Changes at Apple may mean a whole new look to iOS, Mac OS

Could the current look of iOS be headed for a major overhaul?

Today, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announced two major departures from the company’s senior management.
SVP of iOS Software Scott Forstall will be leaving the company sometime next year, as will SVP of Retail Operations John Browett who had only recently joined the company, replacing the man who pioneered the Apple Store and Genius Bar concepts, Ron Johnson.

While Browett’s departure likely won’t signify big changes for Apple’s products since retail is a secondary focus for the company, Forstall’s influence has been significant.

Forstall was the person behind the development of the iPhone’s software – now known as iOS – software which powers the vast majority of the products that Apple sells from a revenue point of view. If you’ve ever swiped, tapped or downloaded an app on one of Apple’s iPhones, iPods or iPads, you’ve experienced Forstall’s work.

And though there’s no question that iOS has been an unqualified success, lately there has been a certain amount of criticism that its user interface is stuck in the past, supposedly suffering from its reliance on skeuomorphism. That is the $100 word which designer-types use to describe software elements like icons, which resemble their real-world counterparts. One famous example is the faux leather-and-stitching that is visible around the border of Apple’s Calendar app. This skeuomorphism has been a hallmark of Apple’s software design language for years, and the practice can be credited with giving all of Apple’s technology a friendly, approachable look that places people immediately at ease, thereby reducing any stress or anxiety that might come as a result of using an unfamiliar gadget. This success notwithstanding, it has been reported by some sources that this element of graphic design is not viewed by everyone at Apple with the same enthusiasm.

Some tech bloggers, most notably Sam Biddle at Gizmodo, have openly criticized Apple’s ongoing use of skeuomorphism, while his colleague Jesus Diaz, suggested that Apple’s SVP of Industrial Design, Sir Jony Ive, was no fan of the practice either.

Forstall’s exit from Apple could signify a victory of sorts for Ive. According to GigaOm’s Erica Ogg, he will “become responsible for a new Human Interface.” Of course, there’s also a chance that Fortsall is being made to pay a hefty price for the decision to launch Apple’s in-house Maps app, before it was ready-for-primetime.

Here is the full press release from Apple:

Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services

Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi Add Responsibilities to Their Roles

MARKHAM, Ontario—October 29, 2012—Apple today announced executive management changes that will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams. As part of these changes, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will add more responsibilities to their roles. Apple also announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.

“We are in one of the most prolific periods of innovation and new products in Apple’s history,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The amazing products that we’ve introduced in September and October, iPhone 5, iOS 6, iPad mini, iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod touch, iPod nano and many of our applications, could only have been created at Apple and are the direct result of our relentless focus on tightly integrating world-class hardware, software and services.”

Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design. His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple’s products for more than a decade.

Eddy Cue will take on the additional responsibility of Siri and Maps, placing all of our online services in one group. This organization has overseen major successes such as the iTunes Store, the App Store, the iBookstore and iCloud. This group has an excellent track record of building and strengthening Apple’s online services to meet and exceed the high expectations of our customers.

Craig Federighi will lead both iOS and OS X. Apple has the most advanced mobile and desktop operating systems, and this move brings together the OS teams to make it even easier to deliver the best technology and user experience innovations to both platforms.

Bob Mansfield will lead a new group, Technologies, which combines all of Apple’s wireless teams across the company in one organization, fostering innovation in this area at an even higher level. This organization will also include the semiconductor teams, who have ambitious plans for the future.

Additionally, John Browett is leaving Apple. A search for a new head of Retail is underway and in the interim, the Retail team will report directly to Tim Cook. Apple’s Retail organization has an incredibly strong network of leaders at the store and regional level who will continue the excellent work that has been done over the past decade to revolutionize retailing with unique, innovative services for customers.

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Could this be the start of a whole new look to Apple’s software, on all of their devices? It certainly looks that way.

Sync readers, do you feel it’s time for a change in Apple’s software, or are you happy with the current look & feel?