While most Mac users don’t care too much because OS X Tiger works so well, many Mac users have noticed and complained about the Graphical User Interface.
The GUI is total chaos, an inconsistent mess, a jumble of contradictions. Why? Because Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a sly fox.
Mac OS X Panther at version 10.3.9 may have been the best Mac OS ever. Solid. Secure. Dependable. Mac OS X Tiger at 10.4.3 seems to exceed that and adds many new features.
What both have in common is a clumsy user interface, a GUI mess that’s out of control. Or, is it? I thought so. So do others. I’m not so sure now.
Apple pundits have poked at the GUI confusion in Mac OS X for a couple of years. Once the hallmark of the Macintosh, and a key differentiator from Windows, the Mac’s user interface seems to have lost its way.
OS X Tiger is an inconsistent, jumbled weed of GUI experiences, a mish mash of look and feel that not only contradicts Apple’s own guidelines for developers, it’s a moving target, changing with each new version of the operating system.
Why? What’s going on at Apple? Why can’t Apple maintain a consistent look and feel on their own applications?
To be fair, the average Mac user probably doesn’t care. This confusion and discord that some Mac users see and complain about isn’t noticed or isn’t a problem with most Mac users; even with switchers from Windows.
A quick look at Tiger running on any new Mac will tell you that something’s wrong. There’s the brushed aluminum look of the Finder and Safari, both major applications used by most Mac users.
There’s the up and coming platinum plastic look that showed up in Mail and eventually new versions of iTunes.
AddressBook and iCal share the brushed aluminum, though iCal has that odd side window pane that pops out. Some Mac applications use the panes to the left, some to the right, some don’t use it at all.
And how about the pop down panes, such as that used by Safari, Mail, and other applications for printing? That one, I like. Except it’s got different functions in different applications (Keynote and iWork come to mind).
Don’t get me started on the Finder. After the mess it became in Classic Mac OS 9.x, we had high hopes for OS X. Instead, it’s even clunkier, though I prefer column view to open windows.
Apple does differentiate their ‘professional’ applications from mainstream apps. The whole look and feel of Final Cut Pro, SoundTrack, LiveType, DVD Studio, Logic Pro, and Aperture, is substantially different than the iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD look and feel.
At least that makes sense. But why Apple even ignores their own human interface guidelines in their own applications and operating system remains a mystery.
Until now. The more I think about what Steve Jobs is doing to move Apple ahead, the more I think the man is a very sly fox.
First, Apple can get away with a little user interface madness, both in the ‘name of change’ and because Mac users will tolerate it if everything just works. It usually does.
Second, Steve knows, and we’ve seen it already, that Microsoft will copy everything they can from Mac OS X and plug it in to the next version of Windows. Steve can’t stop Microsoft from stealing from Apple.
However, Apple, very carefully, is giving Microsoft a moving target interface. What Microsoft copies and puts into Windows Vista won’t be what Apple’s OS X looks like within a year after Vista ships (end of 2006… maybe).
This moving target that Apple has in OS X Tiger stops moving with Leopard’s introduction but only AFTER Windows Vista ships, presumably next year.
With OS X Leopard, gone will be the confusing look and feel of platinum, brushed aluminum, window panes, pop out panes, and ancient Finder. Why? Because Microsoft will have copied all they can by then, and the introduction of Leopard in early 2007 ups the ante. Again.
Shrewd, huh? Microsoft will lock itself into Vista’s look for years to come, while Apple transitions smoothly into a unified, exotic, stable, dependable, classy-looking OS X Leopard—right after Vista ships.
Regular Mac users will view the changes as, well, just more changes; necessary to advance the user experience. The rest of us will applaud Apple’s new unified GUI and ooh and ahh along with the rest of the world.
Hey, it could happen. Layer by layer, Apple is peeling open the future of the computing experience. Look for a new glimpse at Macworld 2006. Look for a finished product line at Macworld 2007.
Jack D. Miller
Plausible? Yes. Probable? No. Just when I was getting used to brushed aluminum, along comes platinum plastic.
Carol Mary Miller
Brushed aluminum is soooo 2004. The new ‘plastic’ look in Mail and iTunes is soooo Fisher-Price.
Hmmmm. I have to think about this awhile. I figured the changes were just, you know, improvements. Maybe there’s a plan behind the confusion.
Much ado over nothing. It’s just changes. The average user doesn’t care, Mac or Windows. You over analyze everything, Tera.