After five hours of downtime today, Apple's Online Store returned with a new homepage - one that's less cluttered than its predecessor. The redesign has sparked further speculation about the future of Apple's iOS and Mac OS X, which are said to be getting a flatter, more minimalist makeover for their next iterations under the leadership of Sir Jony Ive.
It is widely believed that iOS 7 will have major user interface changes, as part of a complete overhaul of Apple's mobile operating system. The changes could include a redesign of Apple's native app icons, as well as new tool bars, tab bars and more, to make the overall look of iOS 7 flatter. This also means ditching skeoumorphic elements, such as realistic-looking wooden bookshelves in the Newsstand app and the stitching in Find My Friends, many sources believe.
Why? Because Apple design guru Jony Ive has taken on more responsibilities at the company, following an executive shakeup in October that saw then head of iOS software Scott Forstall leave his position. Ive is now the leader of human interface at Apple, which means, as well as hardware design leadership, Ive now has more involvement with the design of iOS and other Apple platforms.
Ive's promotion led to speculation that Apple may be considering dropping the skeuomorphic design elements that Forstall is said to have loved, in favour of a cleaner, more minimalist design.
Left - the Apple Online Store's old design. Right - the new Apple Online Store design
These changes already appear to be taking place, with today's example being the launch of a redesigned homepage for Apple's Online Store. The redesign ditches the side menus, instead opting for a simpler design with bigger product feature boxes.
In addition, Apple's Podcasts app was updated in March, marking the end of the skeuomorphic 'tape deck' elements, which were replaced by a cleaner, easier to use design reminiscent of the Music app (above).
Plus, Apple recently rolled out iTunes 11.0.3, which came complete with a new MiniPlayer design (below). The album art view of the MiniPlayer is now squarer and flatter, and even scraps the three coloured buttons in the top right corner.
The new MiniPlayer design (left) compared with the old design (right)
Also, as noted by 9To5Mac, Apple's iTunes promotional emails have this week undergone a minimalist redesign.
This year, Apple has also gone for a new WWDC logo design, which we would argue is also 'flatter' than previous years.
We expect that these changes reveal the direction that Apple's software design is now heading with Jony Ive in charge, and we think that Apple's unveiling of iOS 7 and Mac OS X 10.9 at WWDC on 10 June will see some major changes for the operating systems.
To find out more, visit our iOS 7 and Mac OS X 10.9 rumour roundups.
What do you think about Apple's new design direction? Will you miss the skeuomorphic elements? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Twitter.