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Nokia's new hire rags on Apple, Motorola UI design

updated 05:55 pm EDT, Sat September 18, 2010

Nokia's Skillman: Apple and Moto UIs are complex

Nokia's new MeeGo user experience leader Peter Skillman in an interview on Friday criticized both Apple and Motorola in equal measure for interface design choices. He didn't give a full critique of the iPhone to ZURB but said iOS was inconsistent in how users navigate the interface. The former Palm Pre creator embraced Apple-like design philosophy but argued that the iPhone broke the metaphors it wanted to create by forcing users into a different control method to start a new app.

"If a user wants to walk from kitchen to dining room in her house she simply walks through," Skillman explained. "It does not work like that in Mobile -- you have to go through front door to get to the kitchen. iPhone has a home button which works like a go back to front door button. This is not a model that human beings are used to. People are spatial."

WebOS, which wasn't directly designed by Skillman but would have required his involvement, uses a card metaphor for apps and requires less hopping between screens, but it has some inconsistency of its own in requiring users take advantage of beneath-the-screen gestures to go back a level or pull up the app launcher.

Less detailed but harsher words were reserved for a criticism of Motorola that also implicated Android. There's "too much junk" on top of many existing operating systems, he said, using Motorola's Motoblur layer on Android as the main example. Phones like the Motorola Charm have home screens dominated by social networking and other custom elements; HTC also engages in some of the behavior with Sense UI, and Sony Ericsson's Mediascape and Timescape on its Xperia Android phones also impose such layers. Motorola itself has acknowledged some of the issue and has toned down the interface to become Blur on the Droid 2 and Droid X.

The new Nokia hire instead argued that design must be as simple as possible. A designer's goals are to cut out frustrations, ease very common tasks and provide immediate feedback for every action. He shared Apple's view that more was not necessarily better. "What you reject is a lot more important that what you put in," Skillman said.

He also warned that the tendency for companies to run isolated divisions was a significant problem in the industry and likened it to a university, where arts and science sections may never talk to each other. The observation may force Skillman to confront his new employer's culture. Engineers from within the company have complained that Nokia runs conflicting hardware and software divisions where the two seldom work directly in tandem and the hardware group has full control.

Skillman's impact on Nokia likely won't be felt for some time. The first phone to use MeeGo, the N9, will already have a customized interface but will have relied more on veteran developers at Intel and Nokia rather than outside talent.

by MacNN Staff



  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I wonder what Skillman thinks of Android

    Android has the "front door to get to the kitchen" problem PLUS the "too much junk" problem.

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Irrelevant. A great GUI won't save Nokia.

    The GUI is just the tip of the iceberg. Did the iPod win 70%+ of the mobile media player market because it was shiny and had a nice clickwheel interface? I'm sure that helped. But the not-so-secret ingredient that Apple used to propel iPod to greatness was, and always has been, iTunes.

    Apple has been building and expanding their iDevice software infrastructure since 2001, when iTunes was released. Several months before the first iPod was even announced. And that infrastructure has been hugely important in the success of iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

    I have no doubt that Mr. Skillman's snippy comments helped him do well in his job interview. But the damage has already been done. Tweaking the Meego GUI is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  1. juraiprince

    Joined: Dec 1969



    SockRolid! Everything that Apple has put in place since 2001 was created to work in unison with iTunes. iTunes is the sun that every iPod, iPhone and iPad, etc. rotates around. That is a combination that is difficult for anyone, even Android, to match. In effect, it seems all the other competitors out there can do is try to find something to criticize. In my opinion, the iTunes ecosystem is pretty solid.

  1. facebook_Thomas

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Sep 2010


    His front door analogy is wrong

    Ever since the iPhone had multiple home screens it always dropped you back to the last screen you were on and not the front door as he puts it. That only happens when you hit the home button while on one if the other screens. So if you are in the kitchen and click on your fridge app then click the home button you are still in the kitchen again. Maybe he should understand how the iPhone works before trying to bash it.

  1. macnnoel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    as always...

    if your company is in trouble, blame Apple.

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Joined: Dec 1969


    All these "experts" and analysts...

    ...should simply put their money where their mouths are.

    It matters not what they say -- only what they do. You never hear Apple going around bashing other companies... they're too busy doing, not saying.

    If he can do better, shut up and do better and the world will see it and rejoice. Every moment spent trash-talking and criticizing is a moment they haven't spent actually doing something.

  1. chas_m



    Er ...

    Wasn't the Palm Pre a failure?

    I mean, it was an interesting failure, I give them full marks for trying and all, but ... doesn't sound like this guy learned any lessons from that experience and instead just swung to the next branch.

  1. facebook_Justin

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Sep 2010


    comment title

    Perhaps if Nokia stopped giving so much money to these moron CEO's and put it into R&D, their 2000000 different OS's wouldn't be MISSING half the features! Look at Maemo on the N900, which lacks MMS among many other things! Seriously! Looks like they ripped off the iPhone original, but it's a little late for that...

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Joined: Dec 1969


    he may be right

    there may be certainly room to criticize some of Apples design choices.

    Apple certainly raised the bar, maybe someday Nokia will raise it further.

    But that's a big maybe. Right now Nokia is so far behind the curve, that it was strange to read this criticism coming from a Nokia employee, even if he may be a new hire, and talking about a new OS.

    I can't even use Ovi Maps, its so hokey, you put in an address - and then to the right of the address bar is a big X to clearn the address you just typed, and there is a search button and then immediately following that a Back button.

    You have to magically hit between the erase "X" and the "Back Button" and if you are very lucky it searched for the address - if not it erases the address you painstakenly typed in.

    EVen after that you have to know the found address can be saved to favorites, not by hitting the menu button, but the "I" for information icon.

    After saving the favorite, you exit the whole program and go into another one for driving directions.

    It's the biggest mish mash of a mess I've ever seen.

  1. coffeetime

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Too ignorant...

    How about critique his own company rather than someone else who is 20x more successful than his. This is like an old fashion Glass Tube TV builder is criticizing Flat Screen TV company how imperfect they are. This is amusing. High ego with no foundation supporting it.

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