More than meets the eye

Apple's colourful new iMacs look as good as they work and that's no accident, says Billy MacInnes

22 April 2021

Everyone agrees that the most significant aspect of Apple’s product announcements at its ‘Spring Loaded’ event this month (20 April) was the introduction of the company’s M1 processor across the desktop iMac computer range and the iPad Pro.

Apple had already replaced Intel processors with M1 in its MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini products back in November 2020. Speaking at Spring Loaded, CEO Tim Cook revealed the M1 models were already outselling its Intel-based computers.

The M1 is faster than the Intel processors it replaces in the iMac and it allows the consolidation of the logic board and thermals, reducing the thickness of the machine to 11.5mm.




There are plenty of other technical details which I won’t go into here. Instead, I want to focus on something that didn’t generate quite as much attention even though it was far more visible. I’m talking about the decision to introduce a choice of seven colours to the iMac range.

To date, the iMac has been predominantly silver with black edging around the screen. The new design comes in blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple and silver.

So what you might ask? After all, Apple did something similar with the introduction of the iMac G3 back in 1998. Initially released in one colour, Bondi Blue, across the lifetime of the iMac G3 the palette ranged across 13 colours by the time it was discontinued in 2003.

Since then, Apple has avoided providing colour choices for its desktop machines, although it does offer a very limited range with some its laptops and the option of six different colours for most of its smartphones.

So, aside from a period of just under five years at the turn of the century, there isn’t really a longstanding company tradition of colour choices that Apple has now opted to extend to its desktop computers.

The obvious rationale for making the M1-based iMac more colourful is that it is viewed as a computer aimed at the consumer market. The assumption is that unlike the serious people who use a computer at work, their frivolous counterparts at home are more likely to make buying decisions based on fripperies such as colour.

The only problem with this way of thinking is that, in nearly all cases, the serious workers and frivolous consumers are the same people. It’s true, however, that the vast majority of people have been able to maintain a double life where the two parts of their identity are always separate.

But things have become much more interesting with the wholesale adoption of remote working during the pandemic. Many people are having to maintain their serious personas in the place that they usually associate with their more easygoing selves. And while employers have allowed them to work from home by necessity, they are still keen to reinforce the strictures and discipline of office working on their employees. Understandably so.

But here’s the thing. A home is not a corporate office. Functional computers might not attract much attention in the office environment but they look ugly and incongruous in someone’s kitchen, bedroom or study.

Which begs the question: what if employers were able to source desktop computers for their employees functional enough to meet their daily office tasks but designed to integrate more comfortably into their home environment? If the choice between computers was in the balance, would the fact one was more aesthetically pleasing and had an eye-catching colour design that better matched your home give it the edge?

I don’t know whether that’s what drove the introduction of colours to the iMac range, but I don’t think it can’t hurt. I’m guessing that the colours Apple has introduced have been tested and defined in terms of what is most attractive and practical for people to have in their homes.

For people working from home, the message is that your home office doesn’t have to be as white, antiseptic and soulless as the place you went to work every day before the pandemic. Unless you want it to be.

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