The Webb Chronicles

How Apple Could Make iBooks and PowerBooks Even More Attractive

- 2005.12.21

It's been several years since Apple has updated the styling of its PowerBook and iBook computers, and although these notebooks can be considered movers and shakers in terms of design and award winning operating systems, it may be time to reinvent the Apple portable.

With the upcoming debut of Intel-based Macs in 2006, a new era is about to assail the computer world - one that Apple should inaugurate with revolutionary new styling its been known for.

Knowing full well that some engineer at Apple in San Francisco is probably already finished designing these notebooks, here are some things I'd like to see.

Styling

No one can deny that Apple products look good - they always have and always will. Today's glossy white iBook and metallic PowerBooks are simply beautiful creations that should some day be hung in the Louvre next to a Rembrandt or Monet (well, maybe not, but we have seen some impressive designs from Apple over the past decade).

In my opinion, the only competition for Apple in the style department would be Sony's VAIO line of notebooks. Most notably, the new FJ series, which comes in a variety or colors and is sleek and thin, should give Apple a wake up call. Colors are in again, so lets start to see some choices, just like the days of the iMac G3 and original iBook.

Furthermore, given the fact that the iPod is arguably Apple's bread and butter these days, and that their computer designs are reminiscent of the little MP3 player, it should be taken into consideration that Apple may start to offer a color option with their notebooks just like they do with the new iPods, black or white.

But let's take it a step further: Imagine a multicolored LED Apple logo on the cover of the iBook or the ability to buy fascias, much like we do for our cell phones and Xbox 360s (those of you who can actually find one). When it comes to the iBook line, it's primarily geared towards students and the younger generation, so giving owners the ability to customize them would be a big plus.

I doubt that anyone buying PowerBook (if the name even sticks around) is going to want to buy a blue or green notebook, so with this in mind I believe the PowerBook should be darkened but maintain its business look - maybe graphite looks with blue illuminating buttons, something like the Motorola V3 RAZR, and definitely keep the metal construction.

Screens

Arguably the number one thing that needs to be addressed in the iBook line is the screen. Apple should give people what they want: bigger and wider displays.

The widescreen display is a trend started by Apple back in the TiBook days, and it has proven to be enormously popular with almost every computer manufacturer on the planet.

So where are the widescreen iBooks? Its been rumored that Apple will use widescreen displays with the new iBooks, however this has not been verified. I would like to see a 14.1" or even a 14.5" widescreen displays on the high end and 13.3" widescreen for the smaller iBook.

Not only that, but improved resolution would be sight for sore eyes, especially in the 14" models. The current 1024 x 768 simply isn't good enough for the larger display, although it works well with the current 12" 'Books. I'd like to see a native resolution of at least 1280 x 854 (like the older 15" PowerBooks) in the new 14" widescreen iBooks and 1152 x 768 (like the even older 15" PowerBooks) on the new lower-end widescreen iBooks.

The PowerBook's new resolution is good on the 15" and 17" models, but a widescreen 13.3" model should replace the current 12" model.

A tablet-like PowerBook also wouldn't be a bad idea, but rather than building it around a 15" screen like PC manufactures have, a 13" or 12" screen would prove to have a more PDA-like feel without sacrificing power and expandability.

Hardware

We all know that Intel is going to be the CPU manufacturer of choice for Apple's upcoming notebooks, but what about the rest of the machine?

Motherboards by Intel would be a logical choice, and I can vouch for their stability compared to other manufacturers.

Graphics chips are another concern. The iBook's 32 MB ATI Radeon should be bumped up to 64 MB, with an option for a higher end 128 MB model (built to order). As for the PowerBook line, it should bump every model to 128 MB and also have an option for an Nvidia 256 MB card for the 15" and 17" models.

Something else I'd like to see in the next generation notebooks are slots for flash memory card, in particular a Memory Stick and SD slot. That's something Windows PCs have been providing for quite some time.

Apple's Front Row, as seen in the newest iMac G5, should also be brought to the iBook and PowerBook lines, along with a small remote similar to the credit card-sized remotes HP has bundled with their Pavilion DV series notebooks.

Larger hard drives all around is another key point. Although the current 40-60 GB for iBooks is sufficient, given the price tag it could be bigger. I suggest boosting the high-end model iBook to 80-100 GB and the low end to 60 GB while bumping the PowerBook line to a minimum of 100 GB and a built to order option of 160 GB - or even a second hard drive, such as HP uses in some notebooks.

Another interesting idea would be to integrate an iSight camera in the 'Books, just like the recent G5 iMac. Of course, there is little space for a decent camera, but look at modern cell phones and how we manage to get megapixel cameras in such small spaces.

The last thing I would like to see is improved speakers. I'd like to see some higher quality speakers in the iBooks at the very least, once again because its aimed at students and young people in general and will undoubtedly be used to listen to music at some point. Given Apple's media-centric marketing in the past couple years and the success of the iPod, the company should pride itself in offering the best music experience on a notebook PC. It can be done, but will it?

Price

My final point is price. This is paramount, and Apple hasn't done a good enough job lowering prices of its notebook computers. If rivals in the PC industry are rolling out notebooks for $500, Apple should at least make an effort to bring decent sub-$700 notebooks to the market without sacrificing the quality that has become associated with the Apple brand.

No one knows what the future holds for Apple, but it looks bright so far. The switch to Intel will hopefully continue to show end users how pitiful the Windows operating system really is and draw more and more developers to OS X's Unix-based stability.

Are we all going to have the option of buying a glossy black iBook with a widescreen display and Harmon Kardon speakers? Maybe not - but maybe it'll be something even better that I simply cannot yet imagine.

That's just the kind of thing Apple is known to do. LEM

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