Apple, Steve Jobs gets a bit too much credit for Apple’s long string
Steve Jobs gets a bit too much credit for Apple’s long string of product innovations — by which I mean that outgoing Apple design genius Jony Ive doesn’t always get enough. Now that he’s leaving Apple, Ive’s influence on Apple innovation will be obvious by its absence.
Jony and Steve were a legendary collaborative partnership. It was I’ve who suggested redesigning the iMac to look less like a PC and more like a sunflower. He designed the iPod Nano, a tiny music player so cool that it stole the spotlight from the launch of Motorola’s much-hyped iTunes phone.
But that’s nothing compared to what they later put in our pockets: Ive’s original iPhone design obliterated our idea of a smartphone as a button-riddled Blackberry or Treo.
Apple’s PR spin is that Ive’s new design firm will keep Apple as a primary client. They’re not fooling anyone. After pouring his recent years into the design of Apple’s new headquarters — a complete rethink of the entire corporate campus — I’ve is separating himself from allegiance to CEO Tim Cook. They’ll swear they’re still soulmates, but the reality is Jony has decided to start seeing other people.
You can’t blame him. Tim Cook is a supply chain guy. Give him Apple’s brand and products, and he’ll deliver profitable gadgets by the billions into customers’ hands. He built a trillion-dollar valuation. Shareholders love him. He took a risky stand coming out as gay. Bravo. But he’s clearly not the Other Half of the mind-blowing idea team that I’ve had with Jobs.
Apple fans like me are all too aware that since Cook took over, the company’s oh-my-God innovation has been its new headquarters. But Apple Park, like the round-tower Mac Pro and the Apple Watch, was already in development when Cook took over in 2011. Since then, it’s been less innovation than optimization. The latest Mac Pro’s marketing is all about faster workflow, transcoding, and rendering for today’s high-def video workplace. The old Apple would’ve smashed the screen.
Cook claims Apple’s in-house design team is “the strongest it’s ever been … continuing to work with Jony … I can’t imagine a better result.” Was I his publicist, I would’ve written to him the same lines. But he knows, and we know: the company has lost its innovation momentum. And now they’re losing the final connection to what Apple used to be.
For competitors, Apple’s creative decline opens up market share to those who can compete with what has become just another device company — albeit with a killer supply chain. For me, it’s sad. Jony was Steve’s secret weapon in remaking not only how technology looks and feels, but how we relate to it, and how it changes our lives. The stock market doesn’t seem to care today, but we know this is the end of Apple’s era