Apple Inc. Taking Page Out of its 'Notebook'
for Next-Gen iMac; Sony Doing Same (Again)

First it was Sony's VAIO N10 Laptop with MacBook-like Features--
Now the VAIO 'CR Series' Takes it a Step Further... Way Further

by Joe Leo, Columnist

COMMENTARY (7.10.07)-- Venerable Mac rumors site "Think Secret" first broke the news last Friday that Apple plans to revise its iMac line to a slimmer and sleeker aluminum style that matches the look of its Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, and Cinema Display lines. Yesterday, followed suit with their own news that along with the new design for the iMac would be a new low-profile keyboard that matches the style of those found on MacBooks.

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Apparently someone has beat Apple Inc. in its own game, and has already incorporated that low-profile MacBook style keyboard into their own product. I'm talking about Sony's VGN-CR120E/R from its infamous VAIO line of notebook computers--which has gained its infamy from its unmistakable resemblance to Apple's line of MacBook (non-Pro) computers--and this time, it's hard not to say that Sony didn't take a Xerox from a page out of Apple's 'book.

Late last Summer, a few months after the new MacBook line of consumer-oriented Apple notebooks rolled out, Sony released an updated version of their VAIO line, the N10 model which immediately garnered double takes from Mac community. How that particular computer resembled the white MacBook from its white keyboard with rounded keys, to its latchless lid. (It kind of resembled the Pro version more than the non-Pro since it was silver).

I wrote my own take on that story**, pointing out that the N10 model was apparently released in Europe (the press release on the product seemed to indicate so), to which I felt maybe this was Sony's way of keeping it out of Apple's radar here in the U.S. In fact, I don't think it was ever released in the U.S., at least, that particular model number. Granted however, if you were to put the N10 side-by-side with a white MacBook, the similarities became next to none.

Ironically enough, and by pure coincidence (I love how these things happen with my story ideas), on Sunday, perusing through the Best Buy ad for this week--which I look through not for Mac products in case you're wondering, but first for DVD releases, then video games (Nintendo DS), and lastly computer peripherals (in that case, for my Macs)--something caught my attention because of its key component. It's uniquely styled keyboard.

Problem is? It's a unique keyboard I would expect to find only on a black MacBook from Apple. This keyboard was on a PC laptop. And not surprisingly, it's a Sony VAIO.

I didn't get a chance to go to Best Buy prior to writing this piece in order to look at the machine in person, just to see for myself whether the keyboard indeed was a clone of Apple's MacBook keyboard. Plus I wanted to take some photos of it to publish with this article, but I think the photo in the ad speaks for itself. But, since I don't have space in this article for a photo, you'll have to go to Best Buy's product link page for it. (Make sure you zoom in close to see the keyboard).

Plus, in a sense of poetic justice (injustice?), I love how the only one available in-store is the red "Sangria" model which is close to the Spanish word for? Blood. Like on Sony's hands.

The laptop on sale this week is from Sony's "CR Series" of VAIO laptops which sport 14.1" displays, akin to the popular PowerBook G3 "Pismo" and its son, the 14-inch iBook. The keyboard is dead-on with the MacBook's. For it to be an exact copy, Sony would have had to move down the line to its "C Series" of VAIOs which have? 13.3" displays, just as MacBooks do. Their "N Series" have 15.4" displays. (Now that I realize it, the N10 was like a MacBook Pro).

Interestingly enough the other Mac-like feature of Sony's laptops are that they are available in different colors like the original "toilet seat" iBooks were! Something I've always hoped Apple would do with their aluminum-bodied notebooks, much in the style of their iPod minis and aluminum 2nd-generation nano line. In fact, Dell has begun to do the same thing with the color options, as our own Charles W. Moore reported last week! (Though in plastic, not aluminum).

Oh and yes. The Sony VGN-CR120E/R has a built-in webcam like the iSight one from Apple.

You'll have to do your own investigation and research to form your own opinion whether or not Sony has clearly taken a page out of Apple's book. It was very subtle with their N10 laptop, but not so subtle with their CR120E/R model (which is apparently now out of date because the link provided earlier points to newer CR150 and CR190 models available now and some shipping out later this month). Why Apple's legal department hasn't done anything about is beyond me.

Back to the iMac angle however, I'm glad they're finally moving to the aluminum look. I never did like the white motif. I can understand the classifications though. White plastic for consumers and silver aluminum for the pros. (Interesting how the Mac mini was both!) Hopefully that keyboard will also sport a faux-aluminum look like that of the MacBook Pros. For something that gets touched repeatedly, white plastic wasn't the most innovative idea for a keyboard.

Ironic, isn't it? Speaking of innovation, how the competition always seems to incorporate Mac innovations, technologies, designs, you name it, in order to stay ahead of the game? Taking pages from Apple's book? And in Sony's case once again, a design out of Apple's MacBook.

**[For a related article, see: "Apple Should Take a Page Out of Sony's 'book"]


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