It’s a sin I know almost too well as a blogger. It’s slow going for news on a Friday night and the pageview gods send you a reprieve in the form of a tweet.
A former Apple engineer is berating the company’s design ethic in the post-Jobs era in less than 140 characters?
Until it’s a crisis! ZOMG! Apple is over! The company is finished!
Interested in the actual story, I talked with former Apple TV engineer Mike Margolis about the tweet that launched a thousand blog posts.
So here’s what he said on Twitter.
@aral Fun fact – those new designs were tossed out 5 years ago because SJ didn’t like them. Now there is nobody to say “no” to bad design.
— Michael Margolis ッ (@yipe) March 24, 2012
Here are his thoughts with far more context:
I woke up this morning with hundreds of new followers on Twitter and two dozen text messages from friends – many of them Apple employees past and present. Turns out a few of my tweets were being blogged about. I wouldn’t mind, except many people were misquoting and painting doom and gloom scenarios for Apple and making false claims about the design teams at Apple. I have not been present for any of the Apple TV product discussions for more than four years, so I’m a bit surprised that everyone is all atwitter about what SJ rejected so long ago and what that means today.
Specifically, I stated in a tweet that Steve did not like the grid design five years ago. That is absolutely 100% true. It’s also true that five years ago the iPad didn’t exist, Apple users weren’t in love with app-grid interfaces like they are now, a streaming-only iCloud connected device was a pipe dream, and AppleTV did not have great new third party content like YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo, NBA, NFL, and more. The UI didn’t make much sense back then but it makes much more sense now. If you compare Front Row to AppleTV 1.0, “AppleTV Take 2”, and the new AppleTV UI it is clear that the product is continually improving. The new UI is no doubt cleaner, simpler, easier to use, and more in line with the now-popular iPad UI and Lion’s Launchpad.
Timing and context are crucial – both on Twitter and in product design.
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.
A quick clarification: many sites are now worried that there is only a single designer in the consumer apps team. That is absolutely not true. I simply stated (in 140 characters) that one designer from the consumer apps team was largely responsible for the Apple TV visual design, not Jonathan Ive.
Margolis adds that he no longer owns any Apple stock and hasn’t been employed by the company since 2008.