Although Apple leaves the door open to possibly reintroduce the G4 Cube at a later date, this never happens and the computer is superseded by Apple’s upgrade to G5 processors and then Intel Core-based Macs.
A great computer, but a box office bust
The Mac G4 Cube represented a change in direction from Apple. Computers like the ultra colorful iMac G3 and iBook G3 had been attention-grabbers for Apple upon Steve Jobs’ return, and had accomplished their mission of differentiating Apple’s hardware from the beige boxes that other personal computer makers were building at the same time.
But designer Jony Ive and others were keen to go in a new direction with Apple design, which turned out to be the sleek, more austere, quasi-industrial aesthetic Apple has continued to explore in the years since.
A computer shaped like a cube was one that seemed to hold a weird fascination for Steve Jobs, although never with a great amount of commercial success at the end of it. The G4 Cube harked back to the NeXTcube, a computer which Jobs created during his wilderness years outside Apple — which also met with limited success.
No-one denied that the G4 Cube was striking. Rather than being a tower, it took the form of a 7-inch-by-7-inch cube of clear plastic that looked like it was floating in midair, due to its transparent base. It also operated in near total silence because it was cooled by air convection instead of a fan, and featured a touch-sensitive power button that was an early example of the tech Apple would later use for the iPhone.
Something that I very much liked about it was that it continued Apple’s mid-1990s trend toward expandability by allowing users to access its internal components easily through the bottom of the machine. It even sported a pop-up handle to help with this. (By comparison, Apple’s subsequent Macs have been an extreme challenge to open up, let alone expand.)
In terms of both specs and price, the G4 Cube packed quite a punch. It started at $1,799 for a basic model with a 450-MHz G4 chip, 64MB of memory and 20GB of storage. A more expensive Apple online store exclusive — retailing at $2,299 — boasted a more powerful processor and extra storage and memory. You had to buy your own monitor, too!
Putting the G4 Cube on ice
Despite all of this, however, it never appealed to more than just a few hardcore Apple fans. Sure, they may have loved it (its iconic appearance also meant it popped up in a few 2000-era Hollywood movies), but it simply didn’t strike a chord with everyday customers.
Although Jobs called it “simply the coolest computer ever,” Apple only ever sold around 150,000 units total — just a third of what the company had forecast.
Making things worse was a damaging PR blow when some customers reported tiny cracks appearing in the clear plastic casing. If you want to buy a second hand Power Mac G4 Cube (expect to pay a couple hundred bucks), this is a detail you might want to check.
In Apple’s press release on July 3, 2001, it wrote that the G4 Cube was being, “put on ice.”
“Cube owners love their Cubes, but most customers decided to buy ourpowerful Power Mac G4 minitowers instead,” said Phil Schiller in a statement. Apple acknowledges that there was a “small chance” an upgraded model would arrive in the future, but admitted that, “there are no plans to do so at this time.”
Apple didn’t have to wait too long for its next big hit, however. Just a couple months after the Power Mac G4 Cube was iced, Apple introduced a little product called the iPod. We think you know the rest!
Do you remember the G4 Cube? Leave your comments and recollections below.
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