BusinessWeek regulars Charles Haddad and Stephen Wildstrom take a look at two corners of the Macintosh world this week. In his regular Byte of the Apple column, Haddad takes on the new iMac, while Wildstrom focuses his attention on iPod.
Brains and beauty
Haddad — a long time self-proclaimed Mac pundit — called the iMac’s design “stunning,” and said that even he was surprised by the sunflower-inspired architecture, which he likens more to the shape of the hooves of cartoon character Bullwinkle. Haddad described his own iMac fantasies as “linear … modeled on what had come before.” Haddad’s comments come in his latest column entitled
The New iMac Makes Pictures Perfect.
“The machine has the smallest footprint of any computer on the market today, and it’s easy to lug around by the stainless-steel neck. Apple hopes this combination inspires users to carry iMacs into the kitchen or even the bedroom, making it a true household appliance,” said Haddad.
Haddad also wrote of iPhoto, Apple’s fourth cornerstone of its Digital Hub philosophy. The new software provides Mac users with a way of organizing, sharing, and distributing photos taken with digital cameras. “If you’re already familiar with iTunes, you’ll know how to work the OS X-based iPhoto, which comes installed on the iMac,” explained Haddad.
One of iPhoto’s more inspired features is the ability to output your digital photos to a linen-bound album of your own design. “It’ll be interesting to see if people really use this feature,” said Haddad.
“With iPhoto and the moose-hoofed iMac, Apple has successfully combined brains with beauty,” said Haddad.
iPod approaches perfection
Moving on to the iPod, Stephen Wildstrom said that his time with Apple’s digital music player has been a reversal of his usual routine, where he finds annoying flaws the more time he spends with a product. He attributes that to the single-minded focus of the team that designed the iPod — the same, he said, which designed the PowerBook G4. Wildstrom’s comments come in a new article called
iPod: The Designers Got This One Right.
Wildstrom lauded the clean, modern look of the iPod. The writer said that Apple is cautious of form hindering function, especially after the Power Mac G4 Cube debacle. To that end, he said, the iPod overcomes two big bugaboos of other digital music players — capacity and user control. The iPod may cost more than other MP3 players, Wildstrom admitted, but with 5GB of storage capacity and an easy to use interface, it’s very competitive.
The interface, said Wildstrom, is where the iPod excels. “Getting music onto the gadget couldn’t be simpler,” he said, referring to the iPod’s FireWire synchronization with iTunes on the Mac.
Wildstrom referred to the actual menu interface that bridges what’s on the iPod to something the user can navigate as “ingenious.” He lauded the jog wheel and button design on the front of the iPod, noting that it’s confusing to have too many buttons.
Wildstrom’s only complaint is that the buttons respond to a soft touch, so he had to remember to slide the “hold” switch to disable the controls.
Referring to his own experiences reviewing a multitude of hardware and software each year, Wildstrom lamented the number of bad designs he has seen. For Apple’s own entry into the digital music realm, Wildstrom said, “The iPod is proof that with enough care and concentration, designers can approach perfection.