Former Apple TV Engineer Clarifies His Remarks on The New Apple TV Interface

Yesterday, Michael Margolis – a former Apple TV engineer set the blogsphere abuzz by claiming that the new Apple TV interface designs were tossed out 5 years ago because Steve Jobs didn’t like them.

Margolis has now clarified to TechCrunch on what he meant with some 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.

He also had this to say to The Next Web:

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.

Apple launched the new Apple TV alongside the third generation iPad at the media event on March 7th, which brought 1080p playback capabilities to the device and a revamped user interface. Apple had also released Apple TV software update 5.0, which brought the new icon-based user interface to the second generation Apple TV.

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