Rumor has it that Apple is working on bringing new Mac systems to the table, and that these Macs would be radically new designs and vastly different approaches than what we see in the current Mac Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, and MacBook models.
Each design in Apple's current Mac lineup has its pros and cons. The Mac Pro is highly configurable and the most capable and expandable of all Macs; however, it also is a large and heavy machine that takes a lot of power to run. The iMac is affordable and the easiest to set up of all desktop Macs, but, beyond RAM and CTO options, it is not very configurable. The Mac Mini is great as the cheapest desktop Mac and is small and convenient; however, it lacks power and capacity and is not easily configurable.
Apple has experimented most with its lines of portable devices. In the '90s, Apple initially started with the PowerBook, but eventually developed a second portable "Newton" OS for hand-held devices. The PowerBook had some unique configurations, such as the PowerBook Duo and the original iBook. As for hand-held devices, there was the original MessagePad that eventually peaked with the MessagePad 2000, and the eMate reader.
Apple has so far stuck with this same overall approach in current devices, though instead of the Classic Mac and Newton operating systems we have OS X and iOS. Beyond aesthetics and power improvements, laptops have not changed much generally, with the most radical approach being the MacBook Air. The real advancements came with the evolution of the iPod and touch interfaces to the current iOS devices we see. Apple bridged the touch technology to the Mac with the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse, thus altering the way we use and interact with our Macs, but that is about the extent of the major interface changes.
So with all that in mind, what would be new? Most of the radical design changes I can think of have been tried in the past and are likely not what Apple has in mind, like a sea of Netbook designs when Apple eventually created the iPad. Apple could come up with a fun new enclosure, but would it be a Mac that runs OS X off Intel architecture, an iOS device, or perhaps a blend of the two? One might rightly assume Apple would blend Touch into the device, but would that end with merely tacking on a Magic Trackpad, or would it have a new touch-based input altogether? One thing to keep in mind is Apple's new Thunderbolt technology has the potential to really split a computer system apart, and even make it possible to create a set of smaller low-power devices that can be clustered together as needed for increased computing power.
In terms of any addition to the current Mac lineup, it seems obvious to me that Apple has been missing its basic "Mac" in its hardware options. Right now the Mac Pro is too expensive, and the Mac Mini is a bit too incapable for some people. Additionally, while the iMac is a great machine, requiring the purchase of a display when you might already own one seems a bit unnecessary. Currently, if you would like to keep your own display then the options for a desktop Mac are either a low-end $1,000 Mini or a Mac Pro at a starting price of $2,500. Within this price gap seems to be the best area to insert a new machine.
In my view, the current Mac lineup would be well rounded out with the addition of a desktop system that's smaller in form factor than the Mac Pro, but still retains an upgradeable video card, one or two extra expansion slots, and room for a single optical drive if necessary. Support for two-four upgradable hard drives, with easy access to the drives, RAM, and expansion slots would be ideal. Onto that system tack on Thunderbolt, FireWire, an Ethernet port, and audio jacks, and you're golden, especially if it's priced similarly to Apple's current iMac lineup at $1,000-2,000.
Do you agree with me? Or do you think I'm espousing a classic viewpoint about computer design that would lead Apple down the same road as HP and IBM, both of which eventually sold off their personal computer divisions?
What would you like to see in a line of new Mac designs? Do you think Apple will stick to the classic computer model, or stem into something new?