Visionary designer Sir Jonathan Ive’s perfectionism could be holding back the development of the latest version of the software used on iPads and iPhones, according to a recent report.
Famed as the head of Cupertino’s industrial design division, the knighted Essex lad was recently handed control of software design in a surprise move by CEO Tim Cook.
Apple software devs have been working flat out to produce iOS 7, which is expected to be a radically reworked version of the software which will do away with real-world-inspired, skeuomorphic* interfaces.
An insider has told Bloomberg that without the firm hand and big boots of Steve Jobs to beat him into line, Ive has pulled the team so far behind deadline that staff from the Mac and OSX teams have allegedly been drafted in to help him push iOS 7 out of the door.
The last time this happened was way back in 2007, before the release of the first version of iOS.
The report quoted mysterious “people familiar with the matter” as suggesting that internal deadlines had been pushed back to allow the iOS redevelopment, which is expected to be previewed at the WWDC in June ahead of a release in September.
Greg Sterling, an analyst with Opus Research, said: “Apple is really under tremendous pressure to come out with something different and something new. [Ive has] a tremendous sense of design, and he’s been the guru behind a lot of these enormously successful products, but he’s always had someone like a Jobs to push back on him and give him some guidance, and it’s not clear that Tim Cook is capable of playing that role. Maybe without a collaborator, he’s not as strong.”
Under Jobs, Ive worked as the head of product design, churning out game-changing products like the iPod, iMac and iPhone. Basically, the little ‘i’ in all these products might as well stand for Ive.
After CEO Tim Cook took over, he reconfigured Apple, leading to the October 2012 departure of software supremo Scott Forstall amid squabbles between senior management that appeared to be jamming up Apple’s creative process.
So as not to stall development any further, 46-year-old Ive was given responsibility for the look and feel of software as well as that of hardware, as part of Cook’s drive to encourage collaboration between departments.
He is now said to be making radical changes to iOS, which allegedly include getting rid of realistic graphical flourishes, such as the virtual bookshelf on Newsstand, and reworking email and calendar software.
Ive will be keen to avoid the drama of last year, with the catastrophic launch of Apple Maps. He’s also said to be keen to break down the compartmentalised approach of Steve Jobs, instead pushing for more integrated work between software and hardware divisions of the fruity firm.
However, according to insiders, this reshuffle pushed development of iOS 7 way back. New features are usually tested in February and Apple is reported to have slipped and fallen back from their usual schedule.
Work on the new software is top secret that it has been claimed programmers use a special film over the iPhones to stop observers catching a glimpse of the new iOS.
Benedict Evans, an analyst at Enders Analysis in London, said that urgent work was needed to revamp the email and calendar software, which have not changed greatly since iOS 1 in 2007.
He said: “There is a tidying up that needs to be done and a rethinking.”
Apple is understood to have met with boffins working on three-dimensional gesture technology, which allows people to operate devices by simply waving their hands.
This year is a critical time for Apple, which saw its share price plunge beneath $400 and was forced to announce a programme of share buyouts and dividend payouts to help keep grumpy shareholders happy.
It is also facing competition from rivals like Samsung, which is making products of ever-increasing quality, while Apple has failed to introduce a product with anywhere near the impact of its blockbusters of the past two decades.
Now all eyes are on WWDC - and Ive - to see if Apple can keep its place at the top of the tech tree. ®
* A design whose look-and-feel elements are cribbed from another real-world material. Examples include web pages which act (when you interact with them) like paper pages, hideous "wood" panels on station wagons and faux leather.