It may seem counter intuitive, but they are not. What they are is “coherent” and the rules and proceses used to interact with them are consistent throughout; so even if you have to “learn” a new methodology of interaction, once you learn it, you are never surprised because it is applied commonly throught the user interfaces.
In the same way that a reader or movie goer is willing to temporarily “suspend their disbelief” and enjoy a story, as long as the internal rules of the story, whether they are based on magic, science fiction, or speculation, are consistent and coherent and obey this “internal logic”, a good interface design does not need to be “intuitive”. It can be completely different than every method of interaction our education, experience and even genes have conditioned us for (think “mouse” or “pinching two fingers together on a screen”), as long as they are coherent and consistently applied.
What Steve Jobs was brilliant at doing (in addition to overseeing and ensuring a “coherent” and “consistent internal logic” user interface experience for every revolutionary interface innovation Apple came up with) was in “virally educating” us in the new methods, processes, rules and interaction methods he and his colleagues invented. He did this with an inimitable flair for promotion and PR, in such a way that all of us virally extended his “lessons” to each other, thus mutually educating us all in the new and usually revolutionary (but not intuitive) user interface experience method and interaction that Apple had created.
Since Apple products have almost always been devised with a coherent set of rules that consistently apply whatever new internal logic Apple has devised, we are greatly gratified that after learning the new interaction method, it works! Everywhere throughout the device. We only need to learn one new set of rules, and almost never need to go back to an instruction manual. The internal logic and set of rules is consistent throughout. But it is not “intuitive” (and could not be “revolutionary” if it was) and if Steve and Apple had not brilliantly educated us through inimitable PR in the new method, we might have taken some time in learning how to use the cool new device and user interface interaction method.
This is what I believe Steve Jobs really meant when he claimed that market research was not necessary: “it is not the consumer’s job to know what they want…” He and his team decided what we should like and want, based on their revolutionary & innovative skills and design flair, but, most importantly, having chosen a certain method of interaction, they made sure it was consistently and coherently applied throughout the product.
Perhaps this is why so many competitors have difficulty emulating Apple; they are trying to innovate (i.e.: create a revolutionary product and experience), and at the same time, make it intuitive, which I believe is a contradiction in terms. What they need to do is innovate, make the innovation and its new set of rules coherent throughout the user experience, and then, if possible, launch with a lot of fanfare! And forget about intuitive…