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Why Is Apple Changing Its Approach to Software Updates?
By Shirley Siluk
Posted: February 12, 2018 9:51am PST

According to two of those people, whom Motherboard did not name, "the person who stole the code didn't have an axe to grind with Apple. Instead, while working at Apple, friends of the employee encouraged the worker to leak internal Apple code. Those friends were in the jailbreaking community and wanted the source code for their security research."

After years of annually rolling out flashy new features and capabilities for its mobile operating system -- think Animojis, FaceID, virtual reality, redesigned lock screens, and an ever-smarter Siri -- Apple is dialing down its style ambitions to focus on substance, in particular, bug-free software.

Apple's shift is aimed at giving its engineers more time to fine-tune existing iOS capabilities, and reduce the pressure on them to deliver big, new, headline-grabbing features, according to a report in Bloomberg today that cited unnamed company insiders. The article said the change was prompted by a growing list of complaints from customers about bugs and other issues.

In other Apple-related developments, a recent leak of iOS-based source code has been traced to a "low-level" employee who shared the software with a small group of friends two years ago. The group hadn't intended for the proprietary material to leak out to the public, but the code was eventually shared with others and gradually began appearing online, according to a report in Motherboard.

Fall Update, Codenamed 'Peace'

Senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi is reported to have outlined the company's new update strategy during a meeting with Apple engineers last month. Bloomberg cited a person familiar with the company who said, "This change is Apple beginning to realize that schedules are not being hit, stuff is being released with bugs -- which previously would not have happened."

Long held up as an example of a technology company that put a premium on device and software quality, Apple has been criticized recently for various missteps and problems. For example, the company is facing numerous class action lawsuits related to its intentional slowdown of processors in older iPhones. Apple said the feature rolled out with iOS 10.2.1 in 2016 was designed to prevent unexpected device shutdowns, but apologized for not being more transparent with customers.

Other software issues reported by Apple users over the past few months include apps that crash, out-of-order text messages, and delays in how the iPhone X responds to incoming phone calls, according to Bloomberg. The report also pointed to some new iOS 11 (pictured above) features that rolled out later than planned last fall.

Apple's next major software update, iOS 12, is expected to come out this fall. Bloomberg said the update, codenamed "Peace," could include an improved menu, new Animojis, and additional "Do Not Disturb" capabilities.

How iBoot Became Public

Meanwhile, more details have emerged about how a critical bit of Apple source code -- the iBoot bootloader that helps launch iOS on mobile devices -- appeared last week on the code repository GitHub. On Friday, Motherboard reported that the leak started in 2016, when an Apple employee took that and other software to share with a group of five friends.

According to two of those people, whom Motherboard did not name, "the person who stole the code didn't have an axe to grind with Apple. Instead, while working at Apple, friends of the employee encouraged the worker to leak internal Apple code. Those friends were in the jailbreaking community and wanted the source code for their security research."

Motherboard added that it had viewed screenshots and text messages that corroborated the sources' accounts.

At some point since the initial theft, someone in the group shared the code with another person, and the software gradually began circulating more widely, appearing on Reddit some four months ago. The links on both Reddit and GitHub have since been removed, following Apple's filing of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice.

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