Famed French designer Philippe Starck says he's been working on an Apple product to be released in late 2012. What's the mystery project?
Playing coy in a French radio interview, celebrated designer Philippe Starck on Friday primed the salivary glands of Apple fans worldwide with news that he's been working on a "revolutionary" project with Apple that will be out in time for the holiday season.
Don't get too excited yet. At Apple, you'd be hard pressed to find a product that isn't revolutionary.
Apple has applied the term "revolutionary" to more than 30 products and features. For the sake of your own health, do not attempt to recite this list on a single breath: iPad, iPhone, iPod Nano, Final Cut Pro X, iTunes and (separately) the App Store within iTunes, MacBook Pro, iPhone, Magic Mouse, iAd, Grand Central Dispatch, Gatekeeper, VoiceOver, Thunderbolt, Motion, iMovie, PowerBook G4, G4 Cube, AirPort, SuperDrive, GarageBand, Spotlight, iMovie HD 6's "revolutionary new Apple-designed motion themes," iDVD 2, OS X 10.2 (Jaguar), iTools, Smart Playlists in iTunes 3, Rendezvous, PowerMac G5, Aperture, the 30-inch Cinema HD Display, and Xcode.
Wait, there's more: The company's Multi-Touch interface is revolutionary, as is its Apple Display Connector cable. Apple even characterized its plan to supply 23,000 iBooks to Virginia's Henrico County Public Schools in 2001 as a "revolutionary initiative."
Apple appears to be able to make its partners' products revolutionary as well. Its 2008 MacBook bestowed that distinction on the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, which inside a Macbook became "a revolutionary new 3D integrated graphics processor."
It's not hard to see why: Apple itself creates revolutions and leads them, the way the U.S. once feared the Soviet Union was doing in Latin America. (This strange parallel may explain why someone designed a Think Different wallpaper graphic featuring Che Guevara.) Apple's public relations boilerplate describes the company as a source of revolutionary combustion and as a provocateur: "Apple ignited the personal computer revolution with the Apple II..." and "Apple leads the digital music revolution."
So you've working on a revolutionary product, Philippe. Tell us something we didn't know.
And if that's not enough to dampen any expectations, Starck subsequently qualified his claim. In the interview with France Info, he characterized the project as "fairly, if not very, revolutionary," according to Agence France Press.
Fairly revolutionary? At Apple, that's the kind of faint praise reserved for the company's worst flops, like its 2008 circular mouse or its 1996 Pippin game console.
But there's hope. "Very revolutionary" remains on the table as a possibility. On the scale of revolutions, that's up there with the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution. Keep your fingers crossed.
What might Starck's tantalizing, regime-changing product be? Here are seven possibilities.
1. Apple Television
Maybe Starck has been tapped to design the long-rumored Apple television, which should not be confused with Apple TV, a set-top box that's not actually a TV. The fact that people are even speculating about an Apple television is odd, given that a decent flat screen TV is relatively expensive and isn't likely to be replaced very often--unlike Apple's wildly popular iPhone and iPad. As a result, selling TVs doesn't seem like a very good business, at least compared to the markets where Apple is currently active.
But perhaps TVs are now being thought of as home browsers, which has a certain logic since more and more companies are trying to put browsers in TVs. That is to say, TVs are content endpoints and there's value in controlling that endpoint, if only for defensive reasons. Controlling the screen has worked out for Apple on iOS and OS X devices. TV is just another screen, and if you're going to control it, it's better to do so in native hardware than through plug-in hardware.
Apple might be tempted to make its TV a 3D TV. My view of 3D technology for televisions is that it's like ceiling carpet--unnecessary, in other words--but I'm sure someone finds the idea revolutionary.
2. Apple Wireless Dock
Apple has fought cable spaghetti for years. Sooner or later, it will get inductive charging right and we will have a wireless power dock for iOS and OS X devices. Users of iPhones will be able to recharge batteries by placing them on a charging plate. Perhaps such a peripheral would be too small to merit Starck's involvement, but Apple's attitude toward design is that no detail is too small.
3. Apple iPhone 5
Apple may be looking to Starck to give the iPhone 5, expected toward the end of the year, a look that stands out from the rounded rectangle that is the iPhone 4S. There have been reports of a curved glass screen, just the sort of challenge you'd want a talented designer to handle. Or Starck could be enlisted to create click-on designer iPhone enclosures--cases meant to serve as the phone's exterior rather than as partial protective shells. But it's hard to imagine that Apple would knife its third-party case business.
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.