Johnathan Ive is head designer at Apple and is responsible for making the companies products into the covetable and much applauded objects they are today.
Ive claims that the secret to Apple’s success is that Apple leaves imagining the successful products of the future in the hands of the designer – the specialist who spends time researching what new possibilities are – rather than focus groups who can only give limited feedback.
Ive has claimed that other companies falter by releasing new products only to sell units – and not to provide genuinely better experiences for their customers. He’s been criticized for this – some say it’s a ludicrous thing to suggest about a company that has ironclad design patents on much of its most interesting technologies.
In 2010 Apple was granted a unique patent for the unibody design on the Macbook pro. The unibody design essentially meant that the laptop was made from one single piece of aluminium. This innovation ensured that the design was extremely light and extremely portable. The Macbook still carries the kind of top-spec features which make it difficult for other companies to sell netbook units.
The body of the 2008 Macbook Air design was no thicker than 0.78 inches when the laptop was closed – a pretty impressive feat! From 2009 onwards, all Macbooks carried the unibody design. Unibody Macbook Pros are regarded as the sturdiest laptops around – perfect if you use your laptop every day of the week and travel constantly.
The new Retina design has done away with even the scant trimmings on the unibody Macbook Pro. There’s no sleep light, no power button (it’s where the disc eject button would be – if there was a disc drive).
The edges have been smoothed down so it’s more comfortable on your wrists for typing. The lights were a huge innovation in themselves – seeming to disappear when they weren’t on and looking undetectable on the surface of the laptop.
However, even Apple can’t produce designs that are consistently original and without precedent. Steve Jobs was a huge admirer of Braun designer Dieter Rams and some of the interfaces that Rams designed, Jobs incorporated into Apple products.
Samsung are beginning to offer top-drawer functionality, no doubt lent by their open source Android OS and all the possibilities latent for coders, hackers and makers with such a device. They may never be able to compete with the design standard that Apple has set, but they are legitimate competitors, especially in the mobile and tablet markets.