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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Designer's dream desk for i-things
By Jo Twist
BBC News Online technology reporter

With the increasing popularity of digital cameras, scanners and MP3 players which plug into desktop computers, the problem of space on desks is getting messy.

The iDesk workstation (Image: John Treby)
The iDesk workstation
Tripping over tangled cables, finding homes for gadgets, and running out of ports to plug into can mean accommodating the hi-tech bits and bobs computer users want close at hand is a frustrating business.

An enterprising product design graduate and avid Apple user thinks he has a stylish solution though.

As part of his final year design project at the University of Hertfordshire, John Treby created an innovative workstation which he hopes will mean users will not have to trip over themselves to reach their MP3s and cameras.

The desk with a smile

Inspired by the sleek and compact form of Apple's iMac, Mr Treby found no one was providing users with a desirable desk for self-contained units which actually enhanced the look of the machine itself.

John Treby and his iDesk for iMacs (Image: John Treby)
John Treby and his iDesk for iMacs

So he designed one which he describes as "your digital hub for your iMac". It is called the iDesk workstation and reflects the opaque and perspex look which characterise Apple's products.

He explained to BBC News Online: "iMacs are sleek and friendly-looking machines, more so than PCs. They have character and the iMac almost looks alive.

"That's reflected in the desk design. The speakers make up the eyes and the base under the Mac has a curve which looks like the mouth of the unit which makes the iMac itself the brain."

It also enables users to hide their cables. The only wire visible goes to the mains supply and the rest are tucked away neatly inside a shiny central leg.

Mr Treby also asked over 100 Mac users which gadgets they wanted to reach easily.

Digital cameras, MP3 players, scanners and printers came top of the list, particularly for more hardcore Mac users who tend to need such products for professional purposes.

So Mr Treby designed a "lazy Susan" turntable device complete with six USB ports so their favourite gadgets could be but a swivel away.

Furniture's future?

The iDesk is designed to have all gadgets close at hand (Image: John Treby)
Suitable for left and right-handed use
USB, power and firewire cables run inside central aluminium leg
Internal USB hub
One power lead feeds four plugs for peripheral products
Small pivoting platform for six smaller peripheral products
Further pivoting platforms for scanners, printers, etc

Apple are reluctant to comment on specific designs like this, but Mr Treby does not anticipate the company having any issues with it.

Although he has had over 300 e-mails from interested Mac users all over the world, he is yet to find a manufacturer interested in taking the design further.

If it was produced, he expects it would have a price tag of about 400 to 500 ($600 to $800). Sounds pricey, but Mr Treby says users do not have the added expense of buying cables and USB hubs as they are already built into the unit.

Who was there first?

However, Mr Treby is not alone in his vision of a clutter-free, iMac-inspired workstation.

One San Francisco company has already started production of its very similar iGo desk which they describe as "iMac's other half". Mr Treby describes it as having the "basic internet users in mind" because the swivelling desks for paraphernalia are missing.

Dr Don Norman - influential computer design guru and author of the forthcoming book, Emotional Design - is impressed with both designs. He told BBC News Online:

"Both do a brilliant job of matching Jonathan Ive's design language of the iMac itself. Both do a good job of hiding those ugly wires that so destroy the beauty of most computers."

He adds however: "In a home, office, or school, I have seldom seen a person use a computer without also having to consult lots of paper: notes, printouts, reminders, etc.

"Neither design allows for this."

There are no coffee cup holders either.

Apple design guru honoured
03 Jun 03  |  Technology
Flat-screen iMac wows design guru
15 Jan 02  |  Science/Nature

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