Peter Cohen, writing on his blog:

Unfortunately, that lampshade iMac was the last of the iMacs with a personality. After that has been a parade of all-in-one rectangular boxes, gradually tapering over the years to the point that some people think they're just displays and wonder where the rest of the computer is hiding. Making a "friendly" computer that didn't look like a computer had been central to much of the original Mac and iMac design philosophy. But for more than the last decade, Apple's moved to increasingly austere designs that make the Mac almost invisible.

There are two design trends at Apple: Making technology approachable by making it fun, and making technology invisible by getting rid of everything that isn't used by almost everyone almost all the time.

Increasingly, over the years, the fun part has been pushed into the software. iPhone has been a mostly austere product, but its interface was visually fun for the first half-decade and interactively fun for the second. (iPhone 5c was the exception — unabashedly colorful plastic pop-art in phone form.)

Where we see fun design today is in products like AirPods, which click open and closed so addictively it's hard to stop doing it.

I hope that Apple finds an opportunity to go full circle with the Mac yet again. It probably won't be the iMac, but I hope that some future Apple device, whether it's a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop machine, or some hitherto unimagined gadget, regains that sense of whimsy and wonder we've seen before. Something to help us emotionally connect with it and that essential Apple user experience in a way that's different, and less invisible, than how we do today.

My guess is we're only going to get out of it by going through it. The design will continue to disappear until we basically carry a small marble or motherbox with us, something to handle persistent local authentication and cloud access, and takes over any piece of glass or uses AR whenever any interface is necessary.

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The computer will become truly, almost completely, invisible, but in response, the interfaces will become even more delightful, passively and actively, to compensate.

Don't get me wrong: I'd love a grape iPhone or Bondi-blue logo on a next-gen MacBook Air in the meantime, but I think it would only be a brief flash of nostalgia before whimsy becomes almost entirely virtualized.

VECTOR | Rene Ritchie


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