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Computing pioneer Alan Kay calls Apple's iPad user interface 'poor'

post #1 of 181
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Apple's iPad and iPhone may be continually reshaping the way we interact with computers, but at least one computing pioneer believes the company has diverged from the vision of technology that nurtured Apple in its earlier days.

dynabook
Alan Kay holding a Dynabook prototype (via Wikipedia)


Alan Curtis Kay is recognized as one of the few people behind the concepts that have defined much of personal computing over the past three decades. A former Apple Fellow, Disney Imagineering Fellow, and Xerox PARC Labs associate, Kay also developed the vision for the Dynabook, an iPad precursor of sorts that would have been a portable suite of hardware, software, programming tools, and services. The Dynabook was meant as a tool to instruct children in digital creativity, and while the iPad bears some resemblance to it, Kay told Time's Techland that Apple's bestselling tablet in some ways betrays the vision he and others had.

Asked if the Dynabook has not, in fact, been realized in the form of the notebook computer, tablet, and smartphone, Kay said he believes those devices largely miss the point. Apple's iPad ? and the wider computing environment, by extension ? falls short of the Dynabook's ideal, Kay says, since it lacks the capacity to enable "symmetric authoring and consuming."

Kay continued, calling Apple's restrictions on content creation and sharing on the iPad "mostly bogus," and saying that any potential security issues were the result of flaws in the OS. He also expressed disappointment in the progression of the human-computer interface since the development of the Graphical User Interface.

"The current day UIs derived from the PARC-GUI have many flaws," Kay said, "including those that were in the PARC-GUI in the first place... even though multitouch is a good idea (pioneered by Nicholas Negroponte's ARCH-MAC group in the late '70s), much of the iPad UI is very poor in a myriad of ways."

Kay noted that the presence of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs had been a double-edged sword for the company.

"One way to think of all of these organizations," Kay said, "is to realize that if they require a charismatic leader who will shoot people in the knees when needed, then the corporate organization and process is a failure. It means no group can come up with a good decision and make it stick just because it is a good idea."

Kay's harsh words weren't reserved just for Apple. The computing pioneer took issue with the larger computing industry in general, in particular the ways computers are integrated into education.

"The education establishment in the U.S. has generally treated the computer as sort of like a typewriter," Kay said. "I've used the analogy of what would happen if you put a piano in every classroom. If there is no other context, you will get a "chopsticks" culture, and maybe even pop culture... 'the music is not in the piano.'"
post #2 of 181
Wahh! I designed a mock up 20 years ago and you damn greedy companies failed to live up to my vision.

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post #3 of 181
So this poor design is why they are selling so many iPad's?
post #4 of 181
He wouldn't have had the balls to say that if Steve was still alive.
post #5 of 181

His criticisms might carry more weight if they were more specific than, "a myriad of ways."

post #6 of 181
He's like a socialist: disappointed that his ideas don't work because people are not the way he thinks they should be.

Since he obviously can't change people, he tries to change the technology that works just fine for all those people. Wrong approach - he has put himself in a corner where he is no longer relevant.
post #7 of 181

Every company I go to fix the IT admin's network design/build I hear of founders or inventors like this.

 

Comes up with an idea that lays down groundwork for the birth of new company.

 

Then younger/underling employees take their idea and transform it into a an amazingly fresh and inventive product and a huge profit center.

 

Then the org creator ALWAYS comes back and say's something to the effect that "it is not that great because that was not my vision".

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post #8 of 181
Too many drugs Kay. You, as always, fail to distinguish between conceptual and reality. Your speeches are still boring.
post #9 of 181
He does sound really butthurt. It doesn't come off as constructive criticism. Like "we invented the mouse because it was THE future. Everyone is failing because they move past it".
post #10 of 181
Real artists ship, dude.
post #11 of 181
Um - does this guy *think* clearly? Or just *differently*?

Like Apple doesn't *realize* unlocking the iPads full potential would be great.. Duh.

Gee, I just don't think they or any other company for that matter is ready just yet to nuke it's laptop or even desktop computers.

Sir -- sometimes there are reasons for limitations - whether we like them, or think they aren't innovative enough... Clue.
post #12 of 181
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Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

 A former Apple Fellow, 

How do you become a former Apple Fellow. Is the award taken away?

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post #13 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by kyle172 View Post

So this poor design is why they are selling so many iPad's?

That's not the best counter-argument.

 

I'm all for him criticising the iPad, but I'd like to see what he'd change, specifically.

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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #14 of 181
So, iBooks Author and xCode both have to run on a Mac, is that what he's saying? IF that's what he means, he should say so. Otherwise, people will think they can create fine on teh iPad using Paper, various code editors, and that other little program I use all the time but can't even remember the name of 'cause all I do is press the icon to bring it up. Shoot, it draws mind maps by me dictating to it, starting each little bubble when I say "comma". IT'S AN INCREDIBLE INTERFACE!!! I won't say Kay doesn't know what he's talking about. But I will say, he hasn't really said anything here, and that amounts to the same thing in this detailed world.
post #15 of 181
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Originally Posted by MacVicta View Post

He wouldn't have had the balls to say that if Steve was still alive.

 

I think you're wrong.

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post #16 of 181
This is the same Alan Kay that wrote…
Quote:
When the Mac first came out, Newsweek asked me what I [thought] of it. I said: Well, it’s the first personal computer worth criticizing. So at the end of the [iPhone] presentation, Steve came up to me and said: Is the iPhone worth criticizing? And I said: Make the screen five inches by eight inches, and you’ll rule the world.

Apple did that and they idealized the UI for the display. Clearly there is a lot more that can be done but it's considerably more than anyone else has done in this space. I think his "myriad of ways" and "disappointment in the progression of the human-computer interface" comments are less than helpful and don't see why he couldn't have detailed some ideas if he has them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kyle172 View Post

So this poor design is why they are selling so many iPad's?

That isn't a good argument because Windows and netbooks are or were, respectively, selling so many.
Edited by SolipsismX - 4/3/13 at 10:53am

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post #17 of 181
Hm, let me see.....How many losers did I hear from today?
post #18 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I think his "myriad of ways" and "disappointment in the progression of the human-computer interface" comments are less than helpful and don't see why he couldn't have details some ideas if he has them.

Well said.

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post #19 of 181

deleted


Edited by MacRulez - 7/23/13 at 2:26pm
post #20 of 181
Quote:

Kay told Time's Techland that Apple's bestselling tablet in some ways betrays the vision he and others had.
 

 

 

... and sometimes visions have to change and grow.  That was your vision and it may not be Jonny Ive's vision or Jobs' vision.

 

And I hate all this BS that now that Jobs isn't at the company, no-one is driving the company.  They're making that assumption without any proof.  What proof do you have of that.  In my view it's just scare mongering.

post #21 of 181

For somebody who is supposed to be a "computing pioneer", he seems rather close minded and old fashioned.

 

The iPad and iOS devices have opened up computing to whole new groups of people, people who would never even interact with computers before. iOS devices are being used by everybody from babies to senior citizens, groups who would never even go near a computer in the past.

 

And one of the reasons he gives for the iPad being poor is that people can't download an Etoy?lol.gif

 

At first I thought to myself, what the hell is an Etoy, so I quickly found out what it was.

 

This is one of the most amateurish sites that I've ever seen, and it looks like it hasn't been updated in many years. Seriously, who gives a shit about Etoys? Screw Etoys.

 

http://www.squeakland.org/

 

Apple with the iPad and iPhone goes even further and does not allow children to download an Etoy made by another child somewhere in the world. This could not be farther from the original intentions of the entire ARPA-IPTO/PARC community in the ’60s and ’70s.

 

And who gives a shit about what the original intentions of what some group thought back in the 60's in the 70's, probably wacked out of their minds on LSD? If they don't like it, let them make their own device. If somebody doesn't like the state of current computing, then go change it, make your own. Don't sit around reminiscing about ancient times and whining about the present, because it only makes somebody look real old and extremely out of touch.

 

post #22 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

His criticisms might carry more weight if they were more specific than, "a myriad of ways."

That was my thought.  What are the errors in the PARC GUI that are still there?  I found his criticisms short on details.  This is not to say he does not have a valued voice but I would have liked to hear many more specifics.

post #23 of 181
It's his opinion...no big deal. I wish the article went into more detail about how he envisions something like the iPad rather than just writing how he criticized Apple.
post #24 of 181
Much of the above comments pretty much say what I would have. I think this guy was mentioned in the Steve Jobs biography. In short, I would say this guy is bitter because he couldn't bring his concept to fruition, where Steve Jobs did. Unlock the potential?--well that is where Android comes in (i.e. open source). Yet, I think the market tells us that right now Apple has set the standard and the bar to beat.
post #25 of 181
Quote:
Asked if the Dynabook has not, in fact, been realized in the form of the notebook computer, tablet, and smartphone, Kay said he believes those devices largely miss the point. Apple's iPad ? and the wider computing environment, by extension ? falls short of the Dynabook's ideal, Kay says, since it lacks the capacity to enable "symmetric authoring and consuming."

A company like Apple doesn't follow anyone ideal.  They make the product and most of the time set the trend for the rest of the technology to follow. 

post #26 of 181
"One way to think of all of these organizations," Kay said, "is to realize that if they require a charismatic leader who will shoot people in the knees when needed, then the corporate organization and process is a failure. It means no group can come up with a good decision and make it stick just because it is a good idea."

What an idiotic statement. Yeah, SJs leadership style clearly failed. It's why he was able toresurrect Apple from the dead and make it the most successful company on the planet. It's why under his leadership Apple was able to reshape multiple industries and introduce concepts which are now standard across the entire tech landscape. It's why almost every company on the planet have tried to emulate pretty much every management philosophy he ever had.

I'm glad that Kay has enlightened us about how Apple has a failed corporate organization. I wonder what a successful one looks like.
Edited by Slurpy - 4/3/13 at 11:05am
post #27 of 181

All these "former" Apple employees, CEO's, engineers always come out and bash Apple products.

 

Maybe that's why they're "former" and not currently with Apple.

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post #28 of 181

And the person who is writing the Time article is obviously totally clueless, because they wrote this:

 

And when I first saw Microsoft‘s Surface tablet last June, a Kay maxim helped me understand it: “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”

Hahahahaha.lol.gif

 

Steve Jobs quoted that exact line from Kay many years ago in an Apple Keynote, long before the flop of a tablet known as the Surface was ever released.

 

 

post #29 of 181
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Originally Posted by fishstick_kitty View Post

It's his opinion...no big deal. I wish the article went into more detail about how he envisions something like the iPad rather than just writing how he criticized Apple.

You know, you could use a search engine and inform yourself. Try... Google! OMG, I forgot, you can't use Google because is made by the ENEMY, and since Apple doens't have a search engine, you have to rely only on Apple Insider for information!

post #30 of 181

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Edited by MacRulez - 7/23/13 at 2:26pm
post #31 of 181
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post #32 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

That's not the best counter-argument.

 

I'm all for him criticising the iPad, but I'd like to see what he'd change, specifically.

 

The guy does not have a single constructive thing to offer.

 

Nor do you (in your berating of other posters). Why don't you tell us why you're "... all for him criticising the iPad"? What specifically would you criticize?

post #33 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

All these "former" Apple employees, CEO's, engineers always come out and bash Apple products.

I know everyone thinks he's cute and all, but one of the worst offenders on this score is Woz.

post #34 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

His criticisms might carry more weight if they were more specific than, "a myriad of ways."

Agreed. Without saying why, it's empty rhetoric. I have respect for what pioneers have started, but you have to update your thinking to remain relevant.

post #35 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by NelsonX View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by fishstick_kitty View Post

It's his opinion...no big deal. I wish the article went into more detail about how he envisions something like the iPad rather than just writing how he criticized Apple.

You know, you could use a search engine and inform yourself. Try... Google! OMG, I forgot, you can't use Google because is made by the ENEMY, and since Apple doens't have a search engine, you have to rely only on Apple Insider for information!

Grow up.

post #36 of 181

As others have already stated, I would have liked to hear more of his thoughts on the specific failures and issues as well as ideas for improvements.

 

My take is that he really wishes the world and people were more "idealic" than they really are. I've had such thoughts before, "if only everyone could realize their full potential, the world would be an amazing place." But it's not reality. The incredibly driven people such as Steve Jobs (whom are also blessed with vision) are the ones who make things happen. Unfortunately, I think we're more headed towards the "Ideocracy" future than Alan's vision.

post #37 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by NelsonX View Post

You are a bunch of Apple fanatics! You don't even know who Alan Kay is:

"In 1970, Kay joined Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center, PARC. In the 1970s he was one of the key members there to develop prototypes of networked workstations using the programming language Smalltalk. These inventions were later commercialized by Apple Computer in their Lisa and Macintosh computers.
Kay is one of the fathers of the idea of object-oriented programming, which he named, along with some colleagues at PARC and predecessors at the Norwegian Computing Center."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Kay

So what?

If God himself came down and said "this doesn't live up to my ideas of how it should have been done" with no details, it would be a useless statement.

Simply saying "it's not what I envisioned" is equally useless. Your work at PARC wasn't all that great - Apple had to redesign everything to make it usable. Apple has 30+ years of experience in making the best UI experience on the planet.

Now, that doesn't make them perfect and there are undoubtedly ways that their UI could be improved. If you have some ideas, be specific so people can see if they really WOULD be better. But without that, your complaining is useless.
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post #38 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post

I'm guessing more than a few here appreciate the irony of that comment in the context of this thread.

Speaking of irony, I find your username to be quite ironic.

post #39 of 181
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

That isn't a good argument because Windows and netbooks are or were, respectively, selling so many.

 

Windows was thrust upon people. They didn't necessarily choose it over something else. We've moved from an enterprise computing culture to a consumer computing culture. Individuals get to choose what they want and break away from the shackles of forced "compatibility". In the 80's and 90's, IT departments told employees what they were using and to remain compatible, they bought the same for home (not to mention corporate PC discounts for employees). In the early 2000's, IT departments told people what type of "smartphones" they had to use. The iPhone and iPad have changed that. Employees have overwhelmed IT departments, as well as top executives, with requests for supporting "other" platforms.

 

iPad's user interface is directly related to its success. Touch interfaces were shrunk down counterparts to desktop point&click. Apple redesigned the user interface for multi-touch. Alan Kay is a brilliant person who may just be stuck on a one-way street and unable to accept that something else worked just as well as his "vision" was supposed to, if not better. This happens all the time with people who were at one time at the forefront of technology and innovation - egos are hard to give up.


Edited by mjtomlin - 4/3/13 at 11:20am
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post #40 of 181
Interesting to refer to Jobs' Apple as having a "corporate organization and process" of failure, especially coming from someone at Xerox PARC, where nothing escaped in the form of a real product.

Academia is great at offering criticism.
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