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Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Next Form Factor for Apple to tackle, or…Ladies and Gentlemen, the Mac micro!

I love my Mac Mini. It fit into my tight budget when I bought it, and it physically fits onto my computer desk without dominating it as a PC tower would. 


So what do I think the next form factor Apple will use for the Mac Mini and other Macs? I believe Apple will look into the compute stick form factor pioneered by Intel.



Screenshot of computer stick in action


The largest element of a computer remains its screen. The other components, such as memory and mass storage, continue to shrink as chip fabrication techniques squeeze more and more computing elements onto ever-smaller squares of silicon. 


Right now, limits to wireless connections between the compute stick and various peripherals, such as a big honking 5 TB hard drive for storing all of Game of Thrones in 4K, limit the usefulness of the compute stick. When someone develops a compute stick whose internal  mass storage is the same cost as a cheap external 1 TB hard drive and can handle a 4k display with no sweat along with the wireless protocols eliminating the need for a rat’s nest of cables in the back; Then you can just plug in one or more of these compute sticks into a display. 


Will a cheap big-screen TV suffice instead of a dedicated computer monitor? Hell, I don’t  know. I don’t have a big-screen TV to test out these ideas. I’ll leave that up to the smart women of the 2020’s and 2030’s. 


Another thing. I don’t believe that the future of computing lies in touching the actual display. Most work at a computer occurs when you sit down some distance from the display. As David Pogue observed, reaching across the table to touch a screen from a sitting position causes chronic pain in your arm and shoulder. 


I will make a prediction, though. The keyboard with its physical keys will be replaced by a touch-surface capable of physical feedback and the ability to reconfigure itself based on immediate need. One moment you use a keyboard to type in text, the next moment you use a touch-board to illustrate a graphic element. The board recognizes your changing needs and  immediately reconfigures itself. 


So look for smart Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern refugee women to develop these technologies. Look for 60+ year-old nerds sitting in their Costco underwear in Canoga Park to write, “See? I was right.”



Thomas Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

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