Much has been made of Steve Jobs', uh, visionariness. Did you know that when the iMac first appeared, the 'i' stood for 'internet'? It was one of the first all-in-one computers that was internet connectible out of the box.
To me, it was also the first real Apple product that showed a fundamental grasp of pure design acumen. Until then, Macs had been OK, and maybe not as bad-looking as PCs, but they were still definitely visually in the PC camp.
Made from Bondi Blue-coloured translucent plastic, the very first iMac was egg-shaped and had an integral 14-inch CRT display. Peripheral connectors were hidden behind a door on the right-hand side and it was the first computer to exclusively offer USB ports as standard. Apple promoted the retro-futurist looking machine as a revolutionary new Mac for the Internet age thanks to its internal modem, and it was the first Mac to dispense with the floppy drive: instead each had a tray-mount CD drive behind a pop-out door in the front.
Jobs was a champion of email, and there were quite legendarily terse one-line emails despatched to many people who sent him an email without expecting a response. It's a little ironic, then, that Jobs' mug has been proposed for a US postage stamp. A document suggests Jobs is on a list of US icons to appear on stamps but it's unclear which image of Jobs might be used.
While we're admiring Apple's foresight and design (OK, maybe it's just me) there have been a few misfires, like the ridiculous round mouse that belonged to the aforesaid first CRT iMac. I had one, and it drove me crazy. While staring at your screen manipulating stuff, because the mouse was round you'd end up with it twisted all kinds of ways in your hand since the shape didn't indicate, to the touch, which way it was pointing. It is (not fondly) referred to as the hockey puck mouse, and Apple had to work hard to create a successor that would go down rather better with Mac users. Abraham Farag, a former senior mechanical engineer of product design at Apple, told Cult of Mac that the design team built six fully finished models, complete with "... all the parting lines cut in for buttons and different plastic parts, and all the colours just right." At the last minute, the design team had decided to create a model that would echo the look of the Topolino mouse which shipped prior to the hockey puck. The only problem was, the model for it wasn't finished - they hadn't even had time to draw buttons on to indicate where they would go.
Of course, the inimitable Jobs made straight for that one, stating "That's genius. We don't want to have any buttons." The design that result emerged as the Apple Pro Mouse, with only a one-click upper shell.
Later Apple mice, of course, all owe a lot to this one, visually, but have multiple buttons - not just a right click but, thanks to dozens of switches under the shell, they support swipe gestures too.
Going back to Apple's visionary thing, it wasn't just Jobs at Apple who had that gene. In 1995, before Jobs' return, Apple was considering technology in the world of the future and released a promotional video to educators laying out its vision for how students would be learning one day. That was 19 years ago but some of its predictions have become everyday realities.
From its opening frames, Apple made something very clear: the future was tablets. It's a bulky example demonstrated in the video but it showcases features that have become part of our everyday lives. It affords full functionality of a desktop, whether the teacher is on the sofa chatting or talking to students in the classroom. Wireless networking existed in 1995, but it was still years away from being common. The actors' fashions haven't stood the test of time, but the work people are doing on tablets is accurate, notes TUAW. The proposed tablet has something like FaceTime (it's an Apple app like Skype, but it only works Apple device to Apple device), mobile wifi, kids using digital cameras, context-aware search, something like YouTube and even collaboration in the cloud.
That rather begs the question of 'where to now?' Jony Ives, Apple's benighted head of design, has largely been credited with that original breakthrough iMac. Then he headed the teams which designed all the successive iMacs plus the iPhone, iPad and ... everything else, including, lately, the look of iOS 7. His look could be characterised as simplicity, clear lines, friendly gradients and deep shadows, which allows the scope of the light and friendly iPhone 5c design right up to the dark menacing minimalism of the latest Mac Pro. Most likely, Mac OS X will get more and more of Ives' look as we go on.
Macworld considers where this all might be going in 2014.
Meanwhile, Apple has been making interesting hires, as I have noted before. Despite that, and some acquisitions, we still don't have a new wearable Apple thing or even a truly lounge-taming Apple TV. There have been little changes - Apple's latest version of iOS (7.1) just appeared as a free update. It has many small changes, some of them pretty cool actually (check out TUAW's video walkthrough).
But iOS 7.1 also now supports CarPlay. To some, this will be the best news ever. To most, even me, who can't even afford a new tiny Great Wall car, the fact that CarPlay is so far only "available on select new cars in 2014" (to quote Apple) and is in fact supported by Volvo, Ferrari and Mercedes (and, more hopefully perhaps, Honda and Hyundai) means it's verging on utterly irrelevant. Did you hear that, my 1994 Corolla with the bashed-in driver's door? You're so out of the picture! And so am I. So 'woo-who' ... as in 'who cares?'
But anyway, if you're rich, you can read all about it on Apple's proud page. I suspect it's mostly people over 60 in Remmers who'll get anything out of this ...