Design of the Power Mac G5
Friday, August 01, 2003 11:03 AM

I try to keep these entries strictly programming-related, but I can't resist commenting on the design of the new Power Mac. This is not a machine I would describe as "beautiful", unlike pretty much any other machine or peripheral Apple has produced in recent memory. I would describe it as impersonal, brutal, utilitarian. Especially after seeing pictures that aren't as varnished as the ones at apple.com.

Just admit it. It's not pretty. And yet, I still want one, and you probably do too.

The Power Mac G5 is to Apple what the Enzo is to Ferrari. The Ferrari Enzo is a distinctly un-beautiful car; all angles and protrusions, with none of the sensuality that Ferrari--and Italian design in general--is known for. Yet this is the most expensive Ferrari in history, and the one model to bear the first name of their founder.

Unsurprisingly, the Enzo's appearance was roundly criticized by the automotive press... but they all sang a different tune once they finally got a chance to get behind the wheel. The Enzo was designed to be a no-compromises performance machine, and that meant the design was dictated purely by the wind tunnel, not the eye of the beholder. Once you come to grips with that fact, it's not hard to see a different kind of beauty in this street-legal race car: an intense sense of purpose, an unswerving dedication to function over form. You don't need to look at the spec sheet to know this is the most powerful roadgoing Ferrari ever--it's spelled out for you in carbon fiber.

And so it is with the Power Mac G5. This is the first Apple in years that can run with the best Intel desktops. While I personally don't believe the benchmark numbers Apple has posted on their site, there is no doubt that it is a seriously fast computer. And thus, the big-metal-cage-o'-fans look works. "The better to cool my monstrous Power4-derived processors with, my dear."

The Enzo was designed by the wind tunnel; the Power Mac G5 is a wind tunnel. Impersonal, brutal, utilitarian... and very, very desirable.

Of course, I could be way off base. Maybe Ive and his band of elite designers actually think the G5 case is beautiful in the same way previous Macs have been. But I kind of doubt it.

(By the way, today's hot Mac comes with dual processors derived from the Power4, requires nine cooling fans, runs a UNIX-like operating system, and comes in a box that looks like a 4U rackmount. Do they still show that friendly, smiling Mac icon when the OS boots up? If so, they should change it to a pitbull.)