How Far Can Apple Take A Laptop?

by James R. Stoup Nov 03, 2008

Recentliy I had a chance to toy with Apple's latest 15" MacBook and let me say that I was suitably dazzled. The new track/click pad works amazingly well and is definatley the "next big thing" in laptops. Expect some variation on it from Dell, HP, Sony et al in the coming year. And let me tell you, its really an idea worth stealing. I can't imagine how it could get any better, and that is what got me thinking, where do we go from here?

An Apple laptop these days has a motion sensor, built-in camera and now an amazing clicky touchpad so what else can they do to them? Make them thinner? Done. Faster? Done. Lighter, brighter and tougher? (sorry, I couldn't think of another -ighter word) After all, you can only do so much. So what else can be done?

If you boil a laptop down to its most basic elements it is a keyboard, an input device (trackpad, trackball or tracknub) and a screen. So, right away you see that no matter what you do you are still left with a set of very rigid design constraints. The overall shape is dependant on the screen size, you have to have a keyboard for rapid text entry and a trackpad has now become mandatory. So even though there are ways the device can be improved (better specs, nicer camera, sturdier construction) there isn't really a way to fundamentally change what a laptop is.

Change it too much (for instance, if you remove the keyboard) then you don't really have a laptop anymore, instead you've created some kind of smaller, mobile device. And said device might be quite impressive, but it no longer fullfills the requirements a laptop is meant to satisfy. All of this makes me wonder what else Apple can do to push the boundries of their best selling computers.

Because their competitors are slowly catching up and I can't help but think that given enough time Apple will run out of ways to improve such a classic design.

What do you think? What else could Apple do?


  • A Laptop is a Laptop is a Laptop.

    The basic external design elements are already there.  There is not much anyone can do about it. 

    Apple has been the best at refining the definition and design of what a laptop is.  Its current designs are the best I have seen in a laptop.  It is a refinement of everything external.

    The only thing you can really do with it is to keep upgrading the features as technology progresses: higher resolution, brighter screen; better keyboard and trackpad; lighter, more rigid and durable case, higher resolution camera; better microphone technology; better ports; etc.

    You can argue that the current Apple line is the pinnacle of external laptop design.

    But that is all you actually want in external design.

    What will actually change the most is the inside.

    The internal hardware will improve over time.  There will be faster CPUs and GPUs, larger hard drives, etc.  These will allow more complex and potentially more useful software to be developed.  Better connections to peripherals can be developed - such as larger external screens, faster external drives. Better batteries will improve runs times allowing more independence from the wall socket.

    The software will improve - e.g. Snow Leopard and its move to 64-bit data and program structures, more efficient use of parallel processors. With faster CPUs, perhaps true voice interaction can now be done.  Currently, this is at a very primitive level even with CPUs as fast as the current ones we have.

    These all are exciting to me since the possibilities improve.

    Yes, the external laptop looks the same, but more can be done in the future.

    Current computers are SO SLOW.  It is very limiting in what we can do.  Laptops are even slower.  It is maddening how slow the current top-of-the-line Macbook Pros are when it comes to multitasking several programs, starting up programs, etc. 

    I look forward to a much better future with laptops as the hardware improves.  The sky is the limit as far as I can see.  The external design may be look the same but the internals are where all the action will be.

    James Katt had this to say on Nov 03, 2008 Posts: 11
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