Finally, all features and components had to earn their way in or out according to practical value added. If something new to this class of computers was added, contribution to users' productivity had to exceed its incremental cost many fold. When we removed something to lower weight or size, or to free up space for something we added, what we took out could not reduce productivity. That’s not to say that we weren't willing to challenge the expectations that users apply based on prevailing notebooks. Just running down the laundry list of our notebooks' specifications will have readers shaking their heads and chuckling. Every feature added or left out is supported by a solid rationale. You may not agree with it, but you'll see that our decisions got some careful thought.
To get to perfect, start with exceptional
Now that you understand we imposed realistic limitations on our design, the stage is set to introduce the most perfect portable device that will never be built. We set as a goal the creation of a single converged device that satisfies all of a business traveler’s needs, eliminating the cost and inconvenience of a separate phone, PDA, and media player while executing the functions of all of these nearly as well as a discrete device.
We dubbed our systems WorldBook, in part as an homage to Apple designs that incorporate envelope-pushing innovation and exceptional build quality, and because no one on InfoWorld's design team had the marketing expertise to cook up a better name.
Our designs are rooted in a cross-breeding of Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. We like MacBook Air's skinny profile and low weight, but we also like MacBook Pro's screen size and the night-and-day contrast in user experience offered by MacBook Pro's discrete graphics processing unit (GPU). We decided to split the difference with a machine that drops the built-in optical drive for reasons explained below, adopts MacBook Air's flat battery pack (ours is user-replaceable with four screws and carries a three-year warranty), and employs an AMD/ATI hybrid GPU with 256MB or 512MB of video RAM.
Like that of the MacBook Air, the WorldBooks' case is domed, a shape that is inherently crush-resistant. Our notebook also has no display latch. MacBook Air’s lid uses magnets to keep the unit closed, and a bead of rubber around the perimeter of the display forms a continuous seal between the lid and the keyboard surface. The display will not bow in the center over time the way MacBook Pro's display does, with its flat lid and rubber pads. The MacBook Pro's domed form is easy to carry without a bag, and it slides easily between items when you do use a bag.
The thin, domed, clamshell-like design spurred a lot of lively debate over must-have peripherals versus those that can be attached externally. The simplest delineation is the one that Apple used: Whatever you normally use on a plane is built into the notebook. Whatever you use at your desk is an accessory. The slim clamshell design also requires doing away with tall ports and peripherals. Even a slimline, slot-fed optical drive is too tall to build into a domed chassis, and given optical drives' heavy power draw and high failure rate, it didn't take much convincing to leave it out.
We were sorely tempted to eliminate the RJ-45 Ethernet port from both models. An RJ-45 necessitates carving a maw into a streamlined case, and a USB-to-Ethernet adapter makes a simple and inexpensive substitute. In the end, we compromised, omitting the RJ-45 from the ultra-mobile Ether (for the sake of an additional USB port) but leaving it in the desktop-replacement Meteor.