Apple Announces Major Leadership Changes

Apple PR:

Apple® today announced executive management changes that will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams. As part of these changes, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will add more responsibilities to their roles. Apple also announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.

...Additionally, John Browett is leaving Apple.

In essence, Scott Forstall appears to have been forced out amidst the ongoing Apple Maps controversy. Looped into this appears to be some lingering teething issues over Siri. Responsibility for both have been transfered to Eddy Cue whose "group has an excellent track record of building and strengthening Apple’s online services to meet and exceed the high expectations of our customers."

For Browett, well, no one has ever had an entirely positive feeling about his presence at Apple, particularly given his ill-fitting background with Dixons in the UK. More recently, the situation boiled over as Browett reportedly instigated mass lay-offs across the company's retail chains. Apple and Browett were then forced into misinformation and apologies.

In terms of people remaining with the company, it would appear that the long-standing internal rift over skeuomorphic design has been decided in Jony Ive's favor. Last month, Austin Carr wrote:

Inside Apple, tension has brewed for years over the issue. Apple iOS SVP Scott Forstall is said to push for skeuomorphic design, while industrial designer Jony Ive and other Apple higher-ups are said to oppose the direction.

With Forstall out and Ive installed as head of Human Interfaces, we may well be in for a shift in the software design tendencies from Apple.

Moreover, with a collaboration between Ive and Federighi, we may well see some acceleration in the development of iOS which, as Ryan Block writes, has been accused of developmental stagnation of late. Federighi is known for his aggressive schedule for OS X — a formula which appears to be working for the company — and with control over iOS, perhaps he can quicken the pace and volume of innovation.

Thus, in essence, the reorganization seems to point toward an increased level of efficiency and stability within the company. Cook has shed members culpable for negative press and has placed troublesome elements of the company into more experienced hands.

Given the wide-open window in early 2013 and the expectation of an announcement of the successor to OS X 10.8, perhaps we might see the results of these newfound responsibilities sooner rather than later.

Releasing Outside the App Store

Mac App Store

Matt Gemmell:

I recently released a new little Mac app, Sticky Notifications. It’s not currently in the App Store, and accordingly I went through a process that many Mac developers face: deciding whether to release software on the App Store, or outside of it (or indeed both).

In recent months, the illusory appeal of the Mac App Store has steadily begun to deplete. Beyond its initial allure, Matt Gemmell has demonstrated that there are perfectly reasonable, accessible, and uncomplicated means for attaining similar levels of ease when distributing paid Mac apps. For all of this, however, Gemmell cautions that he is not explicitly opposed to the Mac App Store, but that there are simply scenarios in which its use is obviated by Apple’s strict guidelines.

Such ambivalence concerning the Mac App Store has come to characterize much of the critical response to the service. Although the guiding concept is affable, most serious Mac users have grown encumbered by Apple’s ruleset — with powerful apps like TextExpander forced into self-removal from Apple’s restrictive environment.

I tend to share such feelings regarding the Mac App Store. The ability to delve into a centralized list of apps — particularly when dealing with multiple Macs — is an absolute pleasure. Conversely, as a well-entrenched Mac user, I’m not particularly keen to subvert my workflow for the sake of Apple’s draconian guidelines.

At the end of the day, hypotheticals aside, I’m irrevocably in the business of supporting independent creators. If the Mac App Store inhibits my ability to do so, then I will simply forego the service altogether. For now, though, it’s — perhaps problematically — become a matter of discerning the best course of action on an app-by-app basis.

Climbing the Mountain

Mountain Lion

Amidst the epic arrival of today’s Mountain Lion reviews, I only have one thought to share regarding the feature-laden operating system update. Simply, the addition of the “Mountain” moniker to the existing “Lion” name is indicative of the entirety of today’s release.

With Lion, Apple wrought havoc upon the Apple community. Inverted scrolling, half-baked iCloud implementation, auto-save, and innumerable elements of controversy forged a divergence in the OS’ critical reception. Further, with OS X Lion, the infamous term “iOS-ification” was given rise amidst ill-considered wails of dissatisfaction with Apple’s software strategy.

Today, the Lion we have come to embrace, albeit begrudgingly for some, has attained some semblance of maturity. Climbing the proverbial mountain, the Lion has learned much of itself, its bounds, and what it requires for survival. For each good concept that suffered from woefully poor implementation, the Lion has taken stock, adopted an aggressive path of self-betterment, and now stands to reap the rewards.

OS X Mountain Lion is every bit an iterative improvement upon its predecesor. Perhaps some elements remain in developmental nascence and perhaps some even pose issues of stability, but the overall sentiment is of unified optimism. OS X Mountain Lion should absolutely be purchased by any and all Mac users without any hesitation, and there really isn’t much more to say than that.

For $19.99, the user receives unspoken corrections for any prior mistakes, a resounding endorsement of the Mac as a lasting platform, and a wonderful way to continue to work and interact with a computer for the coming year.

Mountain Lion is available for purchase from the Mac App Store.

A New iOS Home Screen

Earlier this week, Federico Viticci published his iOS 6 wishlist. In his list, Federico mentions the iOS home screen layout, suggesting the venerable design is due for an overhaul. Endorsing Federico's argument, Shawn Blanc has written a post dedicated to the far-reaching implications posed by a redesigned home screen. Shawn writes:

Not until recently have we felt much of a need for a revamped home screen. Since 2007 iOS has evolved significantly in both its functionality (i.e. multitasking and Notification Center) and in the amount of available apps (thus folders, and multiple Home screens). After five years the Home screen is feeling cramped and outdated.

Both Shawn and Federico make some intelligent points but it is important to remember that, with Mountain Lion, Apple has embraced a world of mutual aesthetic dependencies in its software ecosystem. iOS and OS X exist as separate entities but, in sharing various cosmetic cues, the overhaul of one OS or another has a great deal of far-reaching ramifications for its sibling.

The Developer Preview of Mountain Lion provides rather strong evidence that the home screen will not be altered significantly this year. Having just reached some semblance of aesthetic parity between iOS and OS X, it is increasingly unlikely that Apple would callously undo such work.

Although LaunchPad goes rather unused, I would assume, for the vast majority of people reading these words, it poses a significant number of advantages for the basic Mac user. In Mountain Lion it has clearly been given several incidental improvements suggesting development, but no hints at a complete aesthetic shift. Reminders and Notes have also made the leap to OS X in Mountain Lion boasting virtually identical designs. I would argue, as I wrote last week, such trends are indicative of aesthetic stability in iOS for the coming year.

I have no doubt that the home screen will enjoy a some significant upheaval in the not-too-distant future, but I hazard a guess that such innovation is not going to come in 2012.

Following the release of the original iPad, it took some time for iOS to broaden and harmonize with the iPad's new features. I tend to regard Lion as analogous to the iPad's original iOS 3.2 and Mountain Lion as the harmonizing piece of the puzzle akin to iOS 4.0. In short, Lion took the first steps and Mountain Lion has finished the move.

With the oft-rumored iPad Retina Display on the horizon, we are on the cusp of a significant change for iOS developers once more. As with the iPhone 4's Retina Display and the original iPad's introduction, it takes time for developers to adjust to change. If Apple were to introduce a Retina iPad and then revamp the home screen, I imagine it would pose a great number of problems for developers while simultaneously re-opening the disparate design void between iOS and OS X.

Returning to my house metaphor, once the two have attained stable parity, that is when true change will be invited into the metaphoric house. That is when the two entities will be able to explore mutually beneficial improvements - improvements that were not possible when existing apart.

Of course, for all of the reasons I might lend to such a theory, it is impossible to know. Inferences are just that, and Apple is a notoriously difficult company to read. As such, I'd love to be proven wrong by Apple this Summer. But, for now, I tend to reside on the side of conservatism in my outlook for iOS 6.