Thursday, May 02, 2013

As Jonathan Ive works on iOS 7 revamp, software release date is risked

Apple is expected to announce iOS 7 at this year's WorldWide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June. Most expect that the next-generation iPhone 5S will ship with that version. However, a report on Wednesday points to a possible delay in the delivery of the software, which could also mean a delay in the delivery of the iPhone 5S.

The report focuses on Jonathan Ive, who is senior vice president of industrial design. Long the visionary behind the design of the company's hardware products, he was given expanded powers when Scott Forstall was ousted late last year.

While Forstall's refusal to sign an apology letter over the poor debut of Apple's Maps app, that was just the last straw in a long series of straws. Tension between Forstall and other Apple execs was tangible, and a Bloomberg report from 2012 described Forstall as "the most divisive member of Apple's executive team."

With that, Ive is taking his new role as Apple's head of software design very seriously. He is going over iOS 7 with a fine-toothed comb. According to the report, sourcing information from people with knowledge of proposed changes to iOS 7, this approach risks a delay to iOS 7, the company's next-generation platform.

According to the report, Ive, 46, is exploring what could be dramatic changes to e-mail and calendar services in iOS. He has also begun somewhat minor revamps of iOS applications, including the removal of photo-realistic images (think the wood bookshelves in Newsstand).

It's unlikely -- though possible -- that Apple would release a new flagship phone (the iPhone 5S) sans a new version of software. After a series of mid-summer iPhone releases, Apple released the iPhone 4S in October of 2011, but managed to pull the iPhone 5 release in by nearly a month over its annual release cycle.

A delay to iOS 7 could mean a return to a late year release, as opposed to the mid-summer release that Apple was believed to be trying to regain. Although engineers are working at a feverish pitch to make a beta version ready by WWDC, the company still expects to release iOS 7 on time as soon as September, the sources said. That would be in-line with prior estimates for an iPhone 5S release.

That being said, the sources added that internal testing deadlines for feature submissions are being set later than in past releases. That could mean that some bugs may slip past QA; Ive wants no repeat of last year's Maps fiasco.

Apple’s Mac team has been pulled into the development of iOS 7, but it should be noted that Apple has made similar moves in the past, as far back as the first version of iOS -- then called iPhone OS -- in 2007.

It's already been rumored that Apple -- specifically, Ive -- is moving iOS toward design elements that are intended to give the software a flatter design, one which is less cluttered and more unified. Some of his design changes, the sources say, might be pushed out to future releases.

In addition, Ive appears to be looking toward some of Samsung's recent moves, such as their gesture-based features in the new Galaxy S4. He has reportedly met with developers of gesture technology similar to Samsung's.

WWDC 2013 is scheduled for June 10-14.

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