Speculation is mounting that Jony Ive has checked out at Apple – Business Insider


Jony Ive
Jony
Ive.

Getty

Last fall, Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive was asked what he
would do if he weren’t designing for Apple.

“If I wasn’t doing this, I think I would just be drawing or
making stuff for friends,” Ive said during an interview with
Charlie Rose. “Maybe it would just be Christmas tree ornaments, I
don’t know.”

Last Sunday, the London hotel Claridge’s
unveiled
its annual Christmas tree installation.

It was designed by Ive.

Ive’s official Apple
bio
says he’s “responsible for all design at Apple, including
the look and feel of Apple hardware, user interface, packaging,
major architectural projects such as Apple Campus 2 and Apple’s
retail stores, as well as new ideas and future initiatives.”

But people who know the company well are starting to suggest that
Ive has been taking more of a backseat role and may not even be
deeply involved in product design anymore, which was where he
made his biggest mark on the company.

“I’ve heard that he has lately been checked out or not as
directly involved with product design, and that he’s been largely
focused on architecture,” Apple watcher John Gruber told Jason
Snell
, the former editor of Macworld, during a podcast last
week. Ive is mostly working on the new retail stores and working
closely with head of retail Angela Ahrendts, Snell said he’s
heard.

Gruber later
clarified
on his blog that he did not mean to imply Ive was
on his way out, and that Apple sources have told him “every
aspect of every new product remains as much under his watchful
eye as ever.”


Apple BookKif Leswing/Business Insider

There isn’t a whole lot of evidence one way or the other. But a

new glossy book
taking a look back at Ive’s best designs is
certainly stoking the speculation.

“Criticizing execs is unpopular, but Ive seems stretched thin,
burnt out, and bored,” Apple blogger Marco
Arment tweeted
. “I’d love to see some fresh design leadership
at Apple.”

The history


ive treeRob Price/Business Insider

During Apple’s meteoric rise from 2000 to 2011, Ive was at Steve
Jobs’ side.

He ran Apple’s industrial design department, which was empowered
to imagine products like the iPhone. Ive often gave concepts to
Apple’s engineering department, telling them to make the product
design possible, which is counter to how industrial design works
at other high-tech firms.

Ive considered himself Jobs’ closest friend, and he is still seen
as a critical person for the company. His 20-person team designed
every single one of Apple’s iconic products in the past 15 years,
from the iPod to the iPhone.

If Ive were to retire officially, it could spook investors.

After Jobs’ death, it looked as if Ive had received even more
responsibility at Apple. He expanded his role from strictly
physical industrial design to digital user interface as well.

Then, in the summer of 2015, Ive received a promotion to chief
design officer. The news was
announced in a British newspaper
on a
bank holiday Monday
.

CEO Tim Cook explained the move in a memo to employees, which was
leaked and published on 9to5Mac:

“As Chief Design Officer, Jony will remain responsible for all of
our design, focusing entirely on current design projects, new
ideas and future initiatives. On July 1, he will hand off his
day-to-day managerial responsibilities of ID and UI to Richard
Howarth, our new vice president of Industrial Design, and Alan
Dye, our new vice president of User Interface Design.”

When Ive left, Harper Alexander, his handpicked lab manager and
right-hand man, left the group, too — he now does corporate
recruiting
for Apple.

Many analysts, such as Above Avalon’s Neil Cybart, still believe that Ive is one
of the most important people at the company. “With Jony Ive
positioned as overseer of Apple design, his influence on Apple’s
product direction cannot be overstated,” he wrote earlier this
month.

But earlier this spring, Apple’s iPhone SE launched without a
product explanation from Ive, as most previous Apple products had
received. And he kept a low profile at the launch event — only
one reporter who attended told us he saw Ive, while many others
said they thought he wasn’t there.

Ive contributed voice-overs to the launches of the iPhone 7 and
MacBook Pro this fall. But as many have observed, he did more
press, including two interviews, for his new book than he did for
Apple’s latest products.

Ive is certainly keeping a much lower profile than he did before
his promotion.

Impossible to tell


IVE SECSEC

Despite Ive’s clear importance to the company and his role in
Apple lore, the company does not list Ive as one of its six most
highly compensated executives in Securities and Exchange
Commission documents.

(Those execs are CEO Tim Cook, CFO Luca Maestri, Ahrendts, Online
Services SVP Eddy Cue, Hardware SVP Dan Riccio, and General
Counsel Bruce Sewell.)

The last time Ive was listed on a SEC Form 4, which is required
whenever an “insider” acquires or disposes of stock, was
in 2009
. It said he owned 28,127 shares of Apple stock at the
time. There’s been a 7-1 split since then.

Simply put, nobody outside Apple knows how much Ive makes, even
though we know what the rest of Apple’s executive team makes.

Shareholders do not know what Ive makes. It could be massive, or
he could already be collecting a nominal salary because he’s
effectively retired. It’s impossible to tell.

Making it harder for investors to gain clarity on the situation,
Ive has traditionally run a leak-free, extremely secretive ship.
Even Snell and Gruber, with their inside Apple sources, realize
there is only so much an Apple employee would know, given that
Ive’s team has traditionally worked apart from the company,
especially the software engineering department.

Former Apple exec Scott Forstall, who developed iOS, could not
get into Ive’s lab with his senior vice president ID card,
according to a
biography of Ive
.

The team was small, at fewer than 20 members, although it has
grown recently and now includes user interface as well. Few
people ever leave the group, although Daniel Coster, a longtime
member, was wooed by GoPro.

These team members sit together at lunch and are fiercely
loyal to one another. If anyone knows if Ive is no longer showing
up to the shop, it’s them, and they’re not talking — to other
Apple employees or the press.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The future?


Apple Campus 2
Apple Campus
2.


City of
Cupertino



Of course, Ive could just be head down, working on Apple’s next
big thing — the successor to the iPhone that will ensure the
company remains the world’s most admired for years to come.

Snell suggests that the Apple Car, now seemingly on the back
burner, was an Ive passion project. That’s certainly plausible.
One of the reported goals for the Apple Car project was to retain
top talent who might be bored working on incremental iPhone
improvements.

But it’s much harder to see Ive driving the development behind

a pair of smart glasses, or augmented reality
, which Apple is
currently working on.

Ive
told The New Yorker
that the face “was the wrong place” for
technology, in a long profile written in the fall of 2014, just
before Apple unveiled the Apple Watch. Ive sounded tired:

“He was a few days from starting a three-week vacation, the
longest of his career. The past year had been ‘the most
difficult’ he’d experienced since joining Apple, he said later
that day, explaining that the weariness I’d sometimes seen wasn’t
typical. Since our previous meeting, he’d had pneumonia. ‘I just
burnt myself into not being very well,’ he said.”

A quote from Jobs’ widow in the same profile hinted at a role
change as well:

“He had discouraged the thought that Newson’s appointment
portended his own eventual departure, although when I spoke to
Powell Jobs she wondered if ‘there might be a way where there’s a
slightly different structure that’s a little more sustainable and
sustaining.’ Comparing the careers of her husband and Ive, she
noted that ‘very few people ever get to do such things,’ but
added, ‘I do think there’s a toll.'”

Ive’s studio is currently located on the ground floor at 2
Infinite Loop, with a direct passageway to 1 Infinite Loop, where
Cook and the rest of his executive team members meet weekly.

When Apple moves into its new “Spaceship” Campus 2, the
industrial design group will get the best location on the ring.

They’ll be on the fourth floor, in a new 30,000-square-foot
studio. They will have a view of much of Apple’s campus. It’s a
symbol of how important the industrial design group led by Ive
has been to Apple.

When the team moves in, will Ive be there, looking at the campus
he designed and helped build with them? Or will he be off in
England designing retail stores, the Apple Car, or Christmas
ornaments for friends?

Know anything about what Jony Ive is up to these days? Email
the author at kleswing@businessinsider.com.

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