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.