What I learned working with Jony Ive’s team on the Apple Watch

“Meet Bob Messerschmidt,” Mark Sullivan reports for Fast Company. “Apple quietly acquired Messerschmidt’s startup in 2010 (after Messerschmidt sent Steve Jobs an unsolicited email, but that’s another story). Afterwards, Messerschmidt was placed on the Apple Watch team, where he led a group charged with architecting new sensor technologies for the device. The heart rate sensors on the Apple Watch we know today are the creation of Messerschmidt and his team. Because health and wellness are perhaps the main use cases for the Watch, Messerschmidt played a central role in the Watch’s overall design, and had regular interaction with the vaunted Industrial Design Group led by Jony Ive.”

“Messerschmidt has since gone on to found his own company, Cor,” Sullivan reports. “He agreed to talk to Fast Company about the lessons he learned about design, collaboration, secrecy, the Vision Thing, and the Apple Way during his three years at Apple.”

A few snippets:

There was an effort to encapsulate what it is that makes Apple Apple. It was after [Steve Jobs] knew he was going to be going. (Jobs died in 2011 of complications from pancreatic cancer.) There were a lot of people who were trying to distill that down. People were looking to encapsulate those lessons in order to train future executives. To some degree, if I were being cynical today — which maybe I am — I would say most of them missed the point. You want to think you can train people up to think that way, but I think that’s the biggest thing they get wrong. It’s not teachable.

You may remember that right after he died there was all this stuff about “can Apple go on?” Could anybody have the capacity to do that job (Jobs’s)? All I can say at this point is that the jury is still out, but so far I think the signs are kind of pointing to “No.” It’s definitely not the same place.

Read more in the full article – highly recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: The whole section about why the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensors are where they are and why they work so well even with a loosely-strapped-on Apple Watch is an excellent encapsulation of how Apple goes about product design – the user is preeminent – that most other consumer-focused companies miss due to incorrect thinking and/or company structure.

10 Comments

  1. I think with SJ in place we’d be roughly where we are today.

    Changes? Cue would probably be fired. TV would be trying a skinny bundle, but I don’t think it would be working. Watch would not have had such a f*ckup start as it did.

    Hard to see other changes though, even if SJ were still around.

    Just for fun here’s my best effort at a big change that might be in place if we still had Steve: Siri would be twice as smart as she currently is, and AppleMaps would be best in class by now.

      1. Not having them available for purchase for months after the announcement, Jobs didn’t mind the headlines of being sold out in the short term, but never liked it going on and on. Looses momentum.

    1. We would NOT be here today if Jobs was around. We would, at the least:

      -Have Retina across the board.
      -An uncomplicated product line: MacBook Airs out, Retina MacBooks in with varying screen sizes.
      -Better music service. Push play and it’ll just smartly play what u like. No complicated UI.
      -Better UI in iOS: it keeps changing and not for the better. Apple can’t decide.
      -Apple TV with Apps as channels that u can subscribe to for $1.99 per month; real competitor for video games.
      -No stupid Apple Watch.
      -A car project that actually didn’t have people quitting.
      -A growing iPod line! Yes, music players are still relevant. Say a wearable MP3 player all integrated into the headphones.
      -No BS politics. A focus on tech.
      -iPhones that don’t get thicker.
      -No el cheapo old new iPhone.
      -No corny TV ads focusing on American people that nobody cares about.
      -Not purchasing Beats and things like that… that do nothing to advance Apple’s brand.

      1. An odd list but OK. I agree that under SJ they would not have purchased Beats. But Steve would have been wrong. The Beats acquisition was and is huge. Don’t get caught up by the fact that you don’t like rap. I don’t either. It wasn’t about that. It was about capturing a place in the heart of the music industry, where industry execs would respect, adore, and fear you all at the same time. And the musicians (mostly) would love the Beats business model as it attempts to compensate artists fairly for streaming their music.

    1. Well, I’ve got some Country Style craft furniture for you. 😝

      Seriously, I think you greatly underestimate Jony’s breadth and depth of taste. He would not use an iPhone or iMac aesthetic to design home furnishings for himself or anyone else. A house must take on not only utility, but culture and history if it is to be lived in for years. I’m pretty sure Jony knows that.

  2. pretty much ..every point he made was neglected/missed on the design and functionality of Apple TV 4,os and remote .. the Igore Battery case.. and the magic mouse and pencil charging.
    detail on pencil functionality and storage…….
    and some product launches..etc…

    lets hope that was just a 2015 anomaly due to growing pains…. i pray !

  3. I agree that Apple will not be the same company that SJ re-created, over the next years. For example we are seeing Apple become a bigger activist company under Tim Cook.

    They will continue to exact their secular religious ideas on all of us! Believing in these kinds of ideas/values or not, more are coming at the expense of the product and user.

  4. Of course you can’t install that natural genius that Jobs had into others in any predictable manner. However he is wrong in saying that attempts to try to do so is missing the point. You have to at least try to learn from what made him tick while you can and distil it into a training set up to at least encourage and train others to take on aspects of it or increase the chances of finding such a gem amongst your trainees otherwise it will simply be a lottery. The main problem is that if you aren’t careful the very process gets too rigid and you can prevent the development of the very free thinking and spark you seek to encourage and capture. If that is his point then there is some validity in it.

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