Should Apple redesign its high-end notebooks?

robsmacbookpro.jpg

Cult of Mac offers a one-two whammy of contrary design opinions. First, Pete Mortensen says that it’s high time Apple refreshed the look of its notebooks, including the fancy ones.

It’s time for Apple to make a new statement with the design of its computers. The time couldn’t be better. All the kinks and problems that came along with the move to Intel chips have been worked out. People know that Macs are still Macs, and they’re all safe to use, so the designs can get more wild and divergent again. I can’t wait until they take that leap.

Second, Leigh McMullen responds with an appeal for the “classic” Powerbook/MacBook Pro to remain exactly that, because of the “rarefied place in the minds of consumers” it has achieved.

It’s a design philosophy that has powered BMW and Mercedes for a good long while. To that end, other than adding bling to satisfy a generation of new money rappers, Rolex has never fundamentally changed the design of the Datejust, Daytona, or Day/Date (aka President) watches … It becomes the archetype for that artifact. It means that whenever a consumer goes laptop shopping, their mental image for a laptop is of a Apple Macbook Pro, and any other purchasing decision they make will be an explicit compromise from the archetype.

Do or Don’t [Cult of Mac]

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18 Responses to Should Apple redesign its high-end notebooks?

  1. zuzu says:

    Aw, shucks. ^_^

  2. Zarniwoop says:

    All I have to say is; I /really/ hate silver plastic. It just looks tacky.

  3. zuzu says:

    Just as an impulsive comment, I´m getting a bit tired of the sterile white/black/aluminum look.

    How about a bright festive paint job by ColorWare?

    (At $450 though, my wallet did that cartoon thing where I opened it and a moth flew out, symbolically representing my lack of cash for such fashion.)

  4. Chrs says:

    Both BMW and Mercedes update their style regularly, to keep up with the times (or occasionally, for BMW, ahead). They do it well, and you still know you’re looking at a BMW or Mercedes. And similarly, any rework of the clean Mac design would have to carry the Apple signature, but you don’t let it stagnate.

  5. alowishus says:

    @ZUZU: I donno . . . I used a 12-inch PowerBook for about four years—to write. A lot. I recently got a 15-inch MBP. The keyboard is identical. In fact, the MBP keyboard was a huge selling point. The MacBook chicklet keyboard is a little awkward and I couldn’t get used to it.

    Adding RAM to a PowerBook/MacBook/MacBook Pro has always been easy. One door, maybe a few screws. No more.

    Anyway, I’d like to see a redesign. The MacBook is very slick and the MacBook Air makes me salivate. I can image a MBP with similarly beveled edges, a magnetic latch and hideaway ports. Yummy.

  6. zuzu says:

    I used a 12-inch PowerBook for about four years—to write. A lot. I recently got a 15-inch MBP. The keyboard is identical. In fact, the MBP keyboard was a huge selling point. The MacBook chicklet keyboard is a little awkward and I couldn’t get used to it.

    Hmm… I’ve used them side-by-side and I could swear that the 12″ Powerbook has a deeper stroke length / more responsive feedback. The keys on the MBP just don’t seem to respond well unless I slam the keys. They may look the same, but they don’t feel the same.

  7. zuzu says:

    Actually, it’d be nice if there was at least an option to one-up the old “no right click” jibe by having a supersized, no-button trackpad. Three-finger tap to middle click – do the current ones have that already?

    No, no, no, no, NO. I know Apple is hot-for-gestures, but please do not make me use the touchpad for anything other than X/Y coordinates simulating mouse movement. I loathe tap-to-click because of accidental clicks. I want discrete input for my computer; no ambiguity for me, thanks.

    I’m already frustrated with the defaults of the new touchpad where swiping right or left sends “back” or “forward” messages to my web browser, or if I accidently touch with two fingers suddenly it starts scrolling. Ugh, no! Stop overloading the functions of the touchpad. Like UNIX tools, it should do one simple thing very well: move the cursor.

  8. zuzu says:

    And for the love of God, Apple, my 15″ MBP has fewer USB ports than an eeePC. That’s just fucking ridiculous.

    I realize this is ineffectual in hindsight, but what’s truly ridiculous is that Firewire rather than USB didn’t become the dominant standard. Firewire (IEEE1394) is a peer-to-peer protocol where any devices can be daisy-chained with pass-through ports and they all sort themselves out mutually. Instead we have USB with its dumb client-server hierarchial protocol requiring hubs (for when two built-in ports apparently aren’t enough).

  9. Kyle Armbruster says:

    I love the chicklet keyboards. It was the thing I was most worried about when I got my first Mac in 10 years last summer, but I quickly just fell in love with it. I’ve never typed on a better laptop keyboard. It is solid as a rock.

    As for the MBP, it needs an overhaul. Badly. I hate the keyboard and I hate the crummy latch. Just give me a MB with better guts (although the MB has served my needs very well–I bought a 2008 MP for home–with the chicklet keyboard!).

  10. samu says:

    @13 “No, no, no, no, NO. I know Apple is hot-for-gestures, but please do not make me use the touchpad for anything other than X/Y coordinates simulating mouse movement. I loathe tap-to-click because of accidental clicks. I want discrete input for my computer; no ambiguity for me, thanks.”

    Hence “option”. They can swap out the display, at least on the 17″; why not the trackpad?

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry but I think it would be great if they’d res-design the pro making it lighter and say half the thickness while retaining the shape. I lug my pro everywhere and would appreciate more portability without sacrificing the key features. I think this “lunky is good” concept is ridiculous.

    I think they recently patented some new touch tablet technology so that may make an appearance too..

  12. joelanders says:

    Just as an impulsive comment, I´m getting a bit tired of the sterile white/black/aluminum look. Time to go for a beautiful, warm, organic material of some kind. Wood, or leather or something. This probably would be tough to mass-produce, but they´re Apple, just do it.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Yes/No.

    TWO FINGER SCROLLING RULES FTW!!!

  14. Patrick Austin says:

    The Macbook and MB Air can change every year, but I don’t think the “pro” computers should unless there’s a functional reason for the change (ie, touch screens, swivels, more ports, etc).

    The design hasn’t changed much since the TiBook in ’01, and I appreciate it. The Mac Pro’s are living in cases that look about like they did 5 years ago. I like that I feel no need whatsoever to upgrade my 1.5 year old MBP just to keep up with the latest trend in injection molding. The MBP and Mac Pros are essentially functional boxes containing functional hardware.

    Just because you’re a design-driven company doesn’t mean you have to change your design just for the sake of change. Don’t let a Chris Bangle come in, like BMW did, and leave your company in a horrible transitional period during which 90% of the base wants to see you drawn and quartered.

  15. samu says:

    I’ve often thought that the basic PowerBook/MacBook Pro design is essentially perfect. I know that looks like a massive fanboi statement, but it’s true. The one cosmetic change I’d like to see is the end of the grey plastic rim, which every time I notice it seems totally at odds with the quality of the rest of the machine. Possible a black aluminium option?

    Actually, it’d be nice if there was at least an option to one-up the old “no right click” jibe by having a supersized, no-button trackpad. Three-finger tap to middle click – do the current ones have that already?

    Oh, and a blank key option. I can dream…

    Other than that, yes, properly powered USB ports would be great; my Native Instruments AK1 audio interface needs unplugging and reconnecting after the machine’s woken from sleep because of this. And for the love of God, Apple, my 15″ MBP has fewer USB ports than an eeePC. That’s just fucking ridiculous.

  16. John Brownlee says:

    Completely agreed with Leander. Leave the MBP alone. I see a swivling touch screen, more USB ports. Otherwise, it’s practically perfect.

  17. zuzu says:

    Sweet merciful crap replace the MacBook Pro keyboards to at least how the the previous aluminum Powerbooks were, or maybe the new “chiclet” style. But the current design has magnified my typo rate many times over.

    Also, the USB ports are still underpowered, just as they’ve been since the Powerbooks switched from titanium to aluminum. No one should need one of those stupid two-USB adapters to power an external slimline optical drive or hard drive.

    I’d also appreciate if Apple included a second internal mini-PCI-e slot for WWAN / WiMax cards. And if the internal optical drives would support LightScribe. And Apple’s EFI bootcode to support Fujitsu’s AES-256 Full Disk Encryption (FDE)

    However, while not a slick as the Macbook, the MBP is actually pretty easy to work on. It’s not hellish like replacing the DC inverter board or optical drive in the 12″ Powerbook. Adding RAM is almost as easy as swapping the battery. Upgrading the SATA hard drive (such as to the 500GB Samsung M6) is a little more tricky; the top cover (with keyboard) actually has to be opened and a thin cable unstuck from the top of the drive.

    The real upgrades will be forthcoming in the Montevina motherboard upgrades: raising the ceiling on RAM to greater than 4GB, eventually supporting 4-core Penryn processors, etc.

    Oh, and remember when people thought the Macbook Air would support an instant-on booting of OSX thanks to its SSD? …like the Amiga KickStart ROM. I’d still like to see that feature become a reality.

    Previously: What else to expect from WWDC besides the 3G iPhone?

  18. Rob Beschizza says:

    Excellent commenter Zuzu is excellent.

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