Steve Jobs on the File System

After Tim Cook’s first appearance at the D10 conference last week, All Things D released a podcast containing videos of Steve Jobs’ five appearances at the conference between 2003 and 2010. It’s a great collection of interviews and I encourage you to watch them if you haven’t already.

I watched the session from 2005 today and there was one part I found particularly interesting. Even though Steve obviously did not mention the iPhone, he did reveal part of his vision how to make computing more user-friendly and easier to learn: by getting rid of the file system as part of a computer’s UI. The context in which he talked about this was Spotlight, one of the key features of the then brand-new Mac OS X Tiger, which Jobs demoed on stage. The following quote can be found at minute 37:40 in the video (emphasis mine):

in every user interface study we’ve ever done […], [we found] it’s pretty easy to learn how to use these things ‘til you hit the file system and then the learning curve goes vertical. So you ask yourself, why is the file system the face of the OS? Wouldn’t it be better if there was a better way to find stuff?

Now, e-mail, there’s always been a better way to find stuff. You don’t keep your e-mail on your file system, right? The app manages it. And that was the breakthrough, as an example, in iTunes. You don’t keep your music in the file system, that would be crazy. You keep it in this app that knows about music and knows how to find things in lots of different ways. Same with photos: we’ve got an app that knows all about photos. And these apps manage their own file storage. […]

And eventually, the file system management is just gonna be an app for pros and consumers aren’t gonna need to use it.

The app manages it. Anything else would be crazy. Sounds a whole lot like iOS, doesn’t it?