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Former Apple TV Engineer Claims New Apple TV Interface Discarded 5 Years Ago [Updatedx2]

Macgasm notes an interesting tweet by former Apple TV engineer Michael Margolis who claims that the new Apple TV interface designs were "tossed out 5 years ago because [Steve Jobs] didn't like them."


Alongside the 3rd Generation iPad, Apple also introduced a new version of the Apple TV that supports 1080P video. With it came an updated interface for the set-top box, (shown above) with icon-based category buttons and large billboard-style artwork for content. The interface was also rolled out to previous 2nd Generation Apple TV owners in a software update.

Margolis goes on to say that "now there is nobody to say 'no' to bad design", referring to Steve Jobs' passing. Some MacRumors readers have complained about the new design, and others felt it was a paving the way for Apple TV apps in the future.

Five years ago (2007), when the design was reportedly "tossed out", Apple's product landscape was quite different. Both the Apple TV and iPhone were first introduced in January of that year, and the App Store would not be launched for another year in mid-2008.

Update: Margolis clarifies what he meant to TheNextWeb:
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.

Update 2: TechCrunch posts a longer response from Margolis who seems to be downplaying his previous tweet:
Steve rejecting a design five years ago isn’t a huge deal. Steve was well known for rejecting ideas, tweaking them, and turning them into something even better. And that’s a very good thing. One of my favorite parts of working at Apple was knowing that SJ said “no” to most everything initially, even if he later came to like it, advocate for it, and eventually proudly present it on stage. This helped the company stay focused and drove people to constantly improve, iterate, and turn the proverbial knob to 11 on everything.


Related roundup: Apple TV

Top Rated Comments

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34 months ago
Apple has 60,000 employees, and Steve was the only person qualified to say "no" to bad design? Give me a break.
Rating: 63 Votes
34 months ago
I still miss the Tiger-Era Front Row interface. That was wonderful, still miss it today!
Rating: 39 Votes
34 months ago

Apple has 60,000 employees, and Steve was the only person qualified to say "no" to bad design? Give me a break.


Steve did not run a democracy, his obsessive nature is what made Apple the company it is today. Just read all the confessions / biographic memos, he sounded like a scary individual.
Rating: 35 Votes
34 months ago
Only reason they went with this design is that it scales better with multiple apps than the old software ever did.
Rating: 30 Votes
34 months ago

IMHO it's kind of annoying to have to scroll up and down/remember where stuff is. At least with the menu system I knew Netflix/radio/youtube were all "Internet" related things under the Internet menu.


With one quick scroll you can see every single content option on the device represented by big, colorful icons. I don't see how this makes it more difficult than the old software.


This looks like the end of Apple. Without Steve here there is no QA.


Right, because no one ever complained about the old Apple TV interface that Steve did approve. Not that we even know whether Steve saw and approved this design the second time around.
Rating: 28 Votes
34 months ago
What is so bad about it? The fact that it uses the screen estate? Or that the icons are actually colorful?
Rating: 23 Votes
34 months ago

What is so bad about it? The fact that it uses the screen estate? Or that the icons are actually colorful?


IMHO it's kind of annoying to have to scroll up and down/remember where stuff is. At least with the menu system I knew Netflix/radio/youtube were all "Internet" related things under the Internet menu.
Rating: 16 Votes
34 months ago

I think instead of saying that there's no one to say "no" to bad design, I'd put it this way: There may not be a singular person currently at Apple who has the fundamental instinct for discerning elegant design from bad design in an instant.

The danger this presents for Apple is that if they don't retain someone who does possess this kind of insight, and entrust that person with final authority to can a bad design, they may turn back to consumer testing...

You say this like the old Apple TV design was genius and in the few months since Jobs' death, Apple completely revamped the design by committee. Fact is, the interface has always been a problem, and the Apple TV has never been a success. The new design is lipstick on a pig--lipstick, in all likelihood, approved by Jobs himself.

My point is simply this: it's one thing to say that the Apple TV interface sucks. It's another thing to say it sucks because Jobs isn't in charge anymore. The former is perfectly reasonable; the latter is bordering on Cult of Jobs nonsense.

It seems highly unlikely to me that the production pipeline allows for the possibility that someone other than Jobs approved this revamp of the interface. This thread is a case study in people seeing what they want to see (namely, a decline in decision making at Apple following Jobs' death).
Rating: 14 Votes
34 months ago
I didn't expect to read this today. Interesting.

I agree, I do not like this new UI. It looks unpolished and unintuitive.

I sincerely hope this isn't the beginning of the end of QA for Apple with the late Steve Jobs' sad passing. Jonny or others must know and think as Steve would in these situations as Steve put much faith in him. The next few years should be interesting.
Rating: 13 Votes
34 months ago
I would have to agree. The new interface is tacky and crude-looking and certainly not consistent with the "zen" look that Jobs so ardently insisted upon. There is no question this would never have made it past Jobs.
Rating: 12 Votes

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