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Ex Apple engineer claims Steve Jobs rejected new Apple TV UI 5 years ago [u]

post #1 of 151
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The grid of icons featured in the new Apple TV user interface was rejected five years ago by company co-founder Steve Jobs, a former Apple TV engineer claims [updated with clarification].

The Apple TV user interface was updated when the new 1080p model was released earlier this month. It features a more iOS-like interface that presents services like Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube and more as icons, rather than burying them in menus.

Since the user interface update rolled out, some have decried it as an ugly design, and a rare step backward for the company. This week, Michael Margolis, a former senior software engineer at Apple, claimed that the new designs were presented to Jobs five years ago, but he rejected them.

The comment from Margolis, highlighted by The Next Web and Macgasm, was made in response to designer and entrepreneur Aral Balkan, who told Margolis via the social networking site that he "loved the old UI."

"Fun fact - those designs were tossed out 5 years ago because SJ didn't like them," Margolis responded. "Now there is nobody to say 'no' to bad design."

Balkan then asked who is now in charge of user experience at Apple, saying he hopes the new Apple TV interface "isn't a sign of what's to come."

"Just one visual designer in the consumer apps team," Margolis wrote. "No clue if he is still there, that whole team has left/been replaced AFAIK."




Margolis started the discussion by saying on his Twitter account that he "implemented much of the Apple TV 2.0 UI years ago." He added that the new user interface "makes (him) cry."

Presenting the new Apple TV and its user interface earlier this month, Apple executive Eddy Cue portrayed it as a simplified design that will make it easier for users to access features on the set-top box. Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, also said in a press release that the new interface makes the Apple TV "easier than ever to use."

Update: Margolis clarified his original remarks in comments at The Next Web:
Quote:
Correction: I was telling @aral that AppleTV was not designed by Ive, it was designed by one (very talented) designer in the consumer apps team. I was not implying the consumer apps team only had one designer. Most of the AppleTV UI remains unchanged since AppleTV "Take 2" and I think that's a testament to how good it was. Great design is timeless.

The new UI shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. There is a clear effort at Apple to make everything match the look and feel of their popular iOS products – starting with Lion and increasing momentum with Mountain Lion.

To be clear – he didn’t like the original grid. This was before the iPhone was popular and before the iPad even existed.

Given that the iPad is far more successful than the AppleTV, migrating the AppleTV to look more like the iPad was probably a very smart move – even if some of the users of the old UI don’t prefer the new one.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The grid of icons featured in the new Apple TV user interface was rejected five years ago by company co-founder Steve Jobs, a former Apple TV engineer claims.
...

It is a startlingly bad UI from almost any point of view and for a variety of reasons.

People here took me to task when I said Steve would never approve of it. It seems I might have been correct though.
post #3 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

It is a startlingly bad UI from almost any point of view and for a variety of reasons.

People here took me to task when I said Steve would never approve of it. It seems I might have been correct though.

After about a week with it, I have to agree that the new UI grates. I miss the simplicity and subtlety of the previous one.

Interestingly, however, my kids (both teenagers) prefer the new UI.

Can't win them all, I suppose...... \
post #4 of 151
How ridiculous. The previous UI was a clumsy bunch of pulldown menus. That's supposed to be better than the more cohesive, iOS-like Home screen?

The new UI makes sense. It's not ugly, certainly better looking and easier to use than Google TV. We just have the "no longer at Apple" engineer behind the 2.0 version telling us via Twitter that SJ liked his design better than the latest one that makes more sense.

Oh really. SJ also liked the first versions of iCal, which were crap. SJ was not unerring in his design judgement. Flower Power iMacs? Hockey Puck mouse?

How much more of these pseudo-revelations of a post-mortem Jobs will we have to read about?
post #5 of 151
Thank goodness Margolis is here to step into the spotlight when nobody else at Apple says no to bad design, and the only person who ever did is gone.

I dont think AppleTV has ever been all that great, merely interesting (though Id love AirPlay). But this design is clearly not 5 years old, and is not the same thing Jobs rejectedhe presumably rejected something similar in some ways, if the story is true (and that much is certainly plausible).

And Im sure just one visual designer is now in charge of user experience at Apple, and may not still be there Clearly this Margoliss axe to grind is excellent evidence of Apples operations.

Let me guess... Apple is doomed, same as always, same is it will always be. Every tiny imperfection, real or imagined, is the end... while MASSIVE blunders by competitors are OK, and theyll be pouncing on the now-defunct Apple any day now...
post #6 of 151
This UI is absolutely terrible - BUT - I strongly suspect it was implemented to ready Apple TV for apps. The original Apple TV UI wasn't particularly great either (though it was certainly better than the new UI).
post #7 of 151
The app icons seem kind of large to me.

But on the flip side, the old UI was not that great either and would become a problem even more when Apple starts to add more apps.

So neither is or was ideal IMO.

Or this guy saying this could be full of crap.
post #8 of 151
Who says...?

The customers can always be able to say NO!

Personally my only problem is that the almost invisible indicating border is very difficult to see.

Maybe it's my old eyes but I'll bet I'm not the only one who can't see it.
post #9 of 151
And why are the app icons rectangular instead of square like on all other iOS devices?
post #10 of 151
I think I like the new better than the old, but this is not saying much.
post #11 of 151
I don't see what all of the fuss is about. pull down menus is backwards to me. I think the icons can be square rather than rectangle. Plus, if we can easily delete the one's we don't use, since I don't watch professional sports, those can be eliminated.
post #12 of 151
Jobs was still alive when we started to get "leather" in iOS.

How did that happen?
post #13 of 151
Yessir, Apple has cracked the TV.
post #14 of 151
Hands up if you remember what the Apple tv was and how it was positioned 5 years ago?

Of COURSE a grid of icons would be a bad idea for an iTunes-only device (basically a video Airport Express), when the iPhone was either not out yet or just barely out (giving the benefit of the doubt) and the world wasn't yet comfortable and familiar with the grid-of-icons concept.

And it wouldn't have been the first thing that SJhated at first and then loved later, anyway.
post #15 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by msantti View Post

And why are the app icons rectangular instead of square like on all other iOS devices?

Aspect ratio of the screen.

Regarding the rant itself...Key part of his point? "Steve Jobs rejected new Apple TV UI 5 years ago". Last time I checked, the world; the AppleTV & much more besides have changed a lot since two thousand and seven

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post #16 of 151
I call bullshit on this story, ir at least parital bullshit. There's more to it. I love love how people pretend that when Steve was around EVERYTHING that came from a UI standpoint from Apple was Gold. It wasn't. Now suddenly people are pointing at random things to validate their view that Apple is 'falling apart' and 'losing it'. The new interface is much, much better than the previous, is easier to navigate, and is more consistent than what one would expect from a iOS device. I'm a designer, am very fickle, and there's nothing I find offensive about it. The previous was much more confusing for the average user, this one is more graphic, easier to see at further distances, and is more scalable. Maybe Steve DID reject it 5 years ago (ie. before the iPhone) but his opinion changed years later and he green-lit it again? I'm sure this 'retired engineer' would not be privy to that info.

Let's cut Apple some fucking slack and give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes, they've done remarkably well since Steve's demise. Maybe, just MAYBE there are people there who know what they're doing and who understood and knew Steve more than all these millions of message-board posters, tech blog columnists, fans, claim to 'know' what he would want and like.
post #17 of 151
I still like the *first* UI best.

I'll never use MLB, so why the hell do I have to look at it?
post #18 of 151
I think it's a horrible idea to put Steve Jobs on a pedestal, because we get things like Address Book and iCal in Lion which I'm pretty sure every tech person universally hates.

I personally like the new UI because of two things:
1) It is far more scalable to new apps than the previous UI which hid everything in pull down menus. It's more future proof for the App Store for Apple TV we all know is coming.
2) It's a lot easier for a new user to navigate and find things like Netflix or YouTube.
3) The new top menu UI means not having to drill back up to the first screen to access different areas of content. Saves a lot of time in my opinion.

While some may hate the color scheme, I don't see it as being that much different from the iOS UI, which most people seem to like. However, it certainly could be improved by disabling apps you don't want and letting people re-order the apps they do use.
post #19 of 151
There is something somewhat cheesy about those icons and it's bothered me for awhile. I don't think the grid is that bad at all, especially considering how the other iDevices work. They really need to step up those icons though. More detail and less border radius? I don't know.
post #20 of 151
New, old UI, all the same. It takes 256 clicks to find a movie or show. This version and the last version are both placeholders for something better. This space is crying out for changes. Could be Apple who designs/deploys it first. Could be someone else.
post #21 of 151
Honestly, I still think the first Front Row UI worked better as a ten-feet UI than the current Front Row UI (and old Apple TV UI).

The pictures, album covers and movie posters may look nice and flashy, but I don't think they make it easier to browse lists and find what you're looking for.
post #22 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by dagamer34 View Post

I personally like the new UI because of two things:
1) It is far more scalable to new apps than the previous UI which hid everything in pull down menus. It's more future proof for the App Store for Apple TV we all know is coming.
2) It's a lot easier for a new user to navigate and find things like Netflix or YouTube.
3) The new top menu UI means not having to drill back up to the first screen to access different areas of content. Saves a lot of time in my opinion.

While some may hate the color scheme, I don't see it as being that much different from the iOS UI, which most people seem to like. However, it certainly could be improved by disabling apps you don't want and letting people re-order the apps they do use.

I agree. I like the new design (21 year-old college student) and my parents (late 40's) do as well. Point of personal preference.
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post #23 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by msantti View Post

And why are the app icons rectangular instead of square like on all other iOS devices?

You're looking at it wrong.

You knew somebody had to say, might as well be me. \
/
/
/

Ten years ago, we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash.  Today we have no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash.

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Ten years ago, we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash.  Today we have no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash.

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post #24 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by dagamer34 View Post

I think it's a horrible idea to put Steve Jobs on a pedestal, because we get things like Address Book and iCal in Lion which I'm pretty sure every tech person universally hates.

I personally like the new UI because of two things:
1) It is far more scalable to new apps than the previous UI which hid everything in pull down menus. It's more future proof for the App Store for Apple TV we all know is coming.
2) It's a lot easier for a new user to navigate and find things like Netflix or YouTube.
3) The new top menu UI means not having to drill back up to the first screen to access different areas of content. Saves a lot of time in my opinion.

While some may hate the color scheme, I don't see it as being that much different from the iOS UI, which most people seem to like. However, it certainly could be improved by disabling apps you don't want and letting people re-order the apps they do use.

To play devil's advocate .. a few obvious things wrong with the new UI:

- only five icons initially available on a UI that typical spans 40" or more
- top one third of the UI is taken up by posters (essentially either advertising or needless chrome depending on your pov).
- blue highlight is now almost invisible, hard to tell even what's highlighted
- one click down slides entire visual area up by half (jarring and the user needs to "re-find" where they are visually)
- bright, raw, orange and purple icons side by side (they teach you not to do this in grade 8 art class).

The change to an "apps-like" UI is an expected and good thing, this particular version of it is ugly and poorly laid out however. It's also a problem to switch to an apps-like UI but then not allow us to arrange or delete apps.

In my case, the only thing I even need out of the five icons you can originally see is "computers." One line down there is another icon "netflix" that I use, and one level below that, a third icon I use (vimeo). Why should I have to scroll through sports crap and American services that I have no interest in in my country just to get to the stuff I see every day? It's just a bunch of extra clicks for no reason.

If we could move the icons around and delete all the stuff we don't want to see, this would actually be a fairly good UI in that for me it would consist of a row of the only five buttons I need. Sadly this is not possible.
post #25 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

Thank goodness Margolis is here to step into the spotlight when nobody else at Apple says no to bad design, and the only person who ever did is gone.

I dont think AppleTV has ever been all that great, merely interesting (though Id love AirPlay). But this design is clearly not 5 years old, and is not the same thing Jobs rejectedhe presumably rejected something similar in some ways, if the story is true (and that much is certainly plausible).

And Im sure just one visual designer is now in charge of user experience at Apple, and may not still be there Clearly this Margoliss axe to grind is excellent evidence of Apples operations.

Let me guess... Apple is doomed, same as always, same is it will always be. Every tiny imperfection, real or imagined, is the end... while MASSIVE blunders by competitors are OK, and theyll be pouncing on the now-defunct Apple any day now...

LOL. But so true. I figure next week's Macalope column will pick up the story.
post #26 of 151
It's a terrible design, a step backwards and an eye sore. I shudder to think the best they have to offer now is to implement a 5 year old rejected design.
post #27 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by God of Biscuits View Post

Hands up if you remember what the Apple tv was and how it was positioned 5 years ago?

Of COURSE a grid of icons would be a bad idea for an iTunes-only device (basically a video Airport Express), when the iPhone was either not out yet or just barely out (giving the benefit of the doubt) and the world wasn't yet comfortable and familiar with the grid-of-icons concept.

And it wouldn't have been the first thing that SJ hated at first and then loved later, anyway.

This.
post #28 of 151
The problem is that the old interface just didn't scale. If you think that apps are the new networks or shows, then the hierarchical menus just get clumsy quickly. I agree that the new interface isn't exactly beautiful and needs work, I think it's the right path.
post #29 of 151
Just bought my first Apple TV and find the interface awkward. Would like to get rid of many of the buttons that are not going to be used by me.

Accessed the Apple TV via Remote on my iPad and expected to see the TV screen mirrored on my iPad but instead had to swipe around while keeping one eye on the TV and the other watching the iPad. Should be able to point at icons on the iPad. Should also be able to use the virtual keyboard on the iPad to enter data. Scrolling thru the letters is tiresome. If it is supported, it is not obvious.
post #30 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

It is a startlingly bad UI from almost any point of view and for a variety of reasons.

People here took me to task when I said Steve would never approve of it. It seems I might have been correct though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

After about a week with it, I have to agree that the new UI grates. I miss the simplicity and subtlety of the previous one.

Interestingly, however, my kids (both teenagers) prefer the new UI.

Can't win them all, I suppose...... \

I agree with God of Biscuits. 5 years ago it wouldn't have made sense. Today, with an app-based system and AirPlay it's the best UI they've come up with. Is it perfect? No way, because you can't even rearrange or remove icons you don't want which negatively affects the usability when using the IR remote.

For those saying it's the worst do you not recall Take 2 which was well within Job's rule as CEO?

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post #31 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

I agree that the new interface isn't exactly beautiful and needs work, I think it's the right path.

I just don't get why they wouldn't have just gone with a direct iOS lookalike though, you know?

Something like this.

Originally Posted by asdasd

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post #32 of 151
What does this ex-engineer's opinion about a design 5 years ago have to do with today?

In Isaacson's biography, SJ was quote as saying he's solved the problem. Most likely it means that the new design is not the design SJ rejected 5 years ago. Right?
post #33 of 151
Seeing every "channel" on one screen makes it look like Apple TV has more to offer than before. As for me, it's basically Netflix and iTunes to rent movies, with an occasional diversion to our two computers for music and photos. In other words, the new UI isn't a big deal.
post #34 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Margolis started the discussion by saying on his Twitter account that he "implemented much of the Apple TV 2.0 UI years ago." He added that the new user interface "makes (him) cry."

Here's the gist of the matter. Margolis is seeking his 15 minutes of fame.

Anyone who has ready anything about Jobs knows that he was all over the details. Margolis may think that what he did was 'close enough', but it apparently wasn't. He may even have ben part of the way there, but for Jobs, '90% of the way there' was worthless.

Not to mention, of course, that it may not have been the right design 5 years ago.
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post #35 of 151
As anyone whose read the SJ biography knows, Steve would never have "rejected" this interface.

Called it the "worst f-ing piece of worthless sh!t" he'd ever seen, maybe, but plain "rejected"? Nah, I don't think so!
post #36 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by waldobushman View Post

In Isaacson's biography, SJ was quote as saying he's solved the problem. Most likely it means that the new design is not the design SJ rejected 5 years ago. Right?

Who says this design has anything to do with that, either?

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post #37 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by waldobushman View Post

What does this ex-engineer's opinion about a design 5 years ago have to do with today?

In Isaacson's biography, SJ was quote as saying he's solved the problem. Most likely it means that the new design is not the design SJ rejected 5 years ago. Right?

Correct.

And believe it or not, the talent in the UI teams hasn't been depleated. Those groups bring in new talent on a yearly basis.
post #38 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maury Markowitz View Post

I still like the *first* UI best.

I'll never use MLB, so why the hell do I have to look at it?

If the new UI is the first step towards an app based aTV I am certain that the ability to move and remove icons is but a version away.
post #39 of 151
Apple TV is still a hobby and it is not even close to the what will likely be coming out to replace it or incorporated into an Apple television if that is in the future. Little clickers are not where Apple is going with this.

It's a no brainer what the interface is going to be. An iPodTouch-like remote, with much of the UI we've come to use integrated into controlling a TV, along with voice control.
post #40 of 151
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corrections View Post

How ridiculous. The previous UI was a clumsy bunch of pulldown menus. That's supposed to be better than the more cohesive, iOS-like Home screen?

The new UI makes sense. It's not ugly, certainly better looking and easier to use than Google TV. We just have the "no longer at Apple" engineer behind the 2.0 version telling us via Twitter that SJ liked his design better than the latest one that makes more sense.

Oh really. SJ also liked the first versions of iCal, which were crap. SJ was not unerring in his design judgement. Flower Power iMacs? Hockey Puck mouse?

How much more of these pseudo-revelations of a post-mortem Jobs will we have to read about?

Hear, hear.
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