Report: Apple executive shakeup could bring iOS design makeover

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The imminent exit of Scott Forstall, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) longtime senior vice president of iOS software, could herald a dramatic redesign of the mobile operating system's visual approach, The New York Times reports.

Citing current and former Apple employees who requested anonymity, the report states that the company's longstanding reliance on skeuomorphism, a digital design aesthetic that leverages real-world images and metaphors like linen-textured gray backgrounds, wooden bookshelves and spiral-bound notebooks, is a reflection of the visual sensibilities championed by Steve Jobs, and Forstall, considered Jobs' most loyal and vocal lieutenant. Both executives pushed Apple software engineers to integrate skeuomorphic principles into iOS services and features.

Apple announced this week that Forstall will be leaving the company early next year--reports indicate he was pushed out as a result of the software issues hampering the Apple Maps platform and Siri voice controls, key iOS features Forstall oversaw. Apple said that moving forward, Jony Ive will spearhead Human Interface across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design. Sources say that Ive, the architect behind Apple's celebrated minimalist hardware approach, has privately disclosed his distaste for skeuomorphism, and many close to him expect he will waste little time overhauling the look and feel of the iOS platform.

"You can be sure that the next generation of iOS and OS X will have Jony's industrial design aesthetic all over them," said an unnamed Apple designer. "Clean edges [and] flat surfaces will likely replace the textures that are all over the place right now."

Ive is not the only opponent of skeuomorphism--other designers contend that Apple's allusions to wood-grained shelving, reel-to-reel tape machines and faux-animal skin fit awkwardly within the future-forward context of the iOS platform as a whole. "It's like putting horses in front of a car, basically," said Axel Roesler, associate professor and chairman of the interaction design program at the University of Washington. Roesler encouraged Ive to pursue a fresh approach: "Apple, as a design leader, is not only capable of doing this, they have a responsibility for doing it," he said. "People expect great things from them."

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment.

Consumers should not expect to see sweeping iOS design changes in the near future, however. Not only will Forstall serve as an advisor to Apple CEO Tim Cook during his remaining weeks with the company, but also iOS 6--the latest version of the operating system--is less than two months old. iOS 6 powers the new iPhone 5, released to consumers on Sept. 21.

For more:
- read this New York Times article

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