While we don't know when iOS 7 will make its debut, here's what we do know: it will be the biggest reinvention of Apple's flagship OS in years -- perhaps ever.
iOS was Scott Forstall's baby since its inception. He was an advocate of skeuomorphism, a design philosophy that brings the look and feel of real-world objects into software design. iOS' linen backgrounds, notepads, and famously terrible podcast app are all examples of this philosophy in practice.
Skeuomorphism has dominated iOS for years, thanks to Forstall and Steve Jobs, who also advocated for the approach. Its influence has frustrated thousands of designers with the sometimes silly, confusing, and inefficient user interfaces of iOS.
That's about to change, though. The former SVP of iOSafter the Apple Maps fiasco last year, and Apple CEO Tim Cook quickly put Jony Ive, Apple's hardware design guru, in charge of iOS and its design.
If Scott Forstall was skeuomorphism's biggest advocate, then Jony Ive is its biggest opponent. Ive is well known for his appreciation of simplicity and flatness -- neither of which describe iOS. But if recent reports are accurate, Ive is putting his stamp on iOS in a big way.
iOS 7, which should make an appearance at Apple's WWDC in June, will feature a flatter, "de-glitzed" interface. It's such a big overall that Apple is pulling additional resources to complete iOS 7 on schedule.
With iOS 7 set to take the iPhone in a completely different direction, the big question is this: how will users react?
As Facebook has taught us, major changes to a popular user interface will always cause controversy and dissent. There's no doubt that users will question Ive's decision to drastically change a familiar interface with a foreign one. The initial backlash will not be pretty.
MySpace taught us a more important lesson, though: if you don't evolve, you die. Products that go stale lose users faster than products that constantly change. iOS, for all of its strengths, has started to become stale. The critics are on the rise while Apple's stock continues to flatline.
While Apple doesn't and shouldn't listen to the press pundits, it should listen to history. And history says that now is the time for iOS to get a major refresh in order to regain its mystique. Luckily, Apple and Jony Ive got the memo.
Ive's redesign of iOS is arriving in the nick of time. Apple will have one chance to make users forget about Maps and wow them with an interface that will propel the tech giant into battle against Android. But if there's anybody who can deliver, it's Ive.
iOS 7 will be a turning point for Apple. It will tell us whether Apple will regain its mojo or whether it is destined for decline.
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