Steve Jobs passed away earlier this week, and for all the flak I give Apple for items like the iPad, iTunes, and the iPhone, I can’t deny Apple’s place in my life and in my heart. Believe it or not, there are actually some Apple products that I like, have owned, and genuinely wouldn’t mind having. So, Steve, this one’s for you.
Honorable Mention. Appleworks
Known today as iWork, Appleworks was Apple’s answer to Microsoft Office as well as Microsoft Works, and it gave both of them a run for their money. It had far and away the best word processor I’ve ever worked with. I’m more familiar with its classic incarnation than its new style, but the omissions are more than made up for by what it offers in their place. Powerpoint may well be the best presentation software from a technical standpoint, but Keynote is a close second and offering a far more reasonable price point, plus it’s far more user-friendly and intuitive than OpenOffice.org’s Impress.
5. G4 Cube
Amidst the dull towers of Windows-based desktops and the goofy silicon heaps of iMacs, the G4 Cube rose up like a monolith and almost single-handedly re-wrote the rules for desktops. Taking a cue from its big brother, the NeXTcube, the G4 Cube not only made desktop towers more accommodating in terms of size and weight, but also made them fashionable. Usually, a tower is placed on the floor under a desk or immediately beside it like a dog. If towers ever got placed on a desk, it was tucked behind the monitor. The Cube, meanwhile, was not only small and lightweight enough to sit on top of a desk without any real problems, but it was also whisper-quiet so as not to add to the noise of an office space. In terms of design, it is quite literally a work of art; the Museum of Modern Art showcased an unmodified model complete with peripherals. It’s really a shame the sales were so poor, and I really wish more desktops were designed as cubes.
4. iPod Nano (5th Gen.)
It really seems like Apple, following OSX, has been violently opposed toward people using their products creatively, at least not without throwing down a thousand dollars for Final Cut Pro. IPods by definition are media consumption devices, not meant for productivity on any level (except maybe for DJ’s, but that requires additional hardware from third party manufacturers). However, with the 5th generation of the iPod Nano, Apple threw in not only a camera, but effects filters as well. In addition to the typical ones like monochrome, Apple threw in one that simulates the POV of the Terminator himself. Now that’s the geeky kind of cool we expect from the original bad boys of personal computing.
Originally, I was going to put something like the original Quadra (the computer Myst was originally developed on) or one of the early PowerMacs, but after some thought, I realized I wasn’t giving Apple its due credit in a very important area of personal computing.
Apple has never made a bad laptop.
I’d almost completely forgotten about the countless hours I spent playing Marathon and Marathon 2 on my dad’s Powerbook. It was powerful and equally well-built. Even the Macbook Air has some great design elements; I like that it uses flash memory, giving it essentially few or no moving parts, an indispensable feature for any portable device.
2. Mac mini
This characterizes Apple’s philosophy and attitude better than any other product in their lineup, for better or for worse. When the Mac mini was first introduced, sales of Dell computers were at an all-time high, thanks in no small part to a combination of the Home Shopping Network and a starting price point of around 400USD for a reasonably-equipped desktop. Apple’s lowest priced desktop was at least twice that, and couldn’t hold a candle in terms of performance. Put simply, Apple knew they were having trouble justifying their prices, regardless of their craftsmanship and quality of service, and were going to have to make a more budget-friendly computer. However, Apple is rarely one to give in, play nice, and follow the rules, so not only do they make a relatively inexpensive desktop computer, they make it one of the smallest, most compact, and downright cute desktops ever made.
Put simply, I owe my college education to Quicktime Pro. After struggling with some really annoying quirks in iMovie and not being able to afford Final Cut, I found out that Quicktime Pro was a surprisingly powerful editor for the price. Most people don’t give it much credit for this, mostly because of the popularity of iMovie as well as the fact that nearly all editing functions of Quicktime Pro are handled through key commands, making it more like a kind of visual word processor than a non-linear video editor. It’s only fault was not being able to actually capture footage from a camera, but that was only a problem if you were still using tapes and used FireWire for uploads. I had another editor that came free with a capture card, so I had that problem sorted from the start, leaving nothing between me and my short films. Every single one of them (except for one, which marked the last time I ever used iMovie) was edited using Quicktime Pro. The only reason I don’t use it anymore is because I’ve used Windows XP since 2005 with occasional sojourns into the untamed wilderness of Linux, and Quicktime doesn’t play too nice with others outside its comfort zone, even just for playback, which is the real icing on the cake. Still, you can be more than certain if I ever go back to Mac, it won’t feel like I’ve returned home unless Pro is waiting there for me.