What I'd like to see in Apple's new Macs
By Stephen WITHERS
MacFixIt is one of a small number of web sites that's stayed on my daily reading list for many years. At the risk of sounding nostalgic (cue voice with a north of England accent saying “I remember t’ days when..."), I will say that I thought it was better when Ted Landau owned and operated the site, but CNET has done a good enough job to keep my attention.
Contributing editor Topher Kessler recently asked "What would you like to see in Apple's new Macs?" and that set me thinking.
The basic design of recent iMacs works well for me. One change I'd make is easy access to the hard drive to allow ordinary owners to fit a replacement or upgraded part without having to call in a tech. I'd also like to see additional USB and FireWire ports to reduce the need for daisychaining or hubs.
While some people get excited about Apple's 'flex base' design that would allow an iMac-style screen to fold down at a slight angle to the desktop for touchscreen operation, that idea leaves me cold. My feeling is that touchscreens are OK for handheld devices or for kiosk-style situations where you walk up to a device and perform a brief sequence of operations, but that's about it. Oh, and possibly the group interaction model assumed by Microsoft's Surface table PC.
Why didn't pre-iPad tablets succeed except in some very specific situations? Largely because they tried to superimpose a handheld interaction model on top of an existing user interface. Apple wisely discarded the preconceptions and produced something that worked well on smartphones and tablets. So why would the company be stupid enough to revisit a failed model? Before you ask, I don't think Lion is sufficient evidence!
I must admit that part of me does feel a little guilty about being 'forced' to replace the entire system when an iMac shows its age. But then I reflect that hardly anybody makes the same observation when they replace a notebook. And over the years I've carried forward very few items from one computer to the next - a couple of monitors each lasted for the useful life of two computers, and I did transplant one hard drive from a system to its successor, but that's about it. By the time my Windows PCs are replaced, about the only usable thing is the case. Processor changes seem to mean a new motherboard which doesn't accept the old RAM or graphics card, the old drive seems impossibly small (and drives don't seem to last as long as they used to anyway), and so on. So I end up buying a complete system.
As for incremental upgrades, if you exclude installing more RAM then all aI can remember doing in the last 20 years is fitting a faster processor, a USB card, a combo fast SCSI and FireWire interface, and a second hard disk to my Power Mac 7500, and replacing the graphics card in my first (circa 1998) white-box Windows PC.
Some people, including Kessler, would like to see a just-plain-Mac to sit between the iMac and the Power Mac: a system that makes it easy to add disk drives, replace the graphics card and so on, but without the expense of the Power Mac.
Meh. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the idea, only that I can't see myself buying one.
I know I'm not being very imaginative - but then Apple realised a long time ago that if you ask people what they want, they generally come up with incremental changes. To make a big difference, you figure out how to deliver something they don't yet realise they want.
But whether the next set of Macs represents a small or a large change, can I please have an Apple keyboard with the feel of the old Extended Keyboard II?
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