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

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
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.'"
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 228
    bigdaddypbigdaddyp Posts: 811member
    Wahh! I designed a mock up 20 years ago and you damn greedy companies failed to live up to my vision.

    Don't like where tablet computing is headed? Build your own.
  • Reply 2 of 228
    kyle172kyle172 Posts: 64member
    So this poor design is why they are selling so many iPad's?
  • Reply 3 of 228
    macvictamacvicta Posts: 346member
    He wouldn't have had the balls to say that if Steve was still alive.
  • Reply 4 of 228
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,580member


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

  • Reply 5 of 228
    jgutherjguther Posts: 82member
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 228
    dgnr8dgnr8 Posts: 196member


    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".

  • Reply 7 of 228
    Too many drugs Kay. You, as always, fail to distinguish between conceptual and reality. Your speeches are still boring.
  • Reply 8 of 228
    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".
  • Reply 9 of 228
    Real artists ship, dude.
  • Reply 10 of 228
    gijoeinlagijoeinla Posts: 213member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 228
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



     A former Apple Fellow, 


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

  • Reply 12 of 228
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member

    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.

  • Reply 13 of 228
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 228
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bigdaddyp View Post



    Wahh! I designed a mock up 20 years ago and you damn greedy companies failed to live up to my vision.



    Don't like where tablet computing is headed? Build your own.


    Quit being so defensive of Apple. It's a horrible trait and ruins interesting discussion.

  • Reply 15 of 228
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member

    Quote:

    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.

  • Reply 16 of 228
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    This is the same Alan Kay that wrote…
    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.
    kyle172 wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 228
    poksipoksi Posts: 481member
    Hm, let me see.....How many losers did I hear from today?
  • Reply 18 of 228
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member

    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.

  • Reply 19 of 228
    macrulezmacrulez Posts: 2,455member


    deleted

  • Reply 20 of 228
    leonardleonard Posts: 528member

    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.

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