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

in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014

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:


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 ]



  • Reply 1 of 150
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 150
    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...... \
  • Reply 3 of 150
    Dan_DilgerDan_Dilger Posts: 1,583member
    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?
  • Reply 4 of 150
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    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 don?t think AppleTV has ever been all that great, merely interesting (though I?d love AirPlay). But this design is clearly not 5 years old, and is not the same thing Jobs rejected?he presumably rejected something similar in some ways, if the story is true (and that much is certainly plausible).

    And I?m sure ?just one visual designer? is now in charge of user experience at Apple, and may not still be there Clearly this Margolis?s axe to grind is excellent evidence of Apple?s 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 they?ll be pouncing on the now-defunct Apple any day now...
  • Reply 5 of 150
    2oh12oh1 Posts: 503member
    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).
  • Reply 6 of 150
    msanttimsantti Posts: 1,377member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 150
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 150
    msanttimsantti Posts: 1,377member
    And why are the app icons rectangular instead of square like on all other iOS devices?
  • Reply 9 of 150
    I think I like the new better than the old, but this is not saying much.
  • Reply 10 of 150
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 150
    msanttimsantti Posts: 1,377member
    Jobs was still alive when we started to get "leather" in iOS.

    How did that happen?
  • Reply 12 of 150
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,103member
    Yessir, Apple has cracked the TV.
  • Reply 13 of 150
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 150
    jensonbjensonb Posts: 530member
    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
  • Reply 15 of 150
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,367member
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 150
    I still like the *first* UI best.

    I'll never use MLB, so why the hell do I have to look at it?
  • Reply 17 of 150
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 150
    jakebjakeb Posts: 562member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 150
    stelligentstelligent Posts: 2,680member
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 150
    zandroszandros Posts: 537member
    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.
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