Form vs Function: Is the New Mac Another G4 Cube?

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I love the aesthetics of this new Mac Pro (desktop) announced at WWDC this week. But I’m mindful of the last time Apple made a non-iMac (pro) computer in an unconventional form factor. That was the G4 Cube. Here’s how that went…

The G4 Cube was only on the market from 2000 to 2001. The cube shape was a throwback to Steve Jobs’ NeXTcube from his company NeXT, which he founded when he was ousted from Apple, and which was acquired by Apple in 1996 when he came back in to rescue the company. Here’s Steve Jobs presenting the gorgeous product at its launch.

The Cube should have been a huge success, as it was designed by Apple designer Sir Jonathan Ive, the design hero/guro that visioneered all those Apple products you currently love. It was even featured at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). It was sexy and ended up being featured in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dark Angel, 24, Ab-Fab and a host of feature films.

Where it failed was in function. There was not enough space in the chassis for full-length cards, it lacked any audio inputs, and did not include a display. And, it was too pricey for consumers, priced $200 higher than the comparable Power Mac G4, which was more expandable due to its more traditionally shaped (yet, still beautiful) chassis. There was also a problem with fine cracking in the clear acrylic casing. With the G4 Cube still in its infancy, Apple did a press release saying the G4 Cube would be put “on ice.”

But it taught Apple a lesson. Form could not be elevated above function. When you look at this new Mac Pro’s specs, you can see the inside guts and function are more robust than any other previous product from Apple, so it has taken function to the max.

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And the form is also as stunning as anything else that’s come from Apple. Here’s the keynote presentation from this week that includes the new Mac Pro.

As a side note, even failed products can lead to successes, as the G4 Cube likely led to the development of the Mac Mini and even Apple TV.

What are your thoughts on innovation, form-vs-function, and the new Apple products announced this week?

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Comments

  1. J. Glenn Kunzler says:

    Loved your comments, sir. I agree – it’s form AND function. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

  2. The struggle is art vs. function in my view. Sometimes we can have something very artistic that just doesn’t work functionally and sometimes as product creators we have to look at the art side of the equation and trust we can show the customer something new and bold. We have to take risks. I applaud Apple for taking a risk, doing something different.

  3. No one was waiting for the Cube Mac to arrive but as an industry professional (animator/director), I welcome the long, overdue desktop. And as a designer I appreciate how radical it looks. Can’t wait to get my hands on one.

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