Next Generation Computers

We’ve by now all seen the new iPods, and of course the iPhone. I also saw an interesting post on Mac 360 to the effect that Macs are kind of boring, with no real changes (aside from better performance) aside from the introduction of the Mac mini in five years. Good point.

The obvious next thing to fold into the laptop is cellular internet (3G, whatever). Having to stick a card into your laptop to get wireless internet sucks just as much as having to stick a card to use a modem or an external hard disk or whatever did five years ago, and Apple should address this. (My pet suggestion was to build Macbooks with an iPhone slot in them, but that would represent a huge waste of space for those of us, like me, who haven’t bothered with an iPhone).

It seems to me that there are, broadly speaking, three niches for computers today: desktop, inconveniently portable (i.e. notebooks), and conveniently portable (i.e. pocket-size). There’s also the data storage unit which may or may not have playback and ancillary devices attached (i.e. the “datastick”, a.k.a. iPod).

I’ve been shopping for audio recorders lately, and this just reminds me of the fact that we all still need a datastick, and the iPod still isn’t a datastick. The iPod classic isn’t because it doesn’t have a small general-purpose computer in it, although 80GB/160GB of storage is just dandy. The iPod touch isn’t because it doesn’t have enough built-in storage and/or removable storage. Neither have convenient cameras and audio recorders built in, and, frankly, both need built-in speakers — even if they’re crappy.

So this would be my computer lineup (in a perfect world):

Desktop

Mac Pro (like current Mac Pro, but smaller, second CPU optional for base model, ~$1500).
Mac Mini (like current Mac mini but a bit bigger — room for real video card and hard disk).
Mac Nano (like current Mac mini but possibly Flash RAM based and smaller)

I think the iMac is intrinsically evil — because it makes you toss a good monitor when your cpu starts to age. Build monitors with a bracket for a Mac Mini/Nano instead.

Laptop

MacBook Pro (like current MacBook Pro, but provision for internal cellular internet, new style keyboard, CPU is a Mac Nano which can be swapped out / docked.
MacBook (like current MacBook, but Flash-based and thin).
10″ MacBook (Flash-based)

Laptops can function as iPhones/cellular net devices if you have the optional receiver (as with Bluetooth options a few years back).

Pocket

Pocket MacBook (Basically a clamshell iPod touch with faster cpu, slightly larger screen, real keyboard. Oh, and it’s an iPhone too.)
iPhone/Mac — but fully unlocked, doesn’t pretend it’s not a Mac, can work with keyboard accessory which doubles as a stand and dock.

In Summary

Apple should completely blur the distinction between Mac and iPhone and iPod Touch — making the halo effect irrelevant. There are 100,000,000 iPods out there. If 25% of them get replaced, turn those 25,000,000 new iPod users into 25,000,000 new Mac users. Declare victory. Withdraw from Iraq… Oh wait, that’s part of my Steve Jobs for president rant… Never mind.

  • Chris

    I think every level of Mac portable should have a touch/tablet screen too, at least as an option.

    If every mobile Mac/iPhone has:
    * Touchscreen features or options
    * Cellular/wimax/wifi
    * VoIP
    * Bluetooth
    * Camera
    * Microphone
    * Speaker

    Then you can pretty much move up and down the product scale (in and out of cellphone territory) according to your portability requirements rather than whether you need a phone or a computer. With a Bluetooth headset it doesn’t matter if I have a phone in my pocket or a laptop in my bag to receive and make phone calls… except for the lousy state of Motorola voice recognition on RAZRs…

    Marketing-wise you can still entice people to buy sexy new Apple products. Whether it’s an upgrade or a downgrade you’re making money, and you end up with users that can stay on the platform even if their mobility requirements change.