Why big change may be coming to iOS this year

There are a lot of predictions being floated about what Apple’s (s aapl) going to do in 2013: an iWatch? An iTV? How about a plastic iPhone and an Apple TV SDK? A note from an analyst from Jefferies published Wednesday contains many of these predictions, but one idea about a move the company might make this year sounds likely: that Apple(s AAPL) will make big changes to iOS that will allow the software to work better on mobile devices with much more powerful processors.

In a note to investors today, Peter Misek of Jefferies Securities notes (via AppleInsider):

“We think Apple plans to re-architect iOS to utilize more cores and better compete with Samsung. Also, we believe the way iOS interoperates with iCloud, gestures controls, and advertising will be substantially upgraded.”

I’m not sure about those specific things, but I do think big changes are coming to iOS for a couple reasons.

While iOS has seen six new releases since its debut in 2007, there have been few major changes. The arrival of the App Store in 2008, and push notifications in 2009 were the last big adjustments in how the software works. Consistency is good for users, and it’s been working for Apple. But iOS was developed at a time when mobile processors were slower and smaller — and iOS was no doubt built with those parameters in mind. At some point, as the analyst notes, iOS is going to need to make back-end changes to keep up with mobile processors as they become faster and more capable.

Another sign that change is coming? Since between the first iOS release to the debut of iOS 6, the same person was guarding and guiding the development. But Scott Forstall is gone now. CEO Tim Cook dismissed the former head of iOS Software last fall for reasons assumed to be related to the Apple Maps debacle.

However, I think this move will have ramifications for iOS in general, not just Maps. Both the software element and the engineering part of iOS have a new overseers: Jony Ive is now in charge of the Human Interface group, and Craig Federighi was promoted to lead iOS Engineering along with OSX Engineering.

New managers by nature often want to come in and force change (even if sometimes for its own sake). But in this case, as the software ages, as early iOS design decisions incorporating lots of skeuomorphic elements fall out of favor, as competitors catch up, and hardware continues to improve, it’s probably more tempting than ever.