Article: The Mac as an Appliance?

by on February 5, 2009

With all of this talk about the Mac hitting its 25th birthday, it’s curious to think about what’s next. Originally, the Mac was designed to be a closed system, making a computer as simple and uncluttered as a telephone or kitchen appliance. What if Apple were to go that route in the future?

With laptops making up a large portion of Mac sales, it may make some sense for Apple to focus on this segment. Here’s a crazy idea. What if Apple did away with all of the desktop Macs except for some high-powered 8-core tower? The iMac is a solid machine, but will the average user even use all the power?

Before you comment below saying that I’m an idiot, think about it. A laptop ensures that all components of the system work properly together (much like an iMac), but also offers the flexibility of taking the computer with you. No longer does a computer require a dedicated portion of your house, but can be anywhere at any time. When it’s time to upgrade, everything is refreshed, allowing the old hardware to be passed along to the next person or repurposed for other uses.

It is true that a desktop selling for the same price as a laptop will be more powerful. However, the argument about upgrades is moot — aside from RAM, hard drive, and the possible optical drive upgrade, what can you change on an iMac or Mac mini that you can’t do on a MacBook or MacBook Pro? In addition, with certain performance gaps narrowing, it might make more sense to have a laptop that can go from being something completely stripped-down, but can expand to be a mid-range desktop. Think PowerBook Duo: Reborn. With the new LED-based Cinema Display and the MacBook Air, it seems like the pieces for this are coming together.

I could see this as the next evolution of the Mac. Essentially, the MacBook family becomes the products are sold to almost everyone for everything. For those who want more, they can hook up an external display, keyboard, mouse, and other accessories, just like today. The Mac Pro remains as the heavy-lifting do-all powerhouse. The iPhone/iPod Touch platform takes over as the ultraportable component, allowing users to take information with them, and not even needing their Mac.

I know this probably won’t happen, and if it does, it’s a ways off, but if you think about it, the original idea of the Mac was that it would not be intrusive and have a personal feel. Don’t the MacBooks fit this the best?

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