The power of consistent interfacesJune 23, 2007
Apple has released a 20-minute guided tour of the iPhone. It's a remarkably thorough and low-key overview of the features, some of which have not been highlighted before. I love the small touches like the ".com" button on the keyword which is accessible when you're entering a web address.
As I was watching the video, though, I was struck by the true power of what Apple is trying to accomplish - a consistent user interface across all of its products. The new Finder in Leopard is inspired by iTunes, including cover flow for your applications. The same view is now part of the iPhone music experience and will surely be added to the iPod shortly. The stock and weather apps on the iPhone are visually identical to the Dashboard widgets on the Mac. Apple TV is familiar to anyone who has used Front Row on an Mac. Apple's numerous applications are becoming more consistent all the time. And Safari and iTunes are increasingly at the foundation of it all.
Hardware, of course, benefits from this same consistency. The remote for Front Row is identical to the one used by Apple TV. Both function in much the same way as the iPod's click wheel. The base of the iPhone is the iPod dock connector. And you'll find no more than a single button anywhere. The button-free iPhone, in fact, has achieved the ultimate Jobsian state.
By providing a consistent interface, as well as a consistent experience, the user knows what to expect as they move from device to device and app to app. The experience is familiar and comfortable. No matter how they are first introduced to the Apple ecosystem, they are soon curious to explore the rest of this world. Instead of it feeling foreign, it feels like home.
A brief aside: The one element that seems out of place in this world is .mac, Apple's online service. In fact, the recent redesign of Apple.com has made .mac largely invisible. Though Apple would never discontinue a service that adds $69 to many new Mac purchases, what it offers is largely out of step with competitors. The design and features are due for a significant upgrade, one that will hopefully come with Leopard's release this fall, along with the new version of iLife. With the debut of the iPhone, I can imagine .mac being re-introduced as a way to keep your Safari bookmarks, address book, and more in sync across your Macs and your iPhone, and perhaps a convenient way to upload your photos.