Will Apple's flat iOS society please shut up?

Apple [AAPL] is working hard to redesign iOS 7. This important project is demanding resources from elsewhere in the company as it abandons some skeumorphic elements to create a cleaner, more user-focused interface. That's all we think we know. But it's time to shut up about it.

No one knows

No one's adding anything. And, to be honest, no one knows too much.

After all, what is flat? Is it some kind of revision of a Microsoft user interface as some people think? Shall the removal of 3D design elements mean we won't see buttons? Of course it won't.  

Look, outside of a few hundred developers sworn to secrecy or the Apple corporate security ninjas will be despatched to take their first-born children no one really knows what's happening. (Well, this guy knows a little.)

Oh, yeah, sure, we do know we're probably going to lose those lousy faux-leather design elements. We can imagine this means Apple apps will no longer need to be completely defined by attempts to make them look like vintage systems from the ancient ark of lost technologies.

However, run a Google News search on iOS 7 right now and you get an astonishing 46 million results. And I don't believe there are 46 million developers using false identities in order to spill the beans on Apple's design for new Earth, in which the interface is flat.

Chatter. Speculation. Other than the removal of some design elements and the introduction of new and improved things like Apple Maps and Siri and payment systems (and maybe not even payment systems) no one knows much of anything.

What is "flat?"

Even members of the Apple's iOS is flat society don't seem to know what flat means. Not really. Not in depth. Almost every attempt at detail I've read looks more and more like speculation.

Of course this release is a very big deal. Apple hopes iOS 7 will help it regain the industry lead it seems to be losing in the face of: 

With this in mind it seems a no-brainer to assume the company will be piling all its resources at developing the OS.

The importance of the release twinned with a few mutterings ostensibly from within Apple's own developers have also prompted pundits pondering if iOS 7 will launch "on time." Though, of course, adding layers of ignorance to everything we don't know already, no one appears to know what "time" this might be. The current discussion seems to suggest September, while Apple has promised to preview the new operating system at WWDC.

I don't believe the company should or will ship the new iOS until it is ready. Maps hopefully taught Apple that its actions are now under a hypercritical microscope. It can't ship a buggy OS. It will only take one potential problem to attract vicious vilifications from vexed and vexatious voices across the board. It makes no sense to ship it before it is ready.

The one word meme

What have the analysts figured out regarding Apple's big reveal? Guess what? It's nothing or less: "There was a trend there where secrets seemed to come out more and more about what's coming up next, but I really haven't heard much about iOS 7 except that it might be delayed," said ABI Research analyst, Michael Morgan. "Either the secrecy is better or there's nothing to talk about, which would be even worse."

And that's the point. The speculation and chatter has been growing at a ridiculous rate. All of it claims a "source" or something, but isn't it incredible that one of the two or three reports that seem to have any great veracity attached to them consists of one word?


Read it here.

I've speculated on iOS 7 myself. When I do I attempt to analyse what's likely to happen. You know what these things might be: faster and slicker; easier to manage; even more user focused; Siri improved; Maps improved; tweaked interfaces and steps to improve the experience of using and developing for iCloud.

Useful feedback

I also think it remains useful to discuss what we think could be improved in the operating system (useful feedback); to analyse industry trends and how these might be implemented within the system (NFC, payment systems, M2M controls) and to think about what hardware features may be improved within the device and how these could be expressed in OS improvements.

However, in the absence of further incontrovertible definitive evidence of what's coming in Apple's mobile OS, it really is time the flat liners did the decent thing and shut up. Or perhaps worked a little harder to define exactly what skeumorphic elements will remain, and which will disappear.

In other words, what will flat mean in terms of usability? How will this be deployed across the OS? Will it also include changes in the way in which users access the underlying file structure? Will it include a sandboxed area in which users can self-install apps acquired from sources outside of the App Store? (No to the latter, but I do feel there's potential in the notion of Apple offering a platform that can be safely extended by those who currently get their kicks playing with the Android rootkits).

We will see what Apple's been doing in just under six weeks.  If things follow their usual pattern we should see nuggets of new information appear with increasing frequency in the run up to the event.

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