The two Johnnies

I was out running errands in the middle of the day, so I only saw the last 15 minutes or so of today’s Apple Event. But it didn’t take long to catch up.

Apple Event logo

Given the pre-event rumors and the graphic in the invitation, I don’t suppose it surprised anyone that colors came back to the iMac. I admit, though, that I was surprised at how bold the colors are, at least on the back sides.

New color iMacs

For over a year, ever since Jony Ive said good-bye, I’ve been waiting for color to return to the iMac. It seemed to me that the spare aluminum iMac, whose fundamental design has been unchanged since 2012, was Jony’s ideal iMac. Oh, I’m sure he would’ve gotten rid of the bulge in the back if it weren’t for the thickness of spinning disks and the need to cool Intel’s chips, but I think he considered the bare aluminum and glass look to be pure and honest. It’s the truest evocation of the materials used to make the device and what he’d been working toward for years. That’s why the 2012 design persisted for so long. Why mess with perfection? And who was left at Apple to tell Jony that it wasn’t perfect?

But now that it’s been a decent interval since he left, Apple’s industrial design can move on. I expect we’ll see colors leak back into several colorless product lines. I’m not sure what we’ll see in the upcoming large iMacs and more powerful MacBook Pros; Apple may still be reluctant to add anything more than anemic pastels to its “pro” line. But the MacBook Air is an obvious target. The first M1 Airs, like the one I’m typing on right now, kept the old look because it was faster and cheaper to do it that way, but I’d be very surprised if the next generation of Airs weren’t at least as colorful as what we saw in today’s small iMacs.

The other big change in the look of today’s iMacs is due primarily to someone who isn’t on the industrial design team: Johny Srouji. The iPad-like look of the new iMac is possible because of the iPad-like chip that drives it. And the size and shape of every Mac that Apple makes from now on is going to be based on parameters set by Johny’s chips. Small, efficient, and cool, those chips are going to set the boundaries within which Evans Hankey and her team will work.

I’m sure Jony is happy with his decision to leave Apple after so many years. But I suspect he sometimes looks down from his pure white realm and thinks about what he could do with Macs if he had Johny’s chips to work with.