The Future of the Mac’s Industrial Design

Jason Snell, Macworld:

Now consider the current Mac product line. It would be instantly recognizable to a visitor from the early 2010s.


Of course, Macs have evolved a lot in the intervening years on the inside. But the exteriors of Apple’s Macs look remarkably like they did in 2012, if not 2007. It’s been a decade or more of quiet iteration without really rethinking the fundamentals of the product — except that one time, which Apple rapidly came to regret.

I have written before about Apple’s deliberate strategy to keep the industrial design of its first M1 Macs identical to their Intel-based predecessors. But Snell is right: the Mac lineup used to be more experimental and hungry for evolution in its hardware. What changed? Or, more accurately, why so little change?

Apple has settled on a nearly all-aluminum line; the wildest configuration is the choice of gold for MacBook Air models. Aside from the lack of a glowing Apple logo, today’s MacBook Pro looks from not-too-far away much like the one from 2008.

I am not one to argue for change for its own sake. But, as Apple plays around with the industrial design of the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch every few years, I have to wonder if part of the reason for the largely stagnant Intel era was the Intel processors themselves. Now that Apple is working with its own processors that have different thermal constraints and can be entirely custom-engineered, will we perhaps see a renaissance of experimentation in materials and form? I am not so sure; I do not want to get ahead of myself. The MacBook Air may not be the ideal laptop design, but it is pretty darn close. There is a reason it is the computer copied by every Windows OEM.

Maybe it is just my age, but I miss the era of glossy white finishes. I’m looking at my white and silver iPhone and it looks as crisp and modern and futuristic as you’d expect, without looking chintzy. Just a thought.