With both the new buttonless trackpads and the new iPod Shuffle, it seems that Apple’s going on an all-out war to eliminate as many buttons as possible from their products.
There’s a lot of value in simplifying controls, to a point. But nobody was complaining that either the laptop trackpads or the Shuffles had too many buttons before. In both cases, the devices are now worse off than they were before, but they look a bit cooler.
It’s easy to see signs of a perpetual internal battle at Apple between usability and appearance. Usually, they find a good balance and achieve high quality on both fronts. But sometimes the appearance-driving forces choke usability enough to leak toxic usability flaws into a shipping product. And I think, like 10.5.0’s translucent menu bar and slanty Dock, and Safari 4 Beta’s tab bar, and heavy shiny glass screens on lightweight laptops, and the Mighty Mouse, that this new Shuffle was a victim of the Apple style police defeating any semblance of common-sense usability.