Apple is hard at work on iOS 7 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch ahead of it preview at June's Worldwide Developers Conference, and the changes that are in store are so big that the company has pulled engineers from the OS X update to keep iOS on schedule. That's good news for iPhone and iPad owners because it shows Apple's dedication to keeping iOS fresh and improving the user experience, but it could spell trouble for Mac users hoping for the same in the next version of OS X.
iOS 7 may rock, but at the expense of OS X 10.9
Word surfaced a few days ago that Apple's senior vice president of Industrial Design, Jonathan Ive, has teams of engineers working on major changes for iOS ranging from stripping out the stitched leather skeuomorphic interface elements to complete overhauls of the Calendar and Mail apps. The OS update probably won't ship until September, but Apple wants to show it off at WWDC so developers know what to expect and users get a glimpse of what's to come.
To make that happen, Mr. Ive has been pulling developers from the version of OS X that will follow Mountain Lion, which will also be shown off for the first time at WWDC. AllThingsD backed up that report through its own anonymous sources who said, "Yes, yes — it's essentially a repeat of the iPhone/Leopard scenario."
In 2007, Apple moved coders from the OS X 10.5 project to keep the iPhone on schedule. When Leopard did ship, it was a bug filled mess that left users frustrated and Apple scrambling to release updates to get the release up to the level it should've been at when it shipped.
With so many resources going into iOS 7, will OS X 10.9 suffer the same fate as OS X 10.5? Hopefully not, but the framework for disappointment is there thanks to Mr. Ive's decision to reassign OS X coders to the iOS 7 team.
Mr. Ive hasn't been a fan of the skeuomorphic design elements Scott Forstall pushed when he was still with Apple and in charge of iOS design. With Mr. Ive now in charge of hardware and Apple software designs the skeuomorphic elements are already going away, and iOS 7 will be a big push towards eliminating even more.
The interface changes, according to one Apple employee, "Sounds like a much-needed 'de-Forstallization.'"
Stripping the Forstall from iOS 7 while improving features isn't a trivial process, just as getting OS X 10.9 ready for release is a full time project. With fewer developers on the job, so to speak, Apple may be unintentionally setting up Mac users for disappointment and frustration, and backlash from analysts and the media.
Apple needs to keep iOS and OS X fresh and competitive, but maintaining one at the expense of the other ultimately hurts some of their customers. Considering the number of iPhone users to Mac users -- Apple sold 37.4 million iPhones during its second fiscal quarter and about 4 million Macs -- that may be a risk the company is willing to take.