The Desk Set

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In the past few days, Macworld Expo has delivered an inexpensive, yet feature-packed Mac desktop, a flash-based iPod, updates to Apple’s iLife and Keynote offerings, and a ton of product news from third-party hardware and software developers.

So, naturally, I’d like to talk to you about desks.

That probably seems strange, walking the floor of a trade show where developers are showing off the latest Mac software, groundbreaking hardware, and every iPod accessory conceivable to the human mind and coming away raving about new advances in desks. But never under-estimate the impact a well-designed workspace can have on your productivity and happiness. You can have the fastest, most elegant-looking Mac in captivity, one of Apple’s massive displays, and your pick of the best software available on the platform, and I guarantee you, you won’t be as productive as you should be if you wind up having to do all your work sitting on a metal folding chair in front of an old card table.

And I don’t think I’m alone in realizing the importance of a good desk. Last year, I edited a feature called “ Macworld ’s $6,000 Challenge,” in which two writers tried to assemble the perfect Mac-based office for less than $6,000. We ran an image of each finished office to accompany the article, and while we got the usual spate of letters about why the writers picked one product over another, more than a few people wrote to ask us where they could get their hands on the desks depicted in each image. (The answer: nowhere. Both images were photo-realistic illustrations from the talented John Kocon.)

So here are some eye-catching desks I spotted at Expo that you will be able to get your hands on—once they start shipping, that is.

Anthro, which has been in this business for two decades now, was on hand to show off its usual wares, plus a few prototypes. Among that crowd, the two that caught my eye were Carl’s Table and the eNook. The former was conceived for a radiologist, though, really, I could see creative professionals really taking to this desk, too. Controls let you tilt, elevate, or lower the work surface to your liking; Carl’s Table also features integrated adaptive lighting, which automatically brightens and dims based on the light density of the image on your display and the ambient lighting in the room.

The eNook is a laptop station with table/writing surface that folds down like a Murphy bed. (You can get a look at it here.) When not in use, you can fold up the table, tucking your laptop inside; there are holes for ventilation and cables within the eNook. Right now, the back surface of the eNook is a tack board, where you can hang index cards and the like, though Anthro is mulling the possibility of making a model with a whiteboard back instead. Both the eNook and Carl’s Table should be available around March.

• This is the first time I spotted Computer Comforts at Macworld Expo; if it comes up with more products like The Hide-Away Table, hopefully, it won’t be the last.

The Hide-Away Table looks like a typical industrial-design table. But slide out a tray at the front of the table, and you’ve got space to stash a keyboard and mouse. Pop open the back, and an adjustable arm holding a display or even a computer (the table’s designed specifically for Cinema Displays and the iMac G5) swings up and out. When you’re done with the computer, put the screen back in its compartment, slide the keyboard tray back under the table, lock things up if you’re so inclined, and go on your merry way.

The Hide-Away Table probably isn’t ideal as a personal desk. But for a classroom, training center, conference room, or any other environment where space is at a premium, it’s definitely worth a look.

• I’m not sure words can do justice to the OridjinOffice from DesignJourney Industrial. So I’ll simply that it may been the coolest thing I saw all week-long at Expo. And i’m including the Mac mini and the iPod shuffle in that assessment.

The elements that make up the OridjinOffice at pretty basic—some frames and supports that hold up work surfaces (high quality plywood finished with a proprietary staining process) surrounded by screens. (Overhead lighting and electrical setups are optional.) It’s an aesthetically pleasing design, but a practical one as well—the screens hold in sound, for instance, so you wind up not having to speak as loudly to hear yourself over the office din. The screens can encircle the desk entirely, making it easy to seal off and lock up when it’s time to head home. And the setup is extremely flexible—you can assemble multiple OridjinOffices in clusters, groups, or however you see fit.

And the neatest trick of all? Thanks to the OridjinOffice, “cubicle” may no longer be a dirty word.

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