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A former Apple TV engineer has revealed that the user interface implemented in the device’s latest update was actually rejected by Steve Jobs five years ago — a potential sign that cracks are beginning to appear in Apple’s design dominance.
Former Apple TV engineer Michael Margolis mentioned yesterday on his Twitter account that “the new [Apple TV] homepage UI makes me cry.” He then went on to reveal the following: “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.”
Apple released a software update for its second-generation Apple TV in early March to coincide with the release of a newer and more powerful model that can play 1080p HD video. The new user interface is heavy on glossy icons and has been criticized by Apple TV fanatics since its release.
Update: Margolis later made it clear that it was the grid design Jobs was specifically referring to — not the glossy icon design.
Since Jobs’ passing, everyone has been looking for signs of missteps. (Our own Jolie O’Dell wrote an impassioned post about the new iPad launch event.) The Apple TV redesign seemed like yet another example of bad design making its way into a normally flawless company. Ultimately though, the design is less of a problem than Apple’s abysmal support of the Apple TV platform (Where are the third-party apps? Why did this upgrade take so long?!).
On Twitter, Margolis made it clear he didn’t think this was a dramatic failure for Apple: “The new Apple TV UI isn’t a sign of a doomed “post-SJ” Apple, it’s a logical next step given their desire to match the iOS home page.” He added that the new interface is particularly exciting since it’s “just begging for apps,” something the original design didn’t support. Margolis also noted that much of the Apple TV design outside of the homepage remains the same, “I think that’s a testament to how good it was,” he said.