Why Jony Ive’s MacBook Air design never changes

“Apple’s MacBook Air hasn’t been updated since its last redesign in 2010. The question is, why? Granted, Apple doesn’t march to the beat of everyone else’s drum. Still, four years is a long time to wait, especially since in that time, rival laptop manufacturers have moved through several design trends, from small, efficient netbooks, to über thin ultrabooks, and now to hybrid systems that flip, pivot, or detach from their keyboard,” Joel Santo Domingo writes for PC Magazine. “So where does that leave Apple? Why would one of the most innovative technology companies in the world be glacial in redesigning one of its most iconic products? Why would it want the MacBook Air to look… dated?”

“The answer seems pretty simple. The design hasn’t changed because, frankly, it hasn’t needed to. The chassis has plenty of internal room for the system’s motherboard, Flash storage, system memory, and enough battery cells to keep the MacBook Air running well past 10 hours. The 11-inch model is the perfect size for an airline tray table, adding to its appeal for frequent flyers,” Santo Domingo writes. “Don’t be surprised if Apple takes its time before releasing a radically different design for the MacBook Air.”

“This would be par for the course for the company. Case in point: the Apple Mac Pro. The Mac Pro was updated last year, to great fanfare. But the previous iteration had its beginnings with the Apple Power Mac G5, which was a ground-breaking design in 2003. The older model had an anodized aluminum chassis, an etched Apple logo on the side panels, perforated front and back for airflow, and you couldn’t miss the iconic handles on top and bottom of the tower,” Santo Domingo writes. “After three years, Apple totally revamped the interior components, changed some of the ports, left the exterior essentially the same, and came out with the Intel-equipped Mac Pro tower in 2006. Six more years of gradual internal component improvements followed, but the design remained unchanged, because it didn’t need to change (sound familiar?).”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:

If you don’t understand or cannot grasp how perfect Ive’s austere Power Mac G5 design really is, it would be best to just be quiet and not make a fool of yourself.

This single sheet of aluminum, folded and simply cut to reveal functional handles, and wrapped around a gloriously organized interior makes all other personal computer designs, including the Power Mac G3/G4 cases look ham-fisted.

Ive has now matured to the point where his design is simply genius. And genius is often ahead of its time, as is the case here. Pun intended. If you can’t appreciate the quality of the Power Mac G5′s industrial design right now, wait a bit; you’ll catch up sooner or later.SteveJack, MacDailyNews, June 6, 2003


  1. A laptop is a laptop. The basic design has not changed since Apple moved the keyboard back from the front edge to the back edge (to provide the “palm rest” area), and later added a trackpad as the pointing device. The “youngsters” around here probably don’t remember what early laptops looked like before Apple’s PowerBook 100. Apple redefined the external design of laptops, in the same way that most smartphones now look more or less like an iPhone.

    What sets Apple apart is refinement and (obviously) the software. Precisely BECAUSE Apple does not do a massive hardware overhaul every year, like the competition and their feeble attempts to draw attention, Apple can focus on refining the existing design and improving the software.

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t all laptops before first PowerBook have keyboard at the front edge and empty space before the screen hinge?
      After that all manufacturers have adopted that same basic design of hand rest and mouse control in front of keyboard. Anyone patented that design?!

  2. The fork, the hammer, the shovel – these haven’t changed design much in the last few years either. Then again, when a tool has reached the pinnacle of its utility, it’s unnecessary to change merely for the sake of change.

  3. ““The answer seems pretty simple. The design hasn’t changed because, frankly, it hasn’t needed to. The chassis has plenty of internal room for the system’s motherboard, Flash storage, system memory, and enough battery cells to keep the MacBook Air running well past 10 hours.”

    Sorry to be so foul mouthed, but did you really need to incite the name of Jonny Ive to point out that… Apple could ride the MBA design for years on end? It’s about 10mm thick. Trimming the last few millimetres will be ridiculously difficult (and likely not that beneficial).

    Truly pointless ‘article’. No F’n shit. This isn’t even a design clinic, it’s common sense. Forget Jonny Ive, the Apple Janitor could have pointed this one out.

    1. They’re awesome systems. Although I understood why Apple killed PPC support when they released Snow Leopard, it’s still sad that they can’t run anything above Leopard. I have a first generation G5. It’s over ten years old, and still runs perfectly.

  4. The MacBook Air doesn’t need a redesign. Why must Apple change their products just because someone at PC Magazine thinks they should? I’m so glad that Jony Ive makes design decisions on his own timeframe instead of the timeframe of idiot pundits who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to design.

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