What strikes me about the new kit, though, is the shaving off of Appleness. The way the iMac’s one-piece aluminium stand now tapers toward the front? Sensible (as you’ll know if you’ve repeatedly pushed your keyboard back to make room for something on your desk and clunked it against the boxy front of the foot); elegant, even; but alien to the minimalist principles we’ve come to know and love. The cylindrical rear section of the keyboard, with the radial-polished end cap? Very Dell; not very Apple. The Magic Mouse: I’m sorry, is this a Logitech catalogue?
It may be no bad thing if Jony Ive is softening a bit. Remember the screen on the 2G iPod nano, which sat inside a cutout in the metal case, with bare edges? The danger of minimalism is that it can feel cheap. The vastly more complicated design of the current nano glass, with its curved front and shaped edge to integrate smoothly into the unit, just works better, even if it isn’t so pure. That’s the kind of shift that’s going on with the iMac base. It’s partly a return to the more organic shapes that we saw in the 1998 iMac – not to mention the Clamshell iBook and of course the eMate – and said goodbye to with the iMac G4. It’s partly changing the balance between functionality dictating the design and a Big Idea dictating the design, which is interesting. But it’s also in danger of just being wrong. I don’t see what makes that cylindrical shenanigans essential. It doesn’t do anything that other ways of holding the back of the keyboard up wouldn’t do, and it doesn’t echo anything else in the design. As far as I can tell from the pictures, it doesn’t gel with the mouse at all. Hmm.
On the function side, the multi-touch mouse is something I wasn’t expecting (perhaps stupidly), and it could be great – what the Mighty Mouse was trying to do and didn’t quite manage. The more UI functions we can control with our mouse fingers, rather than pointing at screen furniture, the better. We can only hope this kicks off some deeper new thinking about the UI itself, which is long overdue.
Oh, and the SD card slot is nice.