BARBIE GROWS UP Often a search for the coolest design ends with the simplest. Witness the iBook, Apple's consumer-priced laptop, which underwent a profound and much lauded transformation last week. Intended as a kind of portable iMac, the two-year-old iBook started life as a bulky, gaudy rubberized clamshell that barely fit into backpacks, with a carry-case plastic handle and choice of colors that critics--yours truly included--derided as "Barbie-like."

No plastic dolls were in attendance last week when Steve Jobs showed off the iBook's smaller, wiser exterior on Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus. After the runaway success of his superslim titanium G4 Powerbook,...

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