Despite the familiarity those in the Macintosh community have with Apple’s innovations and achievements, it often seems that the rest of the world sees Apple as just another computer manufacturer. Two recent events – Apple’s winning of an Emmy award for FireWire and the addition of the Power Mac G4 Cube and other Apple products into the design collection of the Museum of Modern Art – should help show how Apple’s impact spreads well beyond the world of the Macintosh.
FireWire Emmy — The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has bestowed a 2001 Primetime Emmy Award for the significant impact that Apple’s FireWire technology has had on the television industry. FireWire is a high-speed serial interconnect technology used for high data throughput applications such as hard drives and digital video devices. Apple’s efforts in making the 400 Mbps FireWire into a cross-platform industry standard, known as IEEE 1394a, resulted in FireWire becoming the primary method of connecting digital camcorders to both Macs and PCs.
However, other uses for FireWire have been mostly limited to the Macintosh world as the PC industry dithers about USB 2.0, which offers data transfer rates up to 480 Mbps. But USB 2.0 still faces a rocky road: the next version of FireWire, 1394b, promises data transfer rates of up to 800 Mbps (over copper, with 1,600 Mbps over fiber); USB 2.0 hasn’t seen much penetration yet; and last month Agere Systems (formerly the Microelectronics division of Lucent Technologies) announced that it was discontinuing "discrete products that support Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 applications." Agere also announced it would accelerate its product development for 1394b applications while continuing to offer its USB 1.1 and 1394a products.
In short, it appears that FireWire may have the upper hand in the battle with USB 2.0, thanks in large part to the millions of camcorders that already support it and increased emphasis on digital video. Apple deserves credit for its role in bringing the costs of digital video down for professionals and making it easy to use for consumers, and it’s good to see recognition coming from a group like the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
MoMA Cubed — Though the outside world may not acknowledge Apple’s technical and marketing impact (Apple drove widespread adoption of many technologies it didn’t invent, such as the graphical interface, the mouse, the CD-ROM drive, Ethernet, and USB), Apple’s design prowess does receive significantly more credit. And now Apple’s ground-breaking designs – including the sleek Power Mac G4 Cube – have been honored by inclusion in the design collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.
Presaging this move, an early ad for the recently discontinued Cube read, "True, it looks like it belongs in the Museum of Modern Art, but the G4 Cube is actually a supercomputer that belongs right on your desk." Ironically, now that the Cube is in the MoMA, the only way you’ll get one on your desk is to buy it used – even the most elegant design can’t drive sales when it’s targeted at a too-small audience. (Steve Jobs gets our award for one of the best quotes of the year, saying, "It was a wrong concept – fabulously implemented.")
Apple designs have won numerous awards, but selection for the MoMA collection is certainly one of the most prestigious and lends support to the concept that although computers function in a virtual electronic world, their physical instantiations are also important facets of a workplace environment.