Commentary

The Direction of Computers: Size Matters

Dale Herigstad, CCO of Schematic, Inc. was a guest speaker on campus a couple nights ago. His presentation was interesting, but his main points aren’t what really resonated with me. Sure, I can regurgitate the info on the slides, but it was really a passing phrase that got me.

“Small is beautiful.”

He was talking about cell phones and how amazed people are with full web access on a device smaller than a checkbook. Indeed, it’s amazing. I think the amazement wears off after a bit…but it’s still amazing.

He also mentioned that desktop monitors are getting larger to give the user a more immersive experience. Apple’s smallest iMac screen is now 21.5”. The largest is 27”—that’s bigger than my TV… The home computer is becoming a gaming console, a home theater…It’s replacing the television for some people. With a Netflix subscription and an internet connection, who needs cable? I can watch Grey’s on ABC’s app (I only wish Fox would follow their lead.).

It’s this dichotomy that interests me: Small is getting smaller. Big is getting bigger.

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What’s most interesting to me is the counter question: Why? Bigger screens pull the user in. I get that. But why are we making screens smaller? Why are we making laptops more portable? Are they too large now? I don’t feel inconvenienced by my 15” MBP. I’ve never thought, “ugh, this is just. too. heavy.”

Apple unveiled two new MacBook Airs yesterday—the smallest is a mere 2.3lbs. Why do we need a computer to be so lightweight? Don’t get me wrong, I’m very impressed with the new computers. But again…why? Why are we impressed with a computer with no CD drive? Why are we drooling over computers that use the same kind of flash memory that we can find in our iOS devices? Why are we praising Apple for rolling out (in my eyes) a more functional iPad?

And what direction are we headed? I wish I knew the strategic plan for this stuff. Is the goal to eliminate laptops altogether? I don’t think I’d question any of it if I hadn’t bought an iPad a couple months ago. It didn’t matter to me before that.

At $999, the MacBook Air doesn’t seem to be bridging any gaps for the consumer, either—especially when the consumer must buy an $80 external CD drive for the computer. I could buy a MacBook for $999 that fulfills the same need. If you ask me, the MacBook Air needed to start at $799. That carries with it the implication that there shouldn’t be 6 different iPad models—I think three is sufficient: 1 Wi-Fi model @ $499, 2 Wi-Fi+3G models @ $599 and $699. That would make a pretty nice tier up to the MacBook Air @ $799 and $899.

Do I know more about marketing than anyone at Apple? Nope. But I’m the consumer. I’m the one spending the money on these products. So the next time I’m shopping for a laptop, size truly won’t matter. It’s all in how you use it!

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