Apple: What Did You Do to AirPort Utility?

I am not fearful of major UI changes in software. I understand well enough that change is necessary. Naturally, software UIs evolve over time — hopefully for the betterment of the users experience with it.

Apple overall has typically set a high bar for user interface design and interaction, however their record is not without its faults. One only need look at the excess of linen and faux stitched leather found in OS X Lion of late. Regardless of where you stand with things such as this, for the most part apps like iCal still more or less look and function like proper native Cocoa apps on the Mac.

Today, Apple released AirPort utility 6.0. This is a complete overhaul of the user interface — or lack thereof. After running Software Update, I opened AirPort Utility. I was simply not prepared for what stood before me — an absolute curve ball that knocked me flat on my ass. I’m in denial at this point. There is no way Apple just pushed this pile of shit out the door. There must be a mistake here. Surely, something went awry during the update process? Sadly, the truth set in that what I was looking at was a direct port of the iOS version of AirPort Utility — which in and of itself is a fine app. What I found was a complete lack of UI chrome in both the apps main window, but user preference pane as well. Gone are the standard buttons and UI conventions you would find in a well crafted, well behaved OS X app. In fact, AirPort Utility 6.0 is devoid of pretty much everything that makes a native Mac app, well, comfortable and familiar.

What works well in an iOS app is by far what can work well in a OS X app. I am all for borrowing subtle bits and pieces that make some iOS apps unique (the way Twitterrific displays user profiles in their Mac app is one example), but you simply can’t take an iOS app interface that is meant to be run full screen — chrome-less I might add — to OS X and think everything will be kosher.

What Apple has done with AirPort Utility 6.0 is simply a travesty of the highest regard. I really don’t think I’m being a curmudgeon here in saying that all Apple needed to do was make some minor updates to the preference pane for iCloud to keep it relevant. Instead, users are now left with a Mac app that doesn’t even look like it belongs on their OS X desktop.