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ATPM 7.03
March 2001




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Beyond the Barline

by David Ozab,

Where Can I Find a Lava Lamp to Match My New iMac?

By now, you must have seen them, in photos at least, if not in person. My first reaction was shock—not so much from dislike (I don’t like Key Lime, but it didn’t shock me), as from surprise. I think I stared at the pictures for about five minutes before I recovered enough to start shaking my head and asking, “Why …WHY…WHY?!” After so many years trying to convince people that Macs are not toys, I now have to explain these designs to my PC-using friends. And you know John Dvorak is going to have a field day. Of course, if they’re successful, expect to see a tie-dyed Compaq in about three months.

The real shame, though, is that the undoubtedly attention-getting designs have overshadowed both the good points—increased power and a stock CD-RW drive—and the other bad point—only 64 MB of RAM, despite the low cost of RAM, and in light of OS X’s 128 MB RAM requirement.

You might be wondering how the new iMacs figure into a column supposedly about music and the Mac. Despite my initial reaction, I had no intention of writing about them until I saw this perplexing justification from an Apple rep., cited by Steven Beale in his article, About Those Colors…:

Apple spent 18 months researching and developing the new iMac enclosures, as the company determined “what looks best and what’s going to appeal to this whole music scene,” said product manager Greg Joswiak.

I’m a musician, so am I in some way responsible for these campy little flashbacks? God, I hope not! Apple sure seems to think that this is what we want, though, as Beale points out:

“There’s a big tie-in between the new colors and what we’re doing with the digital lifestyle and digital music revolution,” said Linda McNulty, Apple’s director of product marketing for desktop products. She recalled Steve Jobs’ Macworld Expo San Francisco keynote, when he presented the music visualization feature in Apple’s iTunes software, depicting “what music would look like if you could see it,” McNulty said. “That’s the thinking that inspired these designs.”

Well, I was wondering what they were thinking. (Actually, I was wondering what they were smoking, but that’s beside the point.) While introducing the new designs during his Tokyo keynote, Jobs commented that “they fit perfectly with the digital music revolution that’s happening right now.”

The new iMacs might look like the tunes Steve Jobs keeps in his library (judging by his iTunes demo), but they certainly don’t match my taste in music, not to mention my decor. Perhaps they’re designed to coordinate with the trippy visualizations of iTunes, which, to me, look somewhat like an Apple-branded version of the “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” segment of 2001. I’m starting to sense a pattern here. Have Steve and pals been growing mushrooms on the Cupertino campus? Will the next iMac designs sync with iTunes audio? Whoa, dude!

Many people questioned the Bondi blue case of the original iMac, but this is different. In 1998, Apple chose a bright, fun but tasteful design to make a computer that stood out in a mass of beige boxes, and as a result, brought Apple up from the depths. What Apple has given us this time is the stylistic equivalent of a lava lamp or a black light poster. If they’ve timed it right and hit another swing back toward late 60s/early 70s retro-kitsch, the new iMacs could sell quite well. Otherwise, Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian will be gone by summer. No need to fret though, as you can still get the two most popular, and best iMac colors ever (in my opinion), Indigo and Graphite.

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