPod Touch interface and a MBA keyboard.

  • Alex Luft

    I’m still waiting for the moment that Apple stops differentiating their notebook lineup by screen size. I want a 13″ MacBook Pro (with a dedicated GPU). How about a 15″ laptop that’s $1000. The only current offering from Apple in the 15″ notebook category starts at $2000. That’s absurd!

    They could make the top-of-the-line models black for all I care. Doing so will take care of the CEOs/executives with high-priced “Pro” gear not having the same computer as their teenage daughter has.

    Great article by the way! I agree completely. And the GPU/CPU integration is really exciting no matter if you’re on a Mac or on a PC. (It will be even more exciting on the Mac though because Apple is the only company that can take this technology and package it into a form factor that works perfectly – even in new form factors).

  • lrd

    Content & content delivery will rule the roost in the coming years.

    Apple needs to continue to develop the iTunes-iPod marriage it started years ago. With some 5 billion songs sold and over 50,000 rental & purchases per day this is where Apple could use the some 900 million PC users out there to not only build its brand; but to sell more desktops, laptops, ipods and iphones too. As it continues to add content to iTunes, Apple is continually raising the barrier to entering this market; thus making it cost prohibitive if not intimidating for all but the largest companies to risk entering this very important market.

    In the coming two to three months, Apple should reach critical mass in the video/movie content and this coupled with perhaps the 3G iPhone in full swing all over the world will change not only the pro-sumers view of Apple; but also corporation’s view of Apple.

    There’s a good chance, that Apple could reach the the top most valued companies if they continue at their current pace by the end of this year.

    And as last tidbit, I must add that we should keep in mind that the games developed for the iPhone are based on scalable open standards and perhaps the effort to port these to a larger flat-screen format may not be all that difficult. Mmmmmmm…… future market?

  • Tim

    A more capable mini would be quite welcome, barring the unlooked for advent of a mac mini tower. And you “winvagelistas” out there, would it really kill you to learn a second OS?

  • imajoebob

    @TS – re: “I would pay double for a MacBook Pro with a screen like this!!”

    Have I got a computer for you! I’ll sell you my PowerBook Ti (1GHz). Thanks to the two broken hinges I’ve been able to position the screen at pretty much any angle(s) I like. Plus the titanium is a perfect color match for the Duck® tape I used to replace the hinges. There’s also a strip of tape attached from the bottom to the back of the screen that keeps it from falling flat. But the damn thing won’t die, so I can’t justify a new notebook.

    As Tim Allen says, “If you can’t fix it, Duck it!”

  • tony

    I’ve been waiting for 4+ years for an expandable Mac priced in the $1000-$1500 range. I spent $$$ on a PowerMac G5 years ago and would buy a new machine to get an Intel processor, but I need a tower and the MacPros are too expensive for me right now.

    Apple could call it the MacProMini or MacMiniPro or MiniMacPro or anything they like as long as they produce a quality, expandable, low priced (and please with a smaller form factor than the current one) tower.

  • mm_ichael

    Very good article and makes good sense.
    The current line up design is getting old and an eyesore.

  • bert

    even with a new design, the feature that still impresses me is that mac are not susceptible to virus attacks