Apple’s iOS 7 Team in Deadline Crunch Mode, Adding Engineers
Apple’s iOS 7 is so significant a reimagining of the mobile operating system that the company is mustering additional engineering resources to get it out the door in time for a preview at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which is June 10-14 in San Francisco.
Sources who declined to be named because they are forbidden to talk publicly about Apple’s plans tell AllThingsD that the company has been “borrowing” engineers from the OS X 10.9 team as part of an effort to double down on iOS 7. “Yes, yes — it’s essentially a repeat of the iPhone/Leopard scenario,” one source said, referring to Apple’s 2007 decision to pull engineers from OS X 10.5 to work on iPhone. “Not as much of a fire drill, though. It will ship on time.”
So what is it about iOS 7 that has caused Apple to rally additional engineering resources? It’s a pretty big update. With SVP of Industrial Design Jony Ive now oveerseeing interface design, sources say Apple has adopted a unified approach to software and hardware design. And evidently the spartan, elegant aesthetic that Ive has developed around Apple’s hardware is now being brought to bear on its software, as well. Last week, 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman reported that iOS 7 would feature a “flat” design that favors simplicity over flash. I’ve heard similar descriptions from sources who say iOS 7 is iOS “de-glitzed.”
“Put it this way,” said one source who has been briefed on iOS. “You know Game Center’s green felt craps table? Well, goodbye, Circus Circus.”
Not a surprise, really. With Scott Forstall — an advocate for flashy, skeuomorphic design and its stitched-leather and faux-wood-grain flourishes — now gone from Apple, and Ive in an expanded role, the current and former Apple employees I’ve spoken to say iOS 7 was destined for a new coat of paint. As one said, “Sounds like a much-needed ‘de-Forstallization.'”
Which is not to say that the design of iOS 7 is entirely about removing skeuomorphic gloss. Fact is, Apple hasn’t much changed the operating system’s look since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. If the company has good ideas for design tweaks, it’s about time it implemented them. With new mobile operating systems like BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone proving that there’s plenty of room left for innovation in the market, Apple can ill afford even the risk of the perception that iOS might be getting dusty.
Apple’s challenge, then, is to overhaul the look and feel of the OS while retaining the intuitiveness that has made it so popular. “The key question here is whether those changes deliver on the core Apple promise of improving customers’ ability to make productive use of the device and deliver a clearly superior experience,” Forrester analyst Charles Golvin told AllThingsD. “Presumably they don’t need the flashy stuff to realize that vision.”