Several clues surfacing in recent days have hinted that Apple's iWork and iLife suites may be undergoing substantial redevelopment.
Late last week, Apple Bitch noticed two new job listings for senior software engineers for the company's iLife team, with the descriptions emphasizing a desire to "re-imagine how user interfaces should be built and work". MacNN followed up with its own reporting pointing to a number of other job postings for both the iLife and iWork teams suggesting that Apple is making significant additions to its teams.
Apple has recently added several job postings that explicitly reference the iLife team or the suite itself, including requests for an engineer in the iLife Frameworks QA department; a QA engineer to help test new features in iPhoto (that requires a "passion" for digital photography); a Senior User Interface Designer for iWork, and two Senior Software Engineer positions that explicitly reference working on the user interface of iLife.
Apple's iWork productivity suite, which includes Pages, Numbers and Keynote, last received minor updates in December, while the last major update came over four years ago. iLife represents Apple's consumer apps (iPhoto, GarageBand and iMovie) and saw its last major update in October 2010.
Apple has also been active in the area of document management and the cloud, acquiring 18 patents addressing information management from Maya-Systems.
a file sorting system that can reorganize according to time, category, or a common theme -- such as a work project -- and sync with cloud servers and other users
New senior hires and patent acquisition may point to a major redevelopment of the software, but as new hires are typically done early in the development cycle, it may be some time before the fruits of such work are released to the public.
It is also likely that the new versions of iLife and iWork would lose the skeuomorphisms - emulation of real-life objects and materials like desk calendars, leather and wood. There have long been tensions within Apple over this approach, but with skeuomorphism proponent Scott Forstall being forced out of Apple and Jonathan Ive having now assumed responsibility for Human Interface aspects of software as well as hardware design, a new design direction for Apple's software may be in progress.
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Top Rated Comments
(Example: OS X's Finder sidebar icon like Home and Desktop that used to have colored sidebar icons. Now they're all the same blue-gray and you've lost a visual cue that made them quicker to find and click. Compare to the Go menu which still has the colors. "Like" them or not, those colors were useful!)
I don't think skeuomorphism is a problem... bad or useless skeuomorphism is! But so is bad or useless interface design of any kind. (Like relying on unique swipe commands with no visual cue to remind you how this app works.)
And one long-time classic skeuomorphic element makes good sense even with minimalist design: making buttons stand forward. In print, nothing is clickable and flat 2D design is great. On a device, some things are tappable/clickable/draggable--exactly like real-world controls--and giving them a little depth is a logical and useful convention. (Sorry, Windows Metro: I like the look and I'd hang it on my wall, but it has usability issues.)
So here's hoping for minimalist UIs... with clean, simple skeuomorphic elements where they're useful.
On a serious note, I bloody love those icons for some reason.
It's getting embarrassing loading up a brand new laptop and having to put er, iLife 2011 on it. Or even iWork 2009.
'Why are you putting that old stuff on it?'
'It's Apple's newest stuff! I swear!'
The basic functionality of the apps is OK but they need some tweaking and be a bit more collaboration / internet aware. iPhoto especially starts like a dog.