Look a little closer at Lion and you’ll see a secret message from the highest levels of Apple:
During previous medical leaves, Steve was still running the show. This time, he’s stepped back to allow others a larger role. Get used to it.
Honestly, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion when (A) Steve has always been intimately involved in approving the design and function of OS X, and (B) a few of the more visible decisions in Lion look nothing like the Steve we know.
After using Lion for a couple of weeks, three apps in particular make me miss Steve’s touch:
1. iCal. Not to beat this dead horse (see earlier post), but the design sense of the new iCal is just totally out of character for an OS that otherwise defines elegance and simplicity. Steve is a purist. He doesn’t compromise. He sends designers back to the drawing board over and over until they get it just right. This is purely a design decision — and it looks like someone else’s decision.
2. Address Book. This app suffers a double whammy. It shares iCal’s design tackiness, then ups the ante by taking a leap backwards in functionality. We used to see everything Address Book had to offer — individuals, groups and contact info — within a single view. Now we have to jump back and forth between views to see it all. Totally unnecessary over-design. Totally not Steve.
3. Launchpad. This is a beautiful idea, only half-baked. Maybe even quarter-baked. Launchpad automatically configures itself with icons for every app and utility in your computer — including apps you’ll never use and apps you didn’t know you had. I don’t consider myself an app junkie, and my icons numbered over 200. A total mess.
But it gets even worse: if you delete an icon, you delete the app itself. (Fine for apps you’ve purchased from the App Store, which can be re-downloaded — unacceptable for apps you’ve purchased elsewhere.) If you want to tidy up, good luck. You can delete icons of apps purchased from the App Store (which deletes the app as well), but Lion won’t let you delete the icons of apps you bought elsewhere. Fortunately, there’s a perfect little free utility called LaunchpadCleaner that allows you to get rid of icons without trashing your apps. I used it and deleted 179 icons that were making Launchpad unusable. How could Apple possibly offer Launchpad without this kind of functionality built in? Likely because someone else was playing the role of Steve for this performance.
Between his current medical leave and the fact that one day (hopefully far, far in the future) it is inevitable that he steps down as CEO, Steve would be irresponsible not to be transitioning certain responsibilities to others.
So this isn’t a criticism as much as it is an observation. Steve-level perfection can only be expected when Steve himself is making the decisions. Talent runs deep at Apple, but different people will see things a bit differently — and their decisions will sometimes raise our eyebrows. Lion is our sneak preview.