Opinion: Tail Wags the Dog

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Date: Tuesday, June 12th, 2007, 13:55
Category: Opinion

fruitlogo1.jpg
At the WWDC keynote today, Steve showed off the new look of the Finder. I have seen the future, and that future is… iTunes.
That’s right: the Finder is becoming iTunes. Well, no, not literally the app, but it’s going to look and work just like it. The side bar is now a blue field just like on the left of iTunes, and in it, instead of big icons, is text and small icons just like, well, iTunes uses. The top is a Unified header with icon/list/column/coverflow buttons and a search bar; there’s a big content area in the center with 6″ icons on a black field with partial reflections below them. It’s iTunes for the Finder.
Seems to me like the tail wagging the dog. The OS is inheriting a look and feel from an app; isn’t that supposed to go the other way around? I’m not entirely convinced this is a bad design choice, but I’m far from convinced that it’s a good one. Personally, I still hide the frames on Finder windows to get rid of the clutter, and so long as I can do that and have windows without the left bar and with a title bar (but no header), I’ll be happy. But still, I’m left with an uneasy feeling as a designer that this isn’t the way you go about design progressions. I mean, I like iTunes as much as the next guy, but it’s not that good. It doesn’t feel good enough to me to extend over an entire OS. But it looks like it will.
Now, later in the keynote, Steve also announced Safari for Windows, leveraging the 500 million copies of iTunes for Windows that there are out there, and several things hit me. First, Safari 3 is not redesigned like iTunes, and if they’re doing this, Safari should look as much like iTunes as it can, but it still looks a little more like Safari 2.0 than iTunes. It does have a Unified header and the side frames are gone (both welcome changes), but I think they can go a little further.
But the second thing that hit me was this: if there are 500 million copies of iTunes for Windows out there (and if you’ve not seen it running on a Windows box, it’s totally Aqua), that means there are at least 500 million Windows users at least somewhat familiar with the iTunes UI… maybe substantially more, if people share a computer at home, say. And now Steve wants to go further and release Safari – also free – for Windows. Pretty soon those Windows users will be pretty accustomed to the iTunes UI, and Safari… and then, they’ll encounter a
Mac, which looks and works just like iTunes, and, as Steve is so fond of saying, boom.
So it’s not just the iTunes UI tail wagging the OS X UI dog, it’s the iPod division wagging the entire Macintosh division. They’re leveraging the wild popularity of the iPod to get iTunes in front of people to get them used to a good user experience and the iTunes UI, and then somehow get them in front of a Mac running Leopard, and the barrier to switch will be almost invisible. It’s brilliant.
Well, just so long as I can still hide it on mine.
Steve Abrahamson


fruitlogo1.jpg
At the WWDC keynote today, Steve showed off the new look of the Finder. I have seen the future, and that future is… iTunes.
That’s right: the Finder is becoming iTunes. Well, no, not literally the app, but it’s going to look and work just like it. The side bar is now a blue field just like on the left of iTunes, and in it, instead of big icons, is text and small icons just like, well, iTunes uses. The top is a Unified header with icon/list/column/coverflow buttons and a search bar; there’s a big content area in the center with 6″ icons on a black field with partial reflections below them. It’s iTunes for the Finder.
Seems to me like the tail wagging the dog. The OS is inheriting a look and feel from an app; isn’t that supposed to go the other way around? I’m not entirely convinced this is a bad design choice, but I’m far from convinced that it’s a good one. Personally, I still hide the frames on Finder windows to get rid of the clutter, and so long as I can do that and have windows without the left bar and with a title bar (but no header), I’ll be happy. But still, I’m left with an uneasy feeling as a designer that this isn’t the way you go about design progressions. I mean, I like iTunes as much as the next guy, but it’s not that good. It doesn’t feel good enough to me to extend over an entire OS. But it looks like it will.
Now, later in the keynote, Steve also announced Safari for Windows, leveraging the 500 million copies of iTunes for Windows that there are out there, and several things hit me. First, Safari 3 is not redesigned like iTunes, and if they’re doing this, Safari should look as much like iTunes as it can, but it still looks a little more like Safari 2.0 than iTunes. It does have a Unified header and the side frames are gone (both welcome changes), but I think they can go a little further.
But the second thing that hit me was this: if there are 500 million copies of iTunes for Windows out there (and if you’ve not seen it running on a Windows box, it’s totally Aqua), that means there are at least 500 million Windows users at least somewhat familiar with the iTunes UI… maybe substantially more, if people share a computer at home, say. And now Steve wants to go further and release Safari – also free – for Windows. Pretty soon those Windows users will be pretty accustomed to the iTunes UI, and Safari… and then, they’ll encounter a
Mac, which looks and works just like iTunes, and, as Steve is so fond of saying, boom.
So it’s not just the iTunes UI tail wagging the OS X UI dog, it’s the iPod division wagging the entire Macintosh division. They’re leveraging the wild popularity of the iPod to get iTunes in front of people to get them used to a good user experience and the iTunes UI, and then somehow get them in front of a Mac running Leopard, and the barrier to switch will be almost invisible. It’s brilliant.
Well, just so long as I can still hide it on mine.
Steve Abrahamson

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