Home Tech Apple Jony Ive leaves Apple. What comes next?

Jony Ive leaves Apple. What comes next?

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There’s been something messianic about Apple ever since the second coming of Steve Jobs exactly 22 years ago, almost to the week. But the messiah was very lucky to bump into and hit it off with a junior in the design department within days of his return. For his part, though, designer Jony Ive was so sure he was about to be fired that he had his resignation letter in his pocket at the time.

Sir Jony Ive, Knight Commander of the British Empire (which I mention only because John Gruber doesn’t like titles and says they are unAmerican). But Ive is British, after all, so is entitled to his honour (Image WikiMedia Commons)

But the two did hit it off immediately. As Ive said later, they were “both a little bit odd”. That very day they started working on the iconic see-through iMac, the computer that became the foundation of the new Apple empire.

Now, it emerges, Jony Ive is leaving Apple, although the company will become a client of Ive’s new design studio, LoveFrom. The news came as a bombshell to industry watchers. Despite rumours over the years, the announcement was certainly not expected any time soon.

You’re either in or you’re out

Veteran Apple watcher John Gruber has written at length on this development and his views always carry a lot of weight. You can read the full article here.

However, Gruber clearly isn’t impressed by the confirmation that Apple will maintain the association by retaining Ive’s new design company:

”This angle that he’s still going to work with Apple as an independent design firm seems like pure spin. You’re either at Apple or you’re not. Ive is out.”

Despite Ive’s all-encompassing contribution to Apple’s success over the past 20 years, Gruber takes a balanced view of the departure.

“This may be good news. Ive is, to state the obvious, preternaturally talented. But in the post-Jobs era, with all of Apple design, hardware and software, under his control, we’ve seen the software design decline and the hardware go wonky. I don’t know the inside the story, but it certainly seems like a good bet that MacBook keyboard fiasco we’re still in the midst of is the direct result of Jony Ive’s obsession with device thinness and minimalism. Today’s MacBooks are worse computers but more beautiful devices than the ones they replaced. Is that directly attributable to Jony Ive? With these keyboards in particular, I believe the answer is yes.”

Yet the news that Ive’s responsibilities will devolve on two design team leaders, Evans Hankey and Alan Dye, doesn’t fill Gruber with confidence:

“I don’t worry that Apple is in trouble because Jony Ive is leaving; I worry that Apple is in trouble because he’s not being replaced.”

Whatever flavour takes your fancy: The revolutionary see-through iMac was the first major collaborative effort of Steve Jobs and Jony Ive (Image WikiMedia Commons)

Whatever the backstory, Jony Ive’s synergy with Steve Jobs and the unprecedented turnaround of an ailing company to become the world’s most valuable enterprise, is one for the history books. Personally, I’m sorry to see Jony Ive go, but an amicable departure of this nature is preferable to an acrimonious split. And it has been on the cards for several years.

Stand-out talent

My concern now is that Apple doesn’t have a stand-out talent on the books. Tim Cook and his team have done a great job of managing and developing the company, but there is no longer that one figure for the faithful to worship.

The MacBook Air, a marvel of thinness, designed by Jony Ive and launched here by Steve Jobs in 2008 (Image WikiMedia Commons)

The past 22 years have seen Apple rise meteorically thanks to a series of product and service innovations which truly transformed technology.

Jony Ive, always supported by Steve Jobs, has been instrumental in creating this success. The iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the MacBook Air, the Apple Watch, the AirPods, have all set the agenda for the tech industry.

And the App Store concept and associated services completely transformed the way we interact with our computers, removing the nerdy aspect of buying and upgrading, backing up and managing data.

Even Leica got in on the Jony Ive bandwagon. This one-off M digital designed by Jony Ive and Mark Newson. was auctioned for charity

Apple replaced all these pitfalls with a cozy walled garden that has empowered a generation of non-tech-savvy customers to come to terms with technology and to rely on it in the way that was not possible before Apple. We now take it for granted and few iPad or iPhone users can remember what it was like before Jobs and Ive took the hardware and software industry by the neck and wrung.

Perhaps Apple is now big enough and tough enough not to need a single figurehead who can drive design forward. Indeed, as Gruber points out, the lead times are so great that we will be seeing Ive-inspired products arriving for perhaps as long as five more years.

As always, though, with such monumental changes, there must be some disquiet and a nagging suspicion that the party might just be over.

I certainly don’t think so, but I wish Jony Ive every success in his new venture and I hope that we still continue to sense his genius in future apple announcement.

13 COMMENTS

  1. This is an odd one, I read a few articles on this and it does seem an unusual move. Unless something is seriously amiss, and I do feel that Apple has some issues to address on its MacBook and iPhone front. i Am due to replace my iPhone next jan but don’t see anything I want or desire in the line up right now. The MacBook is the same, I love my 2012 MacBook Pro and don’t see a decent replacement in the current line up.

  2. What should happen now is that – despite the horrible blocky M camera above – Andreas Kaufmann should hire JI to design a NEW M camera with a motorised mount ..which can either be locked in place, and work like a current M, or can be switched to ‘motorised’ (..motoring out and in..) so that ordinary manual-focus M lenses can be used as autofocus lenses [..like using them on a Techart adaptor and a Sony E-mount camera].

    Leica would then benefit from the Jony Ive “halo effect” and actual design capability (..like Yashica did when using Porsche Design to create the mid-seventies revived Contax-brand cameras..) and they’d have a Leica which uses the small “jewel like” M lenses, but which has what the mass-market wants: AUTOFOCUS!.

    The only problem is that the Ive-&-Newson designed M shown above looks like a hideous lumpy blob! A new M would need some swooping curves, and not look like a brick that’s been turned out of a jelly mould!

    • It’s not a bad idea, but Leica already have a perfect design they can adapt: The Leica Q. It seems to be their bestselling camera, put an M-mount in front of it and I believe they would capture a new niche market—those who want a small full frame camera WITH small great lenses (the current FF mirrorless cameras are smaller, but lenses are becoming more and more swollen generally). The motorized mount is a nice addition, as long as it could be turned off for manual focus easily.

      • I agree on this and it’s something that has been mentioned many times. It seems obvious but there is a reluctance to consider it. Maybe it is a technical issue, maybe an unwillingness to commit to an alternative M system. But I think it would sell.

  3. From a design point of view little will change for the foreseeable future. Future product plans are likely 3-5 years out. Ive recruited the people who bought into his design philosophy and could enhance it. He’s set the design standards from product, to packaging to retail and beyond.

    What this does do is give Tim Cook an opportunity to take a fresh look at all things Apple and to see what significant changes might be needed. When Ive first arrived Apple was still behaving like a successful startup. Today it’s a mainstream company with an enormous market cap. At this size it’s hard to be nimble. Can the next Ive recreate that excitement around “must have” products? Can he or she help create a new level of nimbleness as we move deeper into a world driven by AI?

  4. Oh yeah didn’t they just recall bunch MacBook Pro, I think older version, battery fire? The good news is I joined another cult beside Leica, ordered my Gr 11 today, and Jean Perenet answered all my questions and soothed my soul especially as he told me he now is proud GR11 owner. Thank again jean and Mike for your help.

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