Consume / Create – Apple Products

Following up on my Consume / Create post, I was thinking about Apple’s current product line, and wanted to graph it out.

Apple Products: Consume / Create

At the far left end is the iPod, which is almost an exclusively “consuming” device. I don’t know what kind of content you could create with an iPod. I mean, you could create content, it’s possible, but I don’t want to think that hard about it. Next up is the iPad, which is a cross between a big iPod and big iPhone. You could create written content, but it’s got no camera, and very limited connectivity in the way of input ports. (See Could No Camera Be an iPad Killer? and Parsons’ Students Shrug Off Apple’s iPad. No Camera, No Creativity) The iPad is a new device, so it’s hard know yet where it will fit into the landscape, so I put it before the iPhone. Now the iPhone has a camera, and you can play music on it, and (possibly) shoot video, and you could type up your novel on it, though you’d likely go mad in the process.

OK, so the iPod, iPad, and iPhone are mostly consuming devices anyway, but two of them let you create things, but there are various levels of “creating” thing, and honestly while my copywriter friend could tap out a killer headline on an iPad, my photographer friend is probably not capturing the next great image on an iPhone. I’m mainly focused on media creation.

We then move on to “real” computers, starting with the MacBook Air. It’s got a camera and one single USB port. I don’t see this is a serious computer for serious media creators. It is a super-lightweight laptop great for the traveler/writer/business person. Skip it. The low-end MacBook (often called “the whitey”) is next. Low-end. It’s got two (yes two!) USB ports, and Gigabit Ethernet, but no Firewire. And, it’s low-end, which means it lacks power. Really. It does. (Luckily, it has a built-in camera!)

I put the Mac mini in there next, as I think it’s a step up from the low-end MacBook. The Mac mini has a bunch of USB ports and a Firewire 800 port, which means I can connect something like a Panasonic HVX200 HD camera and move that footage. I can also connect a Firewire card reader and get 24MB RAW files from a DSLR or RED footage onto it at a reasonable pace. The Mac mini is no powerhouse, but connectivity-wise, it’s moving up the ladder.

We then move onto the iMac and then the MacBook Pro. The iMac is a nice computer, and you can even get one with a 27″ display that’s pretty adept at editing video. I put the MacBook to the right of the iMac, mainly because on the high-end configuration you get the ExpressCard slot, which will let you connect eSata drives, which is a step up from Firewire. The MacBook is obviously better for portability, and the prices (and features) intermingle a bit between the two lines. The latest 27″ iMac is available in a Quad-Core configuration though, which is some serious power, so I’m still not sure of the positioning of these two.

And as long as we’re still talking about that Quad-Core iMac, let’s compare it to the Mac Pro, the granddaddy of Apple’s Creation Stations… If you’re wondering whether you can forget the Mac Pro and just get a top-of-the-line iMac, well, that depends on what you are going to create. You can read Why It’s Still Smart to Buy a Mac Pro and as someone who maintains a Mac Pro with 4 internal drives, an AJA IO card and two G-Tech eS Pros which pulls in footage from the HVX200 as well as the RED ONE, I can tell you I wouldn’t dream of replacing this Mac Pro with an iMac. Not yet anyway…

What about price? Hmmm, I figured it would be worth reorganizing the above graph with cost being the variable.

Apple Products: Cost

Once again, the order isn’t perfect, but I think it’s a quick overview, and worth comparing to the graph above to see how they differ.

Anyway, now that you’re done consuming all these silly words, get out there are create something! From what I hear, it’s easier than ever before, and the equipment you need is cheaper than it’s ever been! :)

4 replies on “Consume / Create – Apple Products”

Interesting. A few thoughts…

In your previous post, you wrote:

Of course the World Wide Web came along and changed things quite a bit. Creating things became much easier, and distributing them even easier!

But in thise post, you completely missed the potential for creating things on the web, which is largely much easier on the iPhone and iPad, though not the iPod, due to more intuitive interfaces. It’s precisely the focus on direct input over the various ports you listed as missing that makes these devices better at a specific type of creation. A pencil is no less a device for creation because it can’t take photos, right? The New Yorker cover created on an iPhone didn’t require a Firewire port to create.

I’d argue that the important distinction is a little less obvious to discern from the technical feature list: what portion of use of the device is actually focused on creation vs. consumption? To know that, we’d have to actually watch people using the devices, but I suspect it actually matches your price list even closer than your original. Everyone I know with a Mini (including myself) uses it as a glorified Apple TV, for example, so I suspect that might be even less creation-focused than the iPhone.

But beyond the details, assuming you’re on to something here, I think it would be really interesting to see these devices (as well as Apple’s software products) graphed over time as portions of Apple’s profit, to visualize what I suspect is Apple’s gradual move away from focusing on creation tools. It might also be interesting to look at how their ads have (I think) shifted focus from creation to consumption over time.

I suppose I should go create these instead of waiting to consume them. :)

Great comments Scott, you definitely provide a bit more to think about. I’ve got a Mac mini at home, which I got because I wanted a low-cost computer running Mac OS X that the rest of my family could use, and I could use as a backup computer if needed. We also have one at work, which I got for a PR person who does not create any rich media. The New Yorker cover created on an iPhone makes me think of the “when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” thing. Sure, you could create some amazing things on the iPhone, but you can also build a house with popsicle stick, though I’m still not convinced it’s the best solution.

I do like your focus on intuitive interfaces and UI versus various input ports. I probably focused on those because I tend to rely so heavily on them in the work I do. And as for Apple’s gradual move away from focusing on creation tools, and focusing more on consuming tools, well, yeah, I see it too.


Very insightful post / follow-up to the previous post. I think the graphic would be even more powerful if you added the iPod Shuffle and the Apple TV to the mix as well. As Scott pointed out with the “higher end” iPods you can do creation, although it is more painful. The shuffle and the Apple TV are pure consumption devices.


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