John linked to an interesting story in the Financial Times about personal electronics and the “beauty zone.” The author, Peter Martin, argues that with mobile phones appearance has become as important as functionality. He wonders, though, why that hasn’t happened with PDAs and computers. Personally, I think this guy is a little too dismissive of the steps Apple‘s made in this direction. For example, if you walk down Tottenham Court Road in London on any Sunday afternoon, you’ll discover a crowd – yes, a crowd – of people standing outside the Micro Anvika drooling over Titanium iBooks and Power Mac G4 Cubes with 15-inch flatscreen cinema displays. Computers are more beautiful now than they ever have been before. With any complex mass-produced item, the first versions are always the clunkiest and ugliest (the Model T Ford, the early telephones and televisions, the first radios). Mobiles have had an accelerated pace of aesthetic development because they’re A) relatively cheap and B) show-offable. I mean, when you whip out brushed steel Nokia the size of a matchbox on the Tube, people notice. How many people ever see my iMac? Pretty much just me and Snookums. She’s still damn beautiful though.


Add yours →

  1. I think you’re right that part of this is that it’s much easier to make a fashion statement with something you can carry with you. We’re starting to see PDAs follow the mobile phone trend, for much the same reasons.

  2. I was just discussing this further with Snookums at lunch. He figures another reason computers are lagging behind on the “beauty trend” is simply that they become obsolete so quickly. What looks cutting edge today could very well look ridiculously primitive in just a few short years. He also pointed out that mobile phones are pretty much ONLY about the appearance these days. Any advert that you see for one mentions the battery life, the number of fascias you get, and a hands-free kit. You’re lucky if you get any technical specifications at all beyond a few buzz words (WAP, etc).

  3. Another point is that it’s cheaper to discard your newly-unfashionable mobile phone costing under £100 than it is a desktop or laptop PC that cost the thick end of £1,000.

    If domestic computer leasing ever took off then perhaps we’d feel better about discarding an unfashionable design after a couple of years. (Of course, the PC makers would like to persuade us to scrap them after a couple of years anyway due to technical obsolescence, but that’s another story.)

Comments are closed.