New Apple TV interface design reportedly old, vetoed by Steve Jobs 5 years ago

New Apple TV interface design reportedly old, vetoed by Steve Jobs 5 years ago

The new Apple TV user interface designs, which debuted alongside the new 1080p Apple TV, are actually 5 years old and were originally tossed out by the late Steve Jobs, who didn't like them. This according to Michael Margolis on Twitter, who claims to have "implemented much of the AppleTV 2.0 UI years ago".

The comment was made in response to Aral Balkan, who asked, "Wtf happened, Apple, did a rainbow throw up at one infinite loop while having sex with a designer from Samsung?" Margolis added, "The new home page UI makes me cry."

Thanks, though most of the product is the same. I also don't like the top-bar-navigation on the app store UI.

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.

Margolis closed out the exchange by saying, as far as he knew, "that whole team has left/been replaced".

Seth Weintraub from 9to5Mac checked into Margolis on LinkedIn, and found him listed as both former Senior Software Engineer at Apple, and Professional Hobbyist, AppleTV. He's currently listed as iPhone Software Connoisseur at Massive Health.

The new Apple TV user interface has been somewhat controversial, with some liking it and believing it hints at a future where apps can run on the Apple TV as they do on other iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. Others feel the icons are inelegant and poorly organized.

However, citing the lack of Steve Jobs being there to say "no" to bad design is somewhat specious. Some of the user interface decisions made by Jobs were just as controversial, including pinstripes and brushed metal on OS X, the new iTunes icon, and the skeumorphic trend on iOS involving plush leather, green felt, and various shades of linen.

Update: It occurs to me that 5 years ago was iOS 1 (iPhone OS 1), which consisted of a Home screen interface with nothing but a collection of static, unorganized, unorganizable icons. The ability to move and organize apps on the Home screen wasn't added until iOS 1.1 in January of 2008 when Apple created Web Clips (web app icons on the Home screen). Jobs obviously okayed the iPhone UI, and later evolutions thereof. Since you can't directly interact with the Apple TV like you can the iPhone and iPad UI, however, it's not quite the same.

Personally, I'd prefer some hierarchical organization -- News, Sports, Videos, etc. instead of just all the icons (some rather less than appealing to l

If you've tried out the new Apple TV software, what do you think of it? Designed fine, or design crime?

Source: @yipe, @aral, LinkedIn via 9to5Mac

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

Swedish magicians prove the iPad really is magical

Next up →

How to use iPhoto to darken and add drama to your iPhone photography

Reader comments

New Apple TV interface design reportedly old, vetoed by Steve Jobs 5 years ago


I preferred the menus to the colorful chicklets that now adorn my screen. I hope they bring it back in the next update.

the new UI is better and easier to use, with nothing "hiding" from the user and so no annoying searching around using a remote control to find things.
the design of the icons themselves, however, is a terrible horrible noggood verybad thing. way, way, way over saturated. horrible, terrible, pitooie.

Wouldn't be so bad if we could reorganize them to have our most used ones in the first row. I have to scroll past a bunch of sports crap I don't use just to get to YouTube.

Having never used the old UI, I can't personally comment on the comparison between the new and the old.
I do find it slightly disconcerting that, now with Jobs gone, Apple went ahead and used an element he scrapped years ago...

He also said no to a lot of things we now take for granted according to the biography, one such things being this strange concept of "apps".

I, too, prefer the menu UI; at least there was some semblance of organization here. This one will not scale well with added services, especially when the included remote requires so much actuation force for the buttons. They need to figure out how to reduce clicks here. It does show just how few services/features this unit has compared to its competitors - and how are individual services such as MLB and NFL getting menu parity with core functions like music and photos? As for design,'s a step back, and also inferior to its competitors, to include my 3-yr-old entry-level Sony Blu-Ray player. And those icons could stand to look a little more crisp.
That said, I do like the improved performance and resolution, and flipping through the panels is fun- the physics are pulled off well is pretty good, and the origami screen-saver animation is Flipboard-flawless. Still a worthy upgrade.

Accidental touch here- was trying to delete "is pretty good", but YOUR UI placed "Submit Comment" too close for my two-finger scrolling of my gratuitously-long blowhard review in the text entry area - could we all agree to put that button on the side? Thanks!

I haven't tried Apple TV but I thought I'd comment on the statement that Jobs is no longer there to say NO to bad design. Steve certainly had his controversial moments, which you mention. And sometimes a decision that seemed bad/crazy at the time was prescient later. Like the decision to remove the floppy drive from the iMac in 1998 because "No one uses floppy drives any more." At the time, everyone thought he was crazy. People had to buy add-on drives to use their old floppies. But 14 years later, most kids have never even heard of floppy drives and the capacity of thumb drives - which didn't exist at the time - vastly exceeds what even DVDs can hold.

I wonder if SJ said "No" to other things this FORMER employee had something to do with, and has axes to grind?

You have to wonder what other Bad Ideas are going to be revisited now that SJ is gone. This is what we have been worried about in that were they going to stay the course for awhile. Looks like we have our answer and it's not the one we wanted.

I find the comments by this person to be very inappropriate. That is not something that should be public IMHO. To me it sounds like he is some how hinting that now without Mr. Jobs Apple will start doing just anything and is putting down both Jobs and Apple because one of his ideas got tossed a few years ago.

I don't understand why MobileMe is there, isn't that going away, so why have it there now? The icons do look less polished than for other iOS devices, they just need to be tweaked to look more beautiful. Would also like to be able to customize move icons to top, bottom or delete altogether.

MobileMe is still around for at least a year since the release of iCloud, since there were still many paid subscribers to MobileMe. They all got one final year of MobileMe, and will possibly begin to receive alerts about MobileMe going away soon and them needing to covert their account to iCloud.

Given the many other tools and options available, I'm not even sure what the point of the Apple TV is in the first place...

I got an apple tv a few months back, I looked at roku, wd, and Sony. What sold me on apple tv was AirPlay from iPhone or iPad. Plus once jailbroken it can play pretty much anything over the network. It even does flash, something the wd couldn't.

It is bad design and SJ wouldn't stand for it. The new menu system is awful. It looks like the sort of thing i'd expect to see on a tiny sub-$100 media streamer... oh, wait...
But then, what I get from Apple should really be more than i expect. Apple - please god change it back at the next update, or move on to proper iOS TV.

Apple should actually make it possible for us to CHOOSE if we want the old or new "theme".
That way everyone would be happy.
I like the older version better !

I preferred the old UI which was much cleaner and kept everything onscreen. This one wouldnt be half as bad if you could at least rearrange the icons.

I think it's a bit of a mess. I want to hide any unused icons for a start and reorganise the ones I do use. The main icons are way too big with a maximum of five across now. One of the main ones is settings. Who cares about settings once they're set? It all seems like a step backwards to me. Plenty of other good points thankfully though.

New interface is tacky. It looks like jelly beans. Not surprised it was vetoed. First thing i thought when i saw it was, "I wonder if Job's would have like all the gawdy colors? I think not." Not minimalist enough. Too many gawdy colors.

I like it. It's way better than the previous UI. Which was plain and text based. Of course I wish there was more apps for it.

Pleeeease bring back the prior UI back!!! Certainly more organized than the last update. They could improve the radio more Pandora like or include it.

I'm brand new to Apple TV so I have nothing to compare it to, but I am disappointed in the iPhone/iPad "Remote" app for it. Why doesn't it give me the same screen on my iPad so I can touch and go, instead of just scrolling with my finger instead of the included remote control? It would allow an easy way to move icons around, and hide or create a folder for those I don't use. I love the unit itself, but the Remote app the make for it could be so much more useful.

Have been using Apple TV for many years and it is a cornerstone of our home entertainment system. The new GUI is overwhelming in its appearance with us on a 42" plasma screen having to scroll up and down to see all the childlike icons. A scaled down version that fits all on screen or is scalable would have been very good. This eyesore is a mess and not being able to turn off the preview items at the top a travesty of design.
Remote control is awful too...

It's a horrible design and I'm not updating until the next release when hopefully they realize what they did and change it.

You've seen the new interface for ical and addressbook, right? They happened on Steve's watch and they are hideous beyond belief.

Hello there, I found your website by means of Google whilst searching for a comparable subject, your website came up, it seems good. I have added to favourites|added to bookmarks.

I tried it. Took about 3 tries to get the drop the right size on my iPhone 4. At first, I thought it wasn't working, but you really need to get the iPhone lens almost touching the surface of the object for it to be in focus.