Creativity: more than something that can define our place in the world and sometimes even outlive us, it's also how we advance as individuals and how we make things better--even in a small way--for the people around us and for generations yet to come. To bring something new into the world is the single most important human endeavor.
Each of us is creative. Whether we're writing a memo or composing a symphony, taking thoughts and distilling them into something meaningful is a uniquely human process. And the tools we use to transform an idea into action can be as much a source of inspiration as a means to an end. And the most flexible and powerful tool yet created for translating dreams into reality is, in itself, a monument to human creativity.
As I sat watching the July 2001 Macworld Conference & Expo keynote speech, I was struck by a thought: Apple is facing a terrible dilemma. The Mac is the creative professional's computer of choice, but under Steve Jobs's guidance, it has also become the first computer for which fashion is perhaps as important a feature as any specification. And as anyone in the fashion industry will tell you, no matter how clever the design, last year's fashion is still last year's fashion.
So as Apple has employed processor-speed boosts and price cuts in its struggle to return the three-year-old iMac to the status of consumer juggernaut--while simultaneously selling the power of its latest Power Mac G4s to the professional crowd--what these products have in common has been largely unnoticed: it's not completely about substance, or even about style. It's also about what you can do with a Mac--and how a Mac, by its very nature, is a powerful tool for generating new ideas.
One thing Apple's two core markets--consumers and creative professionals--have in common is creativity. That's why both iMovie and Final Cut Pro have been tremendously successful, even though they serve entirely different audiences. And while Apple must pay heed to each market's unique requirements, it must also look at where those markets overlap.
We need a dramatically new iMac design. The old design, while brilliant, has grown long in the tooth. Consumers and professionals both want something new. And since Apple has successfully become the Gap of computer makers, it must be aware that when fall comes, it's time to release new fall colors.
Though disappointed by the absence of sexy new hardware at Macworld Expo, I was intrigued by the continuing evolution of iDVD. Apple obviously wants users to be able to do more with their Macs. And iDVD is a tool that will inspire Mac users and allow them to do things they couldn't dream of doing before. Apple is unleashing the creative spirit of Mac users.
What was really missing from Apple's Macworld Expo presentation was this message: Professional or consumer, the Mac is the best tool around for creating great stuff--even the stuff you haven't thought of yet.
When I first heard Steve Jobs describe the Mac as a digital hub for a multimedia lifestyle, I was impressed. But I'd go a step further: the Mac is a creativity hub, too. It's one thing to fill our lives with cool gadgets such as Palm devices and MP3 and DVD players. It's another thing entirely to allow us to fill those devices with music worth listening to and movies worth watching.
In this box is everything you need to mix music, edit movies, paint pictures, craft Web sites, write novels--or publish a magazine like Macworld. It's your inspiration toolbox. And who doesn't want to be more inspired?
So don't worry that a true second-generation iMac is not yet available. While we may still want Apple to wrap creativity up in the computer industry's most compelling package, it has always been what's inside the box that really counts.
For four years, ANDREW GORE has been Macworld's editor in chief. To comment on this column, visit our Columnists forum (click on the Forums button at Macworld.com).