Welcome to the Jony Ive Era at Apple
Apple’s Monday afternoon management shake-up was a historic one, the largest the company has seen since the ouster of former CEO Gil Amelio in 1997.
And while details of the ousters of Scott Forstall and John Browett — the guy who oversaw Apple’s iOS operating system and the new hire who ran its retail stores, respectively — are certainly intriguing, they’re a sideshow to the bigger story here: The clear ascendancy of design chief Jony Ive.
That’s because on Monday Ive was given a role that no executive other than co-founder Steve Jobs has ever held before — oversight of all Apple product design.
“Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design,” Apple said in a press release announcing the change. “His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple’s products for more than a decade.”
That means Ive will oversee the design of Apple hardware and software both, and has been tapped as the new steward of Apple’s user experience.
It is an important recognition for Ive, a major change for Apple, and an interesting move by CEO Tim Cook in elevating the design wunderkind.
As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber writes, “I don’t think it can be overstated just how big a deal it is that he now oversees all product design, hardware and software. For the last year, outside observers have been left to wonder just where the buck stopped for UI design at post-Jobs Apple. That question has now been answered: Jony Ive.”
Indeed, the buck has finally stopped, with Cook trying to put an end to what had become internecine executive battles within Apple.
While perhaps a good thing, it also puts a lot of pressure on the elegant Ive, who will now be the integrator of Apple’s two sides, and the center of its future direction.
He’s an obvious choice, in many ways, as the architect — with Jobs — of Apple’s well-known high-toned yet minimalist design.
One area he clashed with Forstall on, in fact, was in this arena. Forstall, for example, favored skeuomorphic design — adding real-to-life elements in software — while Ive reportedly deplored it (as did many).
Now Ive will be free to rid Apple software of it and, really, to do anything he likes.