Jason Snell Talks iMac with Colleen Novielli on ‘Upgrade’

On the latest episode of Relay FM’s Upgrade, co-host Jason Snell opened the podcast by interviewing Apple’s iMac Product Manager, Colleen Novielli. Released just today, the interview lines up with the company’s much-anticipated release of new iMacs.

Jason did a fantastic job interviewing Colleen, balancing enthusiasm, historical reference and more difficult questions, such as the matter of Apple’s ongoing offering of spinning hard disks and Fusion Drives in certain iMac models. Colleen was engaging and her passion for the iMac was evident. Personally, I enjoyed listening to her Mac ‘origin story’, if you want to put it that way. (No one should be made to use a PC at work, but more on that in the episode…)

Being more specific, there are two major points that excited me about the interview.

The first thing is the steadily increasing number of appearances in indie shows by Apple employees. Some other recent examples include the following:

What this tells us is that for all of its secrecy, Apple has now realised the value of speaking more directly with its engaged fanbase. Where do many of these enthusiasts congregate? They’re listening to podcasts. Giving Apple employees (of various levels) the opportunity to share their experiences and shared product vision is very important; it introduces a diverse set of new faces who can humanise the company and reassure users that they’re being heard. Along with the provision of new analytical tools for podcasts and the promotion of recording at events like WWDC, I hope that this means we will see even more effort from Apple in communicating with its users.

The second point that excited me was the evidence of a continued interest in desktop computing from Apple. These days, people are understandably much more focused on platforms like iOS and watchOS, however the core of Apple’s identity and history has long been macOS. On a more technical level, at this point in time there is still no way to develop iOS and watchOS apps without Xcode on the Mac. The most engaged users are creative professionals, developers and desktop publishers who turn to Mac for the very best in desktop power and design. There are more creativity and productivity apps than ever for iPad and iPad Pro, but there’s still more to be done in that space.

On a personal level, I love my iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Apple TV… but I was raised on the Mac. At the age of five, my appreciation for computing was formed by the classic Mac OS on my family’s Power Macintosh. I absolutely loved it.

Moving into the Mac OS X era, my family bought the first Intel-based iMac in 2006. I had used iMac G3s and G4s before, however this reimagining of the iMac’s all-in-one design was simply breathtaking. The idea of having the entire display built behind an LCD panel was magical at the time. Let’s not forget that this basic form factor lives on in the current models. (As a point of fun, this design first appeared in the G5 version of the computer, which aired in this hilarious intro video with The Black Eyed Peas.)

As Jason and Colleen discussed in the episode, the iMac has gone from being the digital hub or our lives to one part of a broader ecosystem. In my mind, this does not diminish the iMac’s place in Apple’s line-up… it focuses it. Desktop Macs, whether the Mac mini, iMac, iMac Pro or yet-to-be-unveiled Mac Pro now have the licence to be the more powerful, niche devices that they need to be in 2019 and beyond.

Whilst the world looks to new computing platforms that are based on input methods like touch and augmented reality, the indirect GUI with a mouse and keyboard still has its place and there are so many exciting things yet to come. Mojave gave us a glimpse of this last year with the internally named project ‘Marzipan’, which is rumoured to be revealed fully this year. The idea of tying together iOS and macOS into a simpler, more consistent environment for developers is an exciting one and if executed properly, will breathe new life into Apple’s desktop machines.

We have never lived in a more exciting time as Apple product users. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for the company’s platforms at WWDC 2019.