Big Macs and hot chips

Posted
6:52 PM 12 June 2005

Last week’s Apple Intel news has finally brought me back to writing here. Not because there is a lack to read on the subject, but because most people seem to be overlooking some of the design consequences arising from this change.

My knowledge of the innards of my Mac is limited to a handful of basic principles, so the scope of my ideas here are limited to a technical point I do understand; The processors in the upcoming Intel driven Macs will be a lot cooler than the heaters in the G5 under my desk.

A humble prediction: the machine under my desk right now is not only the biggest Mac Apple has produced, it is the biggest Apple will ever produce.

With the exception of the PowerBooks, Apple’s current product range superficially appears to cater for consumers who expect big machines for big dollars. The more you spend the more computer you get? We know Americans love big stuff - even the people over there are bigger, but I don’t think this informs Apple’s design decisions.

A computer is not a chair - it’s size is not relative to the size of your arse. It’s function is to provide you with an interface for the software running on it. It’s clear why Apple’s cheapest Macs are the smallest when you consider that Apple is trying to make every Mac as small as possible without losing expected performance. Diminutive size is not just a side effect of sacrifices made elsewhere, it’s an expression of Apple’s simplicity driven design philosophy. If Apple’s engineers could squeeze top-of-the-range performance into a Mac mini they would.

This brings me back to my point. Stripping the out the banks of cooling fans of the PowerMac is going to bring it’s size down dramatically. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the design of my G5. It’s designers did a wonderful job - it says “I’m big, I’m fat, and proud of it!”, but you can’t beat “Small is beautiful”.

It will be a some time before computers are truly designed around us rather than their silicon innards. We’ll know it’s happened when Apple’s machines are all about the same shade of tiny. Apple’s move to Intel is a move in that direction.

Oliver Boermans is a design geek in Adelaide, South Australia: ollicle.com is a place for Ollie to rant, reflect and share. Feed

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