By Jim Karpen on Wed, 05/01/2013
When you think of it, it's amazing all the things that have to come together in order to get a new phone and a new version of the software out the door — with millions of people waiting with baited breath all the while and investors chastising Apple for not coming out with new stuff. Now, according to reports on All Things D and Bloomberg, Apple is struggling to stay on schedule for a September release of iOS 7 because of the radical overhaul of the software I posted about yesterday. Given that Apple designer Jony Ive's ascension to head of iOS software design was just six months ago, and given his desire to completely change the look, so much work is needed to accomplish the overhaul that Apple is reportedly pulling in engineers from its Mac division to help.
In addition to redesigning all the icons, tool bars, tab bars, and other features of the interface, Bloomberg says Ive is exploring even more dramatic changes to the Mail and Calendar apps. The changes are so significant that the new versions of the apps may not be ready in time and will have to wait until a future version of iOS.
I'm starting to feel a bit wary regarding the changes. When one of the articles mentioned the bookshelves in Newsstand would likely be gone, I realized I have an emotional attachment to that design feature, which is also used in other apps such as iBooks. And whenever I've shown friends the iBooks app, they invariably give a little squeal of delight when they see the familiar bookshelf. This skeuomorphic design has been so central to iOS. It was Steve Jobs's way of making it feel warm and friendly and familiar. This approach goes all the way back to the desktop/folder/file metaphor of the original Macintosh, with its little trash can icon for deleting files. What could have been more intuitive than dragging a file to the trash? It was all a studied friendliness, and now this skeuomorphic approach will be gone from iOS in one fell swoop.
But of course I shouldn't judge until I see what's coming. In yesterday's post I noted that the buzz is that the new software will look more like Microsoft's Windows Phone. While I haven't tried it, and it doesn't have much appeal for me when I look at pictures of it, reviews tend to be quite impressed with Windows Phones. Plus, I guess I should I trust Jony Ive, whose hardware designs have changed the appearance of mobile technology, to come up with something appealing.
Steve Jobs himself trusted Ive, describing him as his "spiritual partner" and setting up Apple's corporate structure such that Ive would have even more influence in the company in the post-Jobs era.
At the very least, it shows courage — just the sort of courage Apple is known for. What do you do when you have the most popular phone? Most companies would be very conservative, not wanting to mess with the winning formula. Not Apple. They completely overhaul the interface. The company is always forging ahead, always making sure its products don't go stale. And that's a big reason why they've been so successful.