Did PC makers copycat the MacBook Air and Pro?

A San Francisco-based creative director and design consultant looks at PC notebooks before and after Apple introduced the MacBook Air. Looks familiar.

According to blog post by Sebastiaan de With, it's easy to tell which company is the market leader. The industrial design starts looking the same.

How do you know someone’s the market leader? When this happens. It’s not just phones. Or tablets. Or TV remotes. Seeing this Macbook Air/iPad hybrid by Samsung this morning motivated me to make this quick collage.

Before the MacBook Air, laptops came in a variety of colors with plastic frames and enclosures. Afterwards, the lot appear to have aluminum or titanium frames with black keys and a large trackpad.

Of course, PC makers have put all their designs on a diet. With designs trying to get thinner and thinner, the designs will tend towards ubiquity, certainly of sillouette, such as the new "lighter-than-MacBook-Air" Gigabyte X11 .

This isn't Apple's first influential laptop design. I would point to the PowerBook 500 series, code-named Blackbird, which was introduced in 1994 and was really the first true desktop replacement. It was the first laptop to have a built-in Ethernet port (as well as an AppleTalk port), stereo sound, a trackpad and an internal expansion bay. It also came with a color screen, support for PC Cards, and a keyboard with function keys. I have one of them in some box in a storage locker. A fantastic machine.

I remember seeing the Blackbird, as well as the later code-name Lombard enclosure (the 1999 PowerBook G3) used as a prop in a number of movies, often sci-fi genre flicks. These are striking machines.


However, unlike what has happened with the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, the industrial design of these PowerBook machines weren't copied widely. It was the checklist of features and specifications that were copied. Apple wasn't the industry leader back then.


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