Why has no one matched the Apple “iForDesign”?

The iPad Air.

In all its Californian glory.
In all its Californian glory.

No, I don’t own one. Never will. I avoid Apple products with the exception of my very old 2008 iPod Classic which needs a replacement and fast (thinking of upgrading from a 80gb to a 160 gb). I’m not an Android guy or a Windows guy. I’m not even a Linux guy. I’m a guy who will use the right tools to get the job done. And in my work and life, that leaves little room for Apple beyond blaring my MP3 collection back into my eardrums.

But Apple’s got that knack, a certain… iForDesign. You want to see how you do thin and light? It’s a safe bet that Apple will make it first. The iPad Air is, at a hardware and software level, a relatively iterative update on what came before. The hardware, new 64 bit chip aside, is very similar to the last generation. But Apple won again in the design department, and that will drive sales, because we consumers want our stuff to be shiny and pretty. If you look at the iPad Air and the iPad Mini with Retina Display, they are sleek. Elegant. Dare I say… sexy! I may not buy one myself, but you know who will? A lot of other people. Apple’s design-chic has improved considerably since their hardware debut with the Apple I. They have made the prettiest phones and tablets since 2007. Their MacBook Airs are STILL svelte and gorgeous, and while companies like Acer, Asus, and Sony have been able to more or less come up with their own brands of iForDesign in the ultrabook field, nobody has yet matched Apple on the tablet front.

Samsung makes a good tablet. So does Asus, Lenovo, Acer, Microsoft, Sony, Kobo, Amazon, and (schizophrenically) Barnes and Noble. Making a good tablet is easier than it’s ever been. The hardware know how is readily available, and so is the hardware. But none of these companies have come close to matching the sexiness of something like the iPad Air.

Every one of those companies has come up with a unique take on the tablet visual identity: Lenovo is coming out with a brilliant take on a Yoga Android tablet (it’s actually pretty cool to watch that kickstand in action), Microsoft has found a wonderful post-industrial design for the Surface line, the Nook Tablets were unmistakable, and Acer’s Iconia line developed into something unique and ALMOST Apple-esque. Samsung’s “Designed by Nature” design language used in the Galaxy S3 phone and same gen tablets was gorgeous and just felt right.

My favorite was, once again, Sony. They had a good thing going with that “Folded Magazine” design language on the Tablet S.

"Flat" and "uninspired" are two words I would never apply to this design.
“Flat” and “uninspired” are two words I would never apply to this design.

They refined the design further with the Xperia Tablet S, which shed unnecessary bulk and made the whole experience much more slim and trim. This, it seemed, was the moment when Sony had finally found something that worked. Something that made their product stand out amidst the hordes.

Sony's could-have-been future template, the Xperia Tablet S/
Sony’s could-have-been future template, the Xperia Tablet S.

I thought those were brilliant and I was heartbroken to see such unique designs thrown off the field, because in a world starved for Art, Sony had come up with a unique artistic flourish that set them apart from the competition, served a functional purpose (it made their large tablets easier to hold in one hand by redistributing weight), it attracted the right kinds of stares, and it was painful to watch Sony discard something so unique and useful in favor of their latest design, the Xperia Tablet Z, which is… well… a slab.

Truly, something original for the tablet market.
Truly, something original for the tablet market.

If you walk down the sidewalk with an iPad, people see it, and they KNOW it. “THAT,” they say to themselves, “Is an iPad!”

Likewise, if you walk down the street with a Sony Tablet S or an Xperia Tablet S, they will at least ask what it is, because Sony came up with an attractive and stand out design. They ask about my Vaio Duo ALL THE TIME… and it’s only a tablet half the time.

Try walking down the street with an Xperia Tablet Z. See if anyone inquires or indeed even notices that black slab in your hands. It blends in. It’s unremarkable, aside from how skinny it is. Sony has at least that same eye for slimness as Apple does.

The same goes for the competition: black, white, and silver slabs– all useful and functional, but little to no “iForDesign”. It’s a little sad, because many of these same companies are more than willing to apply such an aesthetic to their ultrabooks and laptops. It is only in tablets and sometimes phones that this neglect shows. I don’t want a nondescript SLAB. I want something unique and personal.

Maybe that’s the reason I am looking forward to the Nokia Lumia 2520 Windows RT Tablet.

Take a guess which colors I’m NOT considering…


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