Apple CEO Tim Cook: iOS could open to more third-party customization

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) could open its iOS mobile operating system to enable expanded third-party software customization, CEO Tim Cook said Tuesday. 

Tim Cook

Tim Cook

Speaking at the D11 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Cook responded to charges that the iOS ecosystem is more closed than rival platforms like Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android by suggesting the company may soften its stance moving forward. "On the general topic of opening up [application programming interfaces], I think you'll see us open up more in the future, but not to the degree that we put the customer at risk of having a bad experience," Cook said, according to The Verge. "So there's always a fine line to walk there, or maybe not so fine." Cook also said that Apple plans to allow third parties to provide additional features on iOS: For example, the platform currently supports some OS-level sharing functionality with Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter.

Cook also said Apple has not entirely ruled out the possibility of expanding some signature iOS applications and services to Android. Asked if he would consider making Apple's iCloud cloud storage platform available to other operating systems, Cook responded "To a general question of 'Would Apple port an app from iOS to Android?,' we have no religious issue with doing that. If we thought it made sense for us to do that, we would do that. And so you can take that same philosophy and apply it to virtually everything we do: If it makes sense to do it, we would do it. It's not a religious issue with it." Pressed on the specific example of whether porting iCloud to Android makes sense, Cook said "It doesn't today. Would it forever? I don't know."

Cook additionally confirmed Apple's Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive is spearheading the effort to overhaul its iOS user interface, calling him "really key" to iOS 7, which Apple is slated to unveil next month during its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

Ive--famed for his sleek, contemporary hardware design sensibilities--assumed control of Apple's Human Interface efforts last fall in addition to his Industrial Design duties, a change prompted by the exit of Scott Forstall, the firm's longtime senior vice president of iOS software. Cook said that Apple "recognized that Jony had contributed significantly to the look and feel of Apple over many, many years and could do that for our software as well, and I think it's absolutely incredible," according to The Next Web.

Cook nevertheless declined to divulge any specific changes coming in iOS 7: Asked whether it is a big update, he said "I think I will let you be the judge."

iOS 7 will abandon the mismatched, texture-heavy design of previous iterations of iOS in favor of a more unified user interface that is "black, white and flat all over," sources told 9to5Mac last week. Multiple sources indicate Ive will scrap skeuomorphism--the longstanding iOS design aesthetic that leverages real-world images and metaphors like linen-textured gray backgrounds, wooden bookshelves and spiral-bound notebooks--and introduce a streamlined, minimalist design spanning all facets of the platform.

Ive has reportedly told colleagues that he feels software designs mimicking physical objects do not stand the test of time; moreover, he believes that the differing designs of preloaded iOS applications may confuse consumers. As a result, iOS 7 will revamp all stock apps, with major redesigns on tap for the App Store, Newsstand, Game Center, Safari, Weather and Camera icons. The overhaul will also dump the Notification Center's familiar linen background, replacing it with a dark grey color scheme overlaid with white text, and it will eliminate the glossy, reflective "slide to unlock" lockscreen bar of previous versions, introducing a more muted, black interface, complete with a revamped numerical entry pad.

Insiders have said Apple is scrambling to finalize iOS 7 in time for WWDC, kicking off in San Francisco on June 10. "iOS 7 is running behind, and engineers have been pulled from [Mac] OS X 10.9 to work on it," longtime Silicon Valley insider John Gruber recently stated on his Daring Fireball blog. Gruber noted Apple has previously shifted engineering resources in order to meet deadlines: In 2007, the company delayed the release of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard by four months in order to ship the first iPhone on time.

For more:
- read this Verge article and this article
- read this Next Web article
- read this AllThingsD article

Related articles:
Rumor Mill: Apple's revamped iOS 7 bringing unified black-and-white UI design
Rumor Mill: Apple's iOS 7 bringing deep Flickr, Vimeo integration
Report: Apple's iOS 7 introduces 'flat' UI, ditches skeuomorphism
Apple promises next version of iOS will launch at WWDC 2013
Report: iOS 7 behind schedule, Apple scrambling to catch up
Report: Apple design guru Ive pushing for simplified iOS 7

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