37Signals – Holding the future in your hand

apple-logo6 A recent post over at the 37Signals blog by David about how new products from Apple make you feel like you are holding the future in your hands, reminded me of some of the thoughts I have had over the past year or so since I bought my first iPod.  David accurately explains:

Apple has an uncanny ability to infuse their products with that nebulous sense of futurism. When I first held the iPhone, the one word that immediately came to mind was just that: This is the future. It’s that unadorned look, the nobody-else-is-doing-just-this feeling.

When my MacBook Air arrived this morning, I felt exactly the same thing. Even the packaging feels future. It’s so tiny. It doesn’t look like any other packaging out there. The box opens as a board game and it’s really solid and sturdy.

David (DHH) purchased a new Apple MacBook Air and he explains the experience of working with the Air for the first time, equating it to seeing how other companies products will be influenced by what Apple creates. 

The machine itself is without a doubt the prettiest laptop I’ve ever seen. The proportions feel so right. Impossibly thin, lighter than the ~3 pounds would lead you to believe. And yet it’s a full-blown computer with no sacrifices in the interaction. The keyboard is a slight bit more klackity-click than the new standalones, but still awesome. The screen is very bright and instantly at full strength (go LEDs).

I have to agree 100% with David, Apple is the marquis product company, creating great products which will be imitated and duplicated by others.  Apple has really been the leader in the business of creating unique product designs since the early days of the Mac.  It has always been clear when looking at an Apple product that it was an Apple product.

Shouldn’t companies creating the next car, laptop or piece of software strive to have the same reaction to their product as David has with his new MacBook Air?  I don’t think we spend enough time working out the small details, we are too often pressured to just get the product out-the-door.

Why aren’t other companies as design innovative?  I think this is part of the culture bestowed in a company by its founders.  Steve Jobs is a master designer, influencing great designs by thinking out-of-the-box and not imitating other companies.  I am pretty sure Steve’s team of hardware designers are picked based on a criteria that is a reflection of Steve himself. 

Apple is not alone with great design and usability.  37Signals is also, in my opinion, one of these companies with their well-thought-out products Basecamp, Highrise and Campfire.

I own an iPod, an iPhone and a MacBook Pro but I am not an Apple fanboy.  I don’t buy Apple products the day they come out just because it is an Apple product.  I own a Dell D820 laptop as well as an older Toshiba laptop, neither design comes even close to the elegance of the MacBook Pro.  

The future products from companies like Dell and Toshiba will have design in them from what Apple does with the MacBook Pro and the Air.  We will see thinner and lighter sub-notebooks like the Air from these companies.  The iPhone will lead to better phones from other companies such as Verizon, who already has a touch-screen device.

I am not shouting the praises of Apple as if Apple is the only company but pointing out how the great innovation coming from Apple leads to great products from other companies, hence we see the future when we look at products from the design leader.   We should all take this as an example and attempt to build better software, hardware or whatever we build, thinking out-of-the-box.

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