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Time for an Apple Design Renaissance

Time for an Apple Design Renaissance

How long has it been since Apple completely blew the world away with a new product design? Lately its products have been getting some nice feature boosts, but they mostly seem incremental. Steve Jobs was able to convince enough people that minor refinements were groundbreaking and amazing, but without him, Apple must resort to total proof and put forth a truly spectacular new product.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
05/31/12 5:00 AM PT

I've been following the micro-move rumors of the latest purported Apple iPhone 5 parts, including new covers and chassis, case designs and innards ... and a curious thing has happened: I'm getting bored!

Does it mean I'm maturing? Does it mean that my iPhone 4 will get me through until October, so ... whatever? I haven't been bored with Apple's lineup and potential lineup in years and years ... actually, ever since a Tangerine iMac showed up at my door well over a decade ago, I've been paying close attention.

And yet, even the MacBook Pro rumors are fading from my interest. I've got my credit card all ready to buy on announcement day, and unless I fall down and break a leg or suffer a head injury, I'll buy the next-generation 15-incher -- that's a given.

Maybe this is a warning sign. Are there other Apple enthusiasts out there like me, experiencing a waning interest in Apple products?

A Closer Look

When I think about what's going on here, I'm as much an Apple-loving stalwart buyer and user than ever. Like I said, I'm about to shell out for a new MacBook Pro, and whenever the new iPhone 5 is ready, I'll buy one and sign up for another two years of AT&T. I'm also looking forward to OS X Mountain Lion ... but I'm not drooling. It's just hanging out in the back of my mind, really.

So the MacBook Pro ... maybe it will look all wedgy like the MacBook Air, or maybe it will just be a thinner version of today's unibody aluminum MacBook Pro. And maybe it'll have a gorgeous super high-definition Retina display.

So what?

I'm buying one anyway, and it'll be my go-to device that I'll touch most every day for the next two to four years. I'm curiously starting to think of it as just another tool for my tool belt.

Meanwhile, the next iPhone -- will it sport a bigger screen on the same basic style as the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4? Probably. The unit has great pocketability, and I don't see Apple creating a monstrosity just to satisfy techboy screen lust. I like the idea of a bigger screen, a smarter, faster camera, and getting intimate with Siri. And yet, I doubt Apple is going to deviate from the basic iPhone 4 design. Why? Apple doesn't yet have to. Doesn't yet feel the need, because the iPhone 4 design is serviceable and will sell very well for many months to come.

These Designs No Longer Speak to My Soul

As I examine my lack of interest heading into Apple's WWDC and some inevitable new announcements, I find that the big issue is that these basic designs no longer speak to my soul. So what if we get a new MacBook Pro, finally, that's thinner and has a Retina display? Cool. Nice enough. It will become a much-needed utility.

The new iPhone 5 ... same deal. I'll buy it and like it. Much appreciated. And what if the next iMac is just a slimmed down version of the existing iMac? Great.

Without Steve Jobs and his astounding marketing mojo, which was capable of convincing us that minor refinements were groundbreaking and amazing, I fear that Apple must resort to total proof: A new kickass product or a major redesign.

I fear that the world, and Apple fans, are in dire need of a newly designed product that will inspire us again. Remember the new designs of the iPods, the new designs of the iPhones? The MacBook Pro? The MacBook Air? The new iMac? The nifty black and incredibly small Apple TV? How about the Mac mini? Remember marveling at the tiny USB charger when you first handled it? How about the slick curves of the Magic Mouse that make every other mouse feel like a child's toy?

Take a leap back to the shocking white headphones for the iPod, and the Bondi Blue iMac. Boom, baby. Apple has created more products that people want to touch than any other tech company in the world. They've inspired other companies to do better, to strive for more.

So what's next? Is there another design surprise in store for me before I relegate Apple products to just being well-made tools, like Snap-On or Craftsman wrenches?

What is Jonathan Ive doing locked away deep inside of the bowels of Apple's Cupertino headquarters? Something, I hope.

As it turns out, there may be something wicked cool left in store for us to marvel at, to want to visit an Apple Store just to see, to run our hands along an edge. According to an expansive interview in The Telegraph, Ive said he's working on "the most important and the best work" his design team has ever done.

What is it? Probably a real Apple TV -- one with a big HD screen. Will I be able to afford it? Probably not. Will it be inspiring, though?

I hope so.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.


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