20 years ago, Steve Jobs built the ‘coolest computer ever.’ it bombed


This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Power Mac G4 Cube, which debuted July 19, 2000. It also marks the 19th anniversary of Apple’s announcement that it was putting the Cube on ice. That’s not my joke, it’s Apple’s, straight from the headline of its July 3, 2001, press release that officially pulled the plug.

For one thing, the price was prohibitive—by the time you bought the display, it was almost three times the price of an iMac and even more than some PowerMacs. By and large, people don’t spend their art budget on computers.

That wasn’t the only issue with the G4 Cube. Those plastics were hard to manufacture, and people reported flaws. The air cooling had problems. If you left a sheet of paper on top of the device, it would shut down to prevent overheating. And because it had no On button, a stray wave of your hand would send the machine into action, like it or not.

I was at the Macworld Expo launch of the Cube in 2000 and not to toot my own horn but I (and to be fair, many others) predicted the demise of the Cube as soon as we saw it. Rather, as soon as we saw the eye-watering price of the little box of plastic. Then we saw what the display would cost (and you “had to” buy the display – why would you connect this beautiful cube to an ordinary monitor?) and the prediction was an easy one to make.

That being said, many of us lusted after the Cube – maybe less so when all the issues surrounding it became apparent but nonetheless, like the Twentieth Anniversary Mac, it was less a computer and more of a design statement and a way to show off your cool factor.