The Story Behind the ‘Rejected’ Apple TV UI

Posted on March 26, 2012 by


Many blogs have been talking about some recent tweets from Michael Margolis, a former Apple engineer. Talking about the new Apple TV interface, Margolis said “those new designs were tossed out 5 years ago because SJ didn’t like them.” This has started lots of creative rumors about how Apple won’t survive without Steve Jobs and the company is finished.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Margolis explains his thoughts with far more context:

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.

I personally like the new Apple TV interface, but I think it could use a few improvements. I would like to be abe to rearrange the app icons, and maybe even create folders.

Comments (281)


  1. iphonedoc says:

    The new UI is not very intuitive.  It seems to be an amalgamation of Boxee and a Touch device.  Not to say that Boxee’s is any better, but the fact that I have people being confused about where to go with it when they first see the menu tells me that it was not a good UI in the first place.  As I tweeted back to Mike and others, if my wife cannot figure it out in 2 seconds, it’s a fail!  She is my barometer to good UI.  She has a great sense of both usability and style.

  2. Eli Courey says:

    what exactly confused her? just curious, because it seems pretty self explanatory with the icons and text underneath. very similar to an iOS device, except you navigate with a remote instead of touching the screen. and besides the home screen, the interface hasn’t really changed.

  3. iphonedoc says:

    Didn’t see your post until now. A little late, but the confusion actually occurs with others who use this as well. First the highlighted icons do not always stand out. We are used to it now, but anytime a new person tries to use it, they have no idea where the highlighted icon is. Secondly, the drop down was really better when placing more apps on the screen. With the addition of SkyNews and ESPN, the whole thing looks really messy now.

    Drop downs are much easier. 1 year later.