Thursday, August 09, 2007

iMacs ditch iPod look for iPhone colors

When the iMac G5 was released, its slogan was "From creators of iPod: iMac." I wasn't sure if the irony in that line was intentional, but it was pretty rich: how much has the world turned that the iMac brand, once a cultural icon, needed to be propped up by the popularity of a mere MP3 player?

But now, the iMac looks like the iPhone. It's silver and black, and its screen is made of glass (with its glossiness touted as a feature, which makes me shudder). Its screen has a black border. Even its iSight webcam looks a bit like the iPhone's single button.

Is this a new design trend for Apple's consumer products? Until now, Apple's professional hardware was very visibly made of aluminum, while most of its consumer products were black or white. The only exceptions were the colorful, metallic iPods (nanos and shuffles).

The iPhone is a brand new product category, and it comes as no surprise that its color scheme defies that of Apple's other products. But now the iMac is following suit. This can mean one of two things in my opinion, and only time will tell which one is the case:

1. Apple is shifting its design policies yet again, moving away from white/black plastics for consumer Macs. Such shifts have happened in the past, just think about the various color schemes for iMacs and iBooks (from bondi blue to various selections of multiple colors to psychedelic patterns to an elegant white) in the late nineties, or the similar changes in the professional line-up from the same bondi blue to various shades of graphite, and from black to titanium to aluminum in the case of pro laptops.

The color scheme has never been as straightforward and consistent as it was recently (until the arrival of the new iMac), we have to wonder whether Apple is giving up some of that consistency. Future revisions of the MacBook line will be a certain indication.

But luckily, I think every major color scheme transition so far has pointed to a classier direction (if we disregard the few last revisions of the G3 iMac).

2. The iMac is no longer a consumer Mac. Well, one can argue that it's now a pro-quality machine, or simply one that's sitting on the fence dividing the pro and consumer categories. Its software bundle doesn't contain any specifically consumer or pro apps, but then neither does any current Mac's: Tech Specs pages indicate that Apple seems to have quietly stopped bundling third-party apps with Macs.

In any case, the iMac seems to be a mighty machine. Some further random observations:

  • I wonder what the keyboard feels like. I have some doubts. Apple hasn't always exactly been a champion of input device ergonomy.
  • The mouse now looks out of place. Will there be one made of aluminum too?
  • Apple's digs at Windows PCs, specifically Dells, are back. The comparison photo is particularly mean.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Is this a new design trend for Apple's consumer products?"

That's interesting. Most of the time, Apple consumer products are made of white or black plastic: various iPods, the iMac G4/G5, the eMac, the iBook, the MacBook… This trend is pretty consistent, as you said, but it's not inflexible. With its aluminum and plastic shell, the Mac mini is different from the other consumer Macs. And you already mentioned the iPod (mini, 2G nano and 2G shuffle). Such shifts do not qualify as new, the iPod mini was introduced in 2004, the Mac mini in 2005, the 2G Nano in 2006.

The new iMac takes a few design cues from the iPhone, but I don't think that the whole consumer line-up will be transitioned to the new color scheme. It seems that design trends are mostly consistent but at the same time the trends are always in flux. There are always some exceptions to Apple's design "rules", new trends rear their heads (iPhone, glass and aluminium), and we can find some echoes from the past (iPod shuffle in five colors, kinda like the old iMac).