Mac mini 6-button remote, Front Row typify Apple’s ‘sophisticated simplicity’ strategy

“[Last] week, Apple introduced a new iPod boom-box and a series of Intel-based Mac Minis,” Michael Greeson writes for Designtechnica. “For the purpose of this essay, let’s forget about whether Apple failed to live up to its own PR. In fact, let’s ignore the PR strategy altogether and focus on one of the product announcements: the new Mac Minis. There are a couple interesting features that (while not necessarily spin worthy) may provide a glimpse into how Apple is planning to approach the digital living room.”

“There are two interesting features that serve to distinguish the Mac Mini from other media center PCs. For one, the remote control is very unique. Second, the Front Row/Bonjour software package may be the first to actually deliver on the promise of plug-and-play for digital media. This essay will focus on the remote control. Yes, it is the software package that enables the remote’s simplicity, but the design of the remote deserves special attention,” Greeson writes. “The Mac Mini remote control only has six buttons and looks similar to an iPod but without the viewing screen. Let me repeat that just in case you missed it the first time: the remote control has only six buttons and it looks similar to an iPod. Unlike other MCPC vendors and the CE community in general, Apple seems to think that six buttons and a killer graphical interface are enough to enable consumers to easily access and control their digital media. Avoid adding buttons to a remote control even though we can? Brilliant! As Ockham’s Razor (also known as the principle of parsimony) reminds us, given a choice between two equally valid explanations, the simpler of the two is preferred. This principle applies equally well to architecture and product design, although it may seem foreign to most CE designers.”

“Apple’s remote control is yet another example of the company’s emphasis on designing elegant, easy-to-use solutions,” Greeson writes. “In this not-so-distant future, I see Apple introducing a variety of digital home media designs based on the ‘sophisticated simplicity’ strategy, most of them wrapped in Apple’s minimalist hardware with warm blue backlighting and easy-to-use interfaces… I see a rush of copy-cat platforms pushed into the retail channel but months too late to head off Apple’s digital living room push. I see CE stalwarts like Sony and Matsushita, along side PC OEMS like HP and Dell, explaining to share holders why they didn’t think of these things first. I see all this in a 6-button remote control? Profound insights sometimes come in very small package.”

More in the full article here.

Apple’s brand new iPod Hi-Fi speaker system. Home stereo. Reinvented. Available now for $349 with free shipping.
Apple’s new Mac mini. Intel Core, up to 4 times faster. Starting at just $599. Free shipping.
MacBook Pro. The first Mac notebook built upon Intel Core Duo with iLife ’06, Front Row and built-in iSight. Starting at $1999. Free shipping.
iMac. Twice as amazing — Intel Core Duo, iLife ’06, Front Row media experience, Apple Remote, built-in iSight. Starting at $1299. Free shipping.
iPod Radio Remote. Listen to FM radio on your iPod and control everything with a convenient wired remote. Just $49.
iPod. 15,000 songs. 25,000 photos. 150 hours of video. The new iPod. 30GB and 60GB models start at just $299. Free shipping.
Connect iPod to your television set with the iPod AV Cable. Just $19.

Related articles:
Reader report: 1080p 24fps playback on Mac mini Core Duo plays fine – March 03, 2006
Apple’s new Mac mini a HDTV media center in disguise? – March 01, 2006
Apple’s new Mac mini: perfect for HDTV – March 01, 2006
Analyst: Apple’s new Mac mini ‘a good first step into the living room’ – February 28, 2006
Apple introduces new Intel-based Mac mini – February 28, 2006
If Front Row can stream movie trailers from Apple, why not whole movies? – January 06, 2006
Apple’s Front Row software ‘radically simpler form of couch-driven computing’ – November 05, 2005
Apple’s brilliant, deceptively simple Front Row software has a bright future and raises questions – October 28, 2005
Analyst: ‘media companies will call Apple to strike deals, Front Row is Media Center done right’ – October 12, 2005
Apple’s Front Row with Apple Remote and iMac G5: media center done right – October 12, 2005


  1. I’ll just prequote MacDude here, to save him the trouble:

    “I’m sure the remote stinks. I haven’t seen it, but it probably stinks. And Microsoft could have done a lot better. Because they are Gods of Human Interface Design”

  2. Sometimes one forgets how simple and elegant Apple products are.

    I recently became aware of Apple simplicity – when I bought a small audio device from another company. It worked but it was SO clunky. Nothing is logical about the device.

    Apple certain does it right. From Mac Mini – to remotes -to iPods and OS’s – they have the gift of simple and elegant.

  3. I think this guy ‘gets it’ in a really big way. I am now in my mid-40’s, and I am just beginning to notice that my eyes are changing, so reading glasses are on the horizon…

    In the meantime, the remote that came with my current (Sony) home entertainment system has about 30 buttons (even more if you count the ones under the “flip-up” lid), many of which are impossible to read when the room lights are dimmed (let alone if one needs to also don reading glasses to be able to read the 4 pt font on the buttons).

    Having an interface like Front Row to let me use a simpler remote, without having to read it, would be great. And I am positive I am not the only one who feels that way.

    The question is: Will Apple market this as a consumer electronics product? They haven’t done that yet…

  4. Sum Jung

    You almost got it right, except it would have been the superior collaborative research of Microsoft and BOSE that created the better media remote.

    MacDude knows and trusts BOSE because he is an “audiophile” as he proclaimed recently.

  5. What I don’t like about Apple’s living room strategy so far is that is presupposes the user has a TV in the living room. I cannot be alone in that I have the TV in one room, and the stereo in another. I have an Airport Express to stream music from my computer to my stereo, which is just great, and works just as it should.

    However, if I want to change tracks, etc, I have to go to the computer, which is in a different room. The solution to this, it seems, is *not* to have a TV in my living room, but rather to have a wi-fi enabled remote that has a screen on it.

    I think it could be exactly the iPod nano, but with wifi instead of a hard drive. Then, one would simply access iTunes on the remote mac and browse for music just like we would otherwise browse on the iPod.

  6. If Apple comes out with a device (minimac) which allows me to plug it into the best large HDTV’s and comes with software and a trick remote and no fussing around, so that it just works and records and plays back etc..—-I’m in.

  7. i fell in love with the little remote the moment i picked it up. it’s extremely intuitive, and i think front row has tons of potential for ‘average’ consumers like me. i think this will be a big year for apple as it keeps moving into the ‘digital’ living room. can’t wait for what’s next from apple! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

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