The Sony W as "furniture"

The following paragraph caught my eye (really, the eye of Google's news alert) in this story on Apple's new G5 iMac design:

"Sony has another desktop, the W series, whose overall design feels more like the iMac. It feels more like modern furniture design than a consumer electronics product. In fact, we have one in our living room. People are always commenting on what a beautiful design it is. When the keyboard is folded up it doesn't really look like a computer."

It's a minor point, but telling. Some thoughts:

  • It doesn't look like like a computer, and that's considered good.
  • It does look like modernist furniture, and that's also considered good.
  • The problems with the iMac are about tangled cables and instability--things that identify it as machine-like.

What this points to me is a recognition that technology's role is continuing to fade into the background and people are starting to desire technology that doesn't advertise itself as such. Not that that's a big revelation, but it's interesting to see how these ideas are appearing as desires.

Posted on September 12, 2004 1:45 PM | 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

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Steve Portigal | September 12, 2004 8:39 PM

Mike, I think the genius behind the W was that it tries to the address the what-room-does-this-device-go-in question. This was a prominent topic of an extensive product design/research/strategy project I was involved in a few years ago. We drew heavily from Goffman's "front stage" and "back stage" work as applied to the house (that sounds incredibly pretentious but I'm just citing it that way so no one thinks I'm claiming to have invented this myself) - there are private areas that can be messy that don't suit guests, and in most homes the PC is there. Things that go front stage (big screen TVs, couches) have to be well-mannered enough to support that. Right now, computers attract a lot of debris - manuals, parts, stacks of CDs, cables, accessories, etc. and that necessarily puts them them backstage. Although the computer armoire - furniture that surrounds the computer and hides it and all its evils - is a common workaround.

I was so struck by the Sony product because they seemed to really understand that. They didn't solve all the problems, but they at least SPOKE to the issues, which is more than I've seen most computer manufacturers do...


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