Apple’s star designer Jony Ive to expand his empire – can succession questions be far behind?

“Apple Inc.’s star designer Jonathan Ive is expanding his empire,” Daisuke Wakabayashi reports for The Wall Street Journal. “In an internal email, Apple said Greg Christie, who led the company’s ‘human interface’ team that designs software for its products, is retiring, according to people who have seen the email”

“Mr. Christie’s group will report to Mr. Ive, who is Apple’s senior vice president of design, according to the email. The team previously reported to Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief,” Wakabayashi reports. “‘Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple,’ said a company spokesman. ‘He has made vital contributions to Apple products across the board, and built a world-class human interface team which has worked closely with [Jonathan] for many years.'”

“Mr. Christie, an 18-year Apple veteran, is one of its most senior software designers and played a key role in designing the software for the iPhone,” Wakabayashi reports. “His departure from the company comes as Mr. Ive, revered for orchestrating the design of Apple’s hardware, has expanded his role into software. Mr. Ive played a central role in redesigning iOS 7, the latest version of its iPhone and iPad software. That version moved away from ‘skeuomorphism’ — a design philosophy of recreating real-world objects, such as wood or felt, in digital forms that users find familiar. Mr. Ive has called the new minimalist look of iOS 7 ‘an important new direction,’ although reviews have been mixed.”

“Next to Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, Mr. Ive is the company’s most recognizable executive. A confidant of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs who regularly appears in videos for new products, Mr. Ive is seen as a torchbearer for Apple’s design sensibility,” Wakabayashi reports. “Mr. Christie’s departure was first reported by Apple enthusiast website 9to5Mac [Mark Gurman]. A person familiar with the matter said Messrs. Christie and Ive sometimes struggled to agree on software-design decisions.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: From the “Apple Never Learns” file: When one guy gets this important, this crucial, succession questions are likely to dog him and the company for quite some time. Expect the Apple bears, shorts, rivals, pundits, FUDsters, etc. to pounce in short order. For a Post-Steve Jobs Apple, the CEO position is less important than the man responsible for Apple’s products – hardware and software.

Ask yourself: Would today’s Apple survive the loss of Tim Cook? Now ask yourself if it’d be the same company without Jony Ive.

He called Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, his “spiritual partner” at Apple. He told Isaacson that Ive had “more operation power” at Apple than anyone besides Jobs himself — that there’s no one at the company who can tell Ive what to do. That, says Jobs, is “the way I set it up.” – Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs

Start publicly grooming an heir apparent, Jony. As Steve likely knew all too well, the throne is hell without one.

36 Comments

    1. Don’t confuse the “CEO” title with “most powerful.” If Cook gets hit by a bus today, Apple will be fine. If Jony succumbs… BAD NEWS.

      MDN is right: Jony needs to start publicly grooming an heir apparent immediately. For his good and the good of Apple.

      1. Jonny Ive would probably do just as good a job as CEO as he does as a UI designer. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Since Jonny Ive has not spun off his UI design duties, he obviously can’t see the limitations of his genius.

          1. Brilliantly, and humorously, argued. I’m on your side in this pointless debate. Wasting valuable time on trivialities is such a deliciously decadent pleasure: these forums, with their animated declamations and political histrionics, are spectacular evidence of humanity’s unique gift: rationality.

            Uh, wait.

            1. And yet there are intelligent things to say about graphics design choices beyond “Yay iOS 7”, “Boo iOS 7”.

              Reducing ornamentation on hardware reduces distractions, but in software some degree of shading and texture helps our visual system work efficiently, both in the fovea and periphery. Every layer of neurons from our retina to our cortex is optimized to take advantage of every little 3D and texture cue it can extract.

              Also, simplicity in software is about communicating simple and clear ideas, not about simpler graphics. Sometimes our minds find the information in more complex or ornamented graphics easier to understand.

              Flat design is the new monochrome in my opinion.

              We are not CCDs.

            2. Thanks. If women might respond more to shading than parallax in stereo 3D images, perhaps there are also sex differences in processing flat vs. shaded/textured 2D images.

              Its a relevant to me as I design my own graphical interfaces. But posters on this site tend to beat the meaningful nuances out of most subjects.

        1. Totally wrong. Extremely creative people make VERY bad CEOs.

          Steve was creative but he was also a business man – Jony isn’t.

          If Jony was CEO apple would create amazing products but they wouldn’t make any profit on them.

          Plus he would get frustrated as his job would tahr him away from what he turkey loves – which is design.

  1. Ive was at Apple before the return of Steve Jobs and obviously is as capable of a beige box as anyone at HP ever was. He is out of his depth in Software UI and iOS 7’s adoption rate is more a result of forced issue than public acceptance.

    Apple pulled signing iOS6 very quickly so those who did not preserve backups could not revert and drop the god awful UI of iOS7. 85% would quickly decline if Apple were to allow people to revert.

    I did not like the fake leather and felt, but otherwise the look was fine and much easier on the eyes than the current mess. Saying it has to be one way or the other is setting up a false dichotomy. Ive could have cleaned up the design without going all foo foo like he did.

    Put Ive on the next train to Redmond where he can revel in flat pastels on Windows 8 all day long.

    1. Ive is a great hardware designer. Possibly history’s best.

      But he was never a software guy. While I like the speed of iOS7, I hate the look and feel. I would revert in a heartbeat if I could.

      1. No you can’t. iTunes asks Apple servers for permission to install iOS and for iOS6, they stopped allowing it about a week after iOS7 was releases. It doesn’t have anything to do with backups, backups are “version agnostic”.

  2. Ive is a pissant of the first order with ideas above his station. I wished I had never awarded him the knighthood. He now walks around with that medal on his chest like a puffed up cockatoo.

  3. beware the old adage about people rising to the level of their incompetence.

    tim cook was the master of logistics and supply, and while he may yet turn out to be the leader apple needs and can prosper under, at the moment he is not impressing me in that role nor are the logistics and reliability of the supply train under his successor what they once were.

    jony ive is a master at hardware design – and maybe that is where he is best suited. likely nobody else would be nearly as good in that department. i don’t know that ios7 can be laid at his door, entirely, but it doesn’t impress me either.

    yes i realize that 6 vs. 7 is all a matter of taste and in the eyes of the beholder. that might explain why burt reynolds (and any number of misguided guys) felt loni anderson was one hot number. me, i preferred pam dawber from mork and mindy, there is a lot to be said for subtle beauty. but again its all a matter of taste.

    steve jobs was one of a kind, and if you start pulling the best people from various internal roles at which they clearly excel above all others, in an attempt to find a worthy successor, all you may end up with is second best, all the way around.

    ego and self worth are powerful things, which can both work for or against one

    nobody

    1. Yes, the difference between the iOS6 UI and the iOS7 UI is a matter of taste. iOS6’s UI was not controversial, but iOS7’s UI is controversial among a respectable percentage of Apple’s customers. So far as taste is concern, iOS 7’s UI is much less tasty. In fact, iOS7 is has the first and only UI that is controversial.

      My tenant traded in his iPhone for a Galaxy. The iPhone worked better, but he couldn’t stand to look at it. He wanted to switch to the Mac, but now he’s lost interest in that idea.

  4. It’s worth a try – anything and anybody is worth a try because the guy running the company is a failure. If Jony does ascend, the first think he should do, with no longer any reason to placate Tim, is to abandon the sissified iOS.

  5. “Reports of my death are premature.”
    – Tim Cook. (and Samuel Clemons)

    So many haters out there. Tim Cook is guilty as charged for not being Steve Jobs. He’s guilty of not coming up with a new industry shattering invention at least once a week. Truth be told,there was only one Steve Jobs. But remember that Apple is a company of thousands of employees, each of whom influence the company’s direction. We should remember too that no company innovates on command. It can take years for any company, Apple included, to produce a game-changing hit product.

    As an investor, I know to remain patient with any company I follow, Apple included. Before I close the book on any executive, I know that it takes many years to see their vision and management play out. Most of us fanboys have little clue about corporate management, especially in a company as large and complex as Apple. When measuring a company, look at how much cash it generates, and whether their cash horde is accelerating. I’m just finishing The Outsiders, an excellent business text (highly recommended) by William Thorndike. He identified that the best performing companies of the past 50 years had a common trait: cash growth. Taken that way, Apple is doing rather nicely.

    In a year from now, if you are thrilled with your iPhone 6, your iWatch and other hardware/software from Apple, you might be singing a different tune about Mr. Cook and his team. We are all so fickle, and expect whatever product that you fantasize about to be in your hands RIGHT NOW. But children, it doesn’t work that way.

    As form Jonathan I’ve, I doubt that he would want to run a company as big as Apple. He’s a designer, not a finance whiz. His passion is creating products, not running companies. Despite what the reporters claim to know about Mr. Ive and this whole affair, my hunch is that they are way off the makrk. But that never stopped a journalist from fanning flames in exchange for clicks and eyeballs.

    And all this idle speculation about succession is but a waste of time. In fact, the heated arguments in reaction to most articles here are merely an exercise in speculation. Of course, the nice folks at MDN love that. By posting articles and links that are pure click-bait, that assures their success, but rarely addresses the facts and truth. Keep that in mind.

    To sum up: Much ado about nothing.

  6. You wanna start watching a battle for all the marbles, just you wait until Angela Ahrendts shows up… WAY behind the scenes, she is the one that can get all the marbles corralled in one place that could leave Johnny sitting in a waste dump playing with an iShovel..

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