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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Creative Hubs and Consumer Satellites

Judging from reactions to a certain imminent Apple product, I got the impression some people have a strange or incomplete understanding of their product line-up and target markets. The most useful and interesting way to break down their range isn’t into mobile/non-mobile devices or pro/consumer, but hubs and satellites. Apple themselves do this, judging from their online store (the iPad’s going to need space on that top row):

Apple online store product arrangement

Creative hubs are intended to be a user’s main machine(s), allowing you to create documents/images/videos/code/games/whatever using whatever software suits you. They’re fully-equipped with ports, storage, memory and drivers.

Consumer satellites are simplified devices focussed on consuming media and communicating. Both hardware and software are stripped down to the minimum requirements for a good user experience, and users have less freedom to tinker (whether you like that or not, it's been the norm for games consoles, DVD players, etc.). Devices are generally intended to be sync’d with a hub for adding content and ensuring there’s always a recent back-up.

When the product range is viewed this way, it clarifies (and, in some cases, justifies) Apple’s design choices and restrictions. It also poses an intriguing question: is there a viable middle-ground niche that would disrupt this clear categorisation? Could Apple sell an ‘iPad Pro’ with extra features (e.g. USB port, SD card slot, camera, multi-user support, cloud backups, drivers for printers and file systems etc.), creating something that can be a user’s main machine but still has the simplicity and limitations of a consumer device?


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