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Apple's secret ingredient: Clarity

While it frustrates some people when Apple redesigns Final Cut Pro or the Mac Pro and it no longer seems to serve the power-user base, it ultimate ends up empowering a far larger base. That's Apple's longstanding mission — to make technology ever-more accessible. And one of the primary ways Apple accomplishes that mission is through clarity. Jim Dalrymple, writing for The Loop:

One of the triumphs for Apple over the last decade was providing users with powerful software with a very simple interface. iPhoto, iMovie, Keynote and others showed people that software didn't have to be complicated to be useful. That's not to say that Apple's consumer-level software isn't powerful, because it is.GarageBand, for example, uses the same audio engine found in Logic Pro, Apple's professional digital audio workstation, but GarageBand has allowed millions of musicians to record music easily.

It goes beyond hardware, software, and services as well. It goes to Apple itself. My favorite recent examples is Tim Cook's re-org and what has followed from it as a direct result. It's also why, when Apple makes something that's not as simple or clear as it should be, the push back is so extreme. If you've got any favorite examples of Apple's clarity — or lack thereof — let me know!

(Also: I love Jim's long form stuff. I hope we see a lot more of it on The Loop.)

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Favorite examples of Apple's clarity:
    iMac, iPhone & iPad, iOS 7, Airport Least Favorite examples:
    "Hockey Puck Mouse" & Apple's ability to OVER simplify some experiences, particularly in the iOS. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yeah, they've never nailed the mouse. I love their trackpads though. Sent from the iMore App
  • Tell them to pour some of that clarity into an Aperture update.
  • Amen. Waiting so long! Sent from the iMore App
  • One area that I see will get redone is Apple TV's interface. Their main menu of icons will be too long to manage. I actually liked their pull-downs more then the iPad view of apps. It will be interesting which way they go.
  • Apple TV interface just doesn't scale. Needs universal spotlight search at the very least. Sent from the iMore App
  • I don't know about spotlight as typing is bad and so is alphabet picking to form a search. Im guessing categories with favorite selection option. Or dynamic 12 last used... Don't know as my focus group (my wife) won't participate.
  • This is needed so bad.
  • I like iPhone, iPad, and OS X simplicity, but hope iTunes gets some of that clarity too (it used to be much easier during its early years, too bloated now). I understand its bloat, and admit it is a hard problem to solve.
  • Well, backups aren't really "clear" though. I mean, you can't see that it happened, without going to settings, nor can you see what's in it, nor can you download it from iCloud to a computer to then put to a phone. It may be clear that you can't do certain things, but the reasoning behind them isn't really. I guess it makes things clearer for novices, but it does it by taking away some clarity is my point.
  • I recently finished Leander Kahney's Jony Ive Biography. In it they described their ability to create designs with CAD and 3D modeling printing. Empowering them to iterate faster. I'm not even sure if they are interested in the topic. But I'd love to see them continue to empower their users and clarify the use of 3D printing and CAD design. 3D printers might not be were they need to be yet for Apple to touch this, but I think they could do wonders if they decided to focus on it.
  • "If you've got any favorite examples of Apple's clarity — or lack thereof — let me know!" The desktop version of iTunes. It took me a few minutes to find out how to get "iTunes Extras" content for some movies I bought through iTunes. (Hint: the iTunes Extras download button turns into the "Play iTunes Extras" button.) No, iTunes Extras is not something that most iTunes users will need all day every day. But it's yet another feature jammed into the already-bloated hairball that is desktop iTunes. If and when Apple brings Siri to OS X, it could drastically simplify many iTunes tasks. "Show me iTunes Extras for Looper," for example, would have saved me all that trouble. And how about "Play all songs by The Modern Jazz Quartet recorded between 1960 and 1967"?
  • The home button is probably the clearest thing apple has ever produced. Settings app is perhaps the most bloated and difficult to navigate part of IOS. Sent from the iMore App
  • The truly fascinating part of the clarity story is that with the insight that including the developer community via iOS and App Store, a new clarity has spread far beyond Apple in terms of user experience. Now hundreds of thousands of devs are hyper focused on making their products clear, not just Apple. Sent from the iMore App
  • It's apples and oranges.... If you want to say they made the i series software suite more appealing and powerful for the masses would agree. But stripping away features of apps that they label Pro is alienating, not empowering. Maybe I misunderstand the point of the post but...
  • "The key in the post-PC era for having a great product is incredible hardware, incredible software, and incredible services, and to combine them so you can't tell what's what. The magic is at the intersection."
    - Tim Cook at AllThingsD D11, 5/28/2013
  • "Technology is at its best and most empowering when it simply disappears."
    Jony Ive, 2013 iPhone event
  • "Good design is as little design as possible."
    - Dieter Rams
  • Trackpad! Sent from the iMore App