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Three Ideas for Apple Designers

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As our gadgets get impossibly slim, maybe it's time to take a step back.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Over the past 20 years, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has set the design standard for the PC and gadget markets with its revolutionary ideas about the shapes and sizes of the technology we use. The iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone have all been massive successes and have evolved to the point of unrecognizability; of those three series, only the current iPhone still looks anything like its original version.

This evolution may have reached its apex with the newest iMac, which is set to be released on Friday. The desktop's ultra-slim profile, its axing of the so-last-century optical drive, and its elimination of almost everything that is not the display are perhaps the last things Apple can do toward its design goal of making everything smaller, thinner, and faster.

But that wasn't always Apple's approach, and some critics have of late been less enthusiastic about the head-down, full-steam-ahead drive towards a slimmer and more streamlined product. After all, Apple was once the company whose designs elicited more joy than reverence, more curiosity than comfort.

Remember the first time you saw an iPod? Sure, its size was impressive compared to the clunky MP3 players it was replacing, but its pure weirdness and otherness were its main draws. It's no secret that the body of the character Eve from Pixar's WALL•E was based on Apple products: Sleek and contoured, sure, but ultimately rounded, curved, and lovable.

So now that Apple has perhaps hit the limits of what it can feasibly remove from its products, where do its famed designers go from here? I, with my extensive design experience (I once built a refrigerator with a mirror in the back so you can see all the stuff that gets stuck behind big things -- seriously, I did, and I didn't even win the Invention Convention!), have a couple of ideas.

Work on the Cooling Problem.

Since Apple's devices have become more powerful, they've run into major overheating problems. Ever worked with a MacBook Pro on your lap for any length of time? After an hour or so, your thighs start to resemble twin pork roasts and you will smell the glorious smell of singed Levis. Apple's engineers, though, have been less than forthcoming with solutions, essentially telling their customers to deal with the problem on their own (perhaps by buying those weird cooling lap-desks).

As all our devices become increasingly mobile and increasingly powerful, battery design has got to be a concern for Apple. How do you power something like an iPhone 5 for any length of time without generating an enormous amount of heat? It may be time to re-think the classic lithium-ion model that has improved but not changed since we first stuck them in our iPods more than a decade ago. The idea of wireless power, once only great for impressing dopes like me, should drive the engineers towards weird and wonderful new ways for our devices to consume energy.
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