What’s not publicly known is Ive’s role, if any, on Apple software. The current meme of Ive coming on a white horse to rescue geeks in distress from Scott Forstallian skeuomorphism is wishfully hilarious. Like industrial design of physical devices, software is part form and part function: aesthetics and experience. Apple’s software problems aren’t dark linen, Corinthian leather or torn paper. In fact, Apple’s software problems aren’t much about aesthetics at all…they are mostly about experience. To paraphrase Ive’s former boss, Apple’s software problems aren’t about how they look, but how they work. Sometimes — sadly more often than we expect — they don’t:
He goes on to list various points, each of which very good. Click the link to read them, as there are more than I can list here.
However, I do disagree with at least one aspect of his post: as a recent iOS re-convert, certain apps in the OS are simply disgustingly designed, to the point that I avoid them altogether. Gamecenter comes to mind, with its faux-casino theme. When skeumorphism crosses a line, and becomes off-putting to a user, it has gone to far. And while the design language is meant to help new users, I find it to have the opposite effect: it is a bamboozling design choice.
But Kontra is very correct: iOS’ design has fallen behind its competition under Forstall’s watch. This is the largest problem, I feel, and the reason behind his being fired. Ive and Federighi are tasked with putting iOS back on top of the mobile OS pack after a year of stagnation. Luckily, iOS is so fantastic that a year of stagnation did not kill it – however, another year lost and the momentum may be against it, and the wind behind the sails of both Android and Windows Phone 8.