iThings Considered

Macintosh: The Next Generation

Jake Sargent - 2001.03.16

Remember last year, when we thought a 400 MHz G4 was fast, and blueberry, strawberry, grape, tangerine, and lime were the "in" colors? Man, have things changed! Nowadays, a 400 MHz G4 is only acceptable in a portable or consumer machine, and fruit-flavored iMac colors are considered passé. This is a perfect example of how radically technology and design can change in just one year. With Mac OS X and other projects in the works over at Apple, the Mac market is sure to go through many transformations by Macworld San Francisco next January.

The Cube

This past week marked the demise of the Cube, as rumors leaked from Apple's headquarters that the majority of employees working on the project were to be laid off. Many have speculated that the Cube will continue to get more features and a faster processor, but it will never receive a full reformation. I must agree that it is extremely unlikely we will ever see a completely renovated Cube (I mean, a Cube is a Cube, right? There's not much room for creativity in industrial design there). I also have doubts that the Cube will live to see the light of day in 2002. The product has had poor sales, and new features and a reduced price have not helped market it. It is unlikely that Apple will continue to manufacture a product that is not selling well, and that retailers won't want to buy months from now.

The iMac

Since the iMac's introduction in 1998, it has been offered in 13 different "flavors." Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian tell me that Apple is getting pretty desperate, and that the current iMac can't go through too many more colors without needing a complete re-haul. There have been numerous reports of Apple experimenting with a flat-screen iMac, but considering how much the screen itself would cost to manufacture, I find it unlikely that we'll be seeing it for at least another year-and-a-half. Ten months from now, we will surely have seen the iMac go through a major industrial design change. Since G4s are (hopefully) becoming more affordable and readily available, we will see that in Apple's consumer line, too. Expect more memory, a bigger hard disk, faster processor, new design, and (hopefully) a Super Drive in the high-end model.

The PowerBook

The response to Apple's new PowerBook PowerBook G4design has been so positive that it is unlikely the company will change it for quite a while. Numerous PB G4 users have uncovered minor glitches and oversights in the PowerBook G4, which will quietly be fixed over the next few months (without any formal announcement from Apple). Expect the usual: speed bumps, more hard drive space, and more memory. If the technicians over at Apple are genius enough (which they have proven to be in the past), they might be able to squeeze a CD-RW in there by the next major revision.

The G4 Tower

Something seemed missing when Steve Job's announced the 733 MHz G4 Tower in January '01. Oh, that's right - a second processor. Once Motorola can manufacture the G4 in larger quantities, it probably won't be very hard for Apple to fit a second one in the G4 Tower. Although there haven't been reports of this, my personal opinion is that the Tower case is getting a little dated, and is due for some changes soon. Apple really should hire the guys at Applele; they've got some great G4 design concepts.

The iBook

The iBook is due in for an update at Macworld New York this July. It's becoming a bit chunky by today's standard and will most likely receive a good trimming this summer. I'd like to think that Apple could do the same thing with the iBook that they did with the PowerBook (size wise). And truth be told, Apple can - but it won't. The iBook has gotten a reputation for being sturdy enough to be thrown around in a backpack without breaking or receiving too many scratches. If the iBook were to be the same size as the PowerBook, it would break on the first day a student took it to school. As always, a speed bump and memory/hard drive increase are in the lineup for the next update, but a G4 processor is out of the question.

What a year Apple has in store for the Mac community! And don't think that this is all we can expect from Apple - there's still that sixth space on Apple's product grid to fill, and rumors have it that Apple plans to continue its digital hub idea by introducing a number of household electronics.

Do your homework by keeping a watchful eye on reliable rumor sites, and hope that Apple will amaze the world once again in the coming months.

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