Jonathan Ive, Apple CEO? Talk Amongst Yourselves

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Other than Steve Jobs himself, now single figure has defined Apple’s resurgence since 1997 more than Jonathan Ive, the company’s senior vice-president of industrial design.

It’s a constant worry among watchers of Apple (especially those who own stock) that the company won’t be able to sustain its growth if Steve Jobs retires, quits, or gets hit by a bus on his way to work some time.

So my friend Jess McMullin postulates over at bplusd, why not line up the designer-in-chief as Apple’s next CEO? Ive makes beautiful, functional, intuitive objects, and is better than anyone in the business at getting others to do the same.

He’s a designer who taps into the wells of unmet consumer need that fuel Apple’s ongoing growth. With the exception of Steve himself, he’s tuned to the zeitgeist that determines winners more than anyone else at Apple. Moreover, he’s able to articulate that vision with consistent grace and precise execution. He’s got a track record of hitting home runs. If you want to keep the innovation leadership that makes Apple, well, Apple, then you’ve got to have the driver’s seat firmly bolted to the flow of trend, meaning, and consequence. That’s the domain of Design, and Jonathan Ive is your Designer.

Now, I don’t entirely agree with Jess on this one. Jony Ive is a brilliant designer. That doesn’t mean he would be a great CEO — he certainly doesn’t have the sales flair that defines an Apple product introduction. Still, an interesting and provocative reminder of the need to figure out what comes after Steve. What say you, Mac-heads?

28 responses to “Jonathan Ive, Apple CEO? Talk Amongst Yourselves”

  1. Trev says:

    Anyone who steve personally trains should be more than set to take the wheel. If that person were John Ives, it’s a doubly good thing.

  2. Calamari says:

    Steve is the rockstar of CEOs and I don’t believe that any successor will have all of his qualities. That said, more than almost any other company, Apple is defined by its design. If Apple wants to continue to be design-first, then Jonathan is the perfect choice. He may not have sales flair, but he has a great British accent.

  3. theguycalledtom says:

    I don’t think the company could survive losing Jobs as their CEO and Ive as their lead industrial designer in one hit. It could well be catastrophic. Leave the selling to the business men and the designing to the designers.

  4. John says:

    Speaking as a designer, I can tell you that that’s a pretty dumb idea. Designers don’t make good executives of Fortune 500 companies. That’s not what they do, and that’s not what they *want* to do.

    There’s a lot more to being a CEO than just “sales flair.” Is there any indication whatsoever that Ive has ever been involved, even cursorily, on the software side of development at Apple? Would he be able to deal with finances, P&L statements, stock pricing and shareholder meetings? Would he be able to make key decisions on inventory and production? What about retail development? Sure, Apple has a senior vice president for each of those things, but at the end of the day, the decision-making comes down to one person—the CEO.

    Jonathan Ive is a fantastic industrial designer. His leadership in that area has led to a renaissance, not just for Apple, but for the entire product design world. But there’s absolutely nothing in his background or experience at Apple that suggests he could even come close to having what it takes to be the CEO of Apple.

  5. wildan says:

    How can business run with designer? I agree if CEO is a people from computer background but he know much about business and market.

  6. Ryan says:

    Just thinking … what would it be like if woz came back to apple and played a big part of it instead of that small little job he does

  7. Jonathan says:

    Jony Ive may be a real great designer, but I think he lacks the business skills of his highness. Steve’s known for his ability to feel whats right and wrong with certain products, and that’s a talent that I’ve yet to see in anyone else.

  8. Tice says:

    I would say Phil Schiller has to be the next CEO. He already hold the keynote when Steve Jobs had his cancer surgery and he did a great job. He also ist as senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing someone who knows the market and how to make PR for new products and software. He’s much more the better candidate.

  9. loganv says:

    “what would it be like if woz came back”

    hell would freeze over.

    honestly I’m torn. Steve Jobs will leave someday in the not-so-distant-fiture and when that happens I don’t want the company to hit the ground. John Ive is an amazing designer and if there’s a single person that knows exactly what Apple is about besides steve it’s that man.

    That said, John leaving the design department could proove disastrous. so while I know he’s the perfect man for the job, John already has his perfect job in my eyes.

  10. Doug S. says:

    I have to say, the arguments that promoting John Ive out of his comfort zone would be the Peter Principle in action sound about right to me. Not everyone can be both the Genius in the Basement and the Leader of the Troops with equal aplomb. Steve Jobs is one of those very rare individuals who can do both.

    But, hey: Haven’t you all heard? Theres no need to worry about Apple after Steve Jobs. Apple has a cloning tank set up in a basement lab underneath 1 Infinite Loop, and a team of Tleilaxu technicians to run it. Steve will just keep coming back, generation after generation, like Duncan Idaho in the Dune novels. :-)

  11. Andrew DK says:

    “Apple has a cloning tank set up in a basement lab underneath 1 Infinite Loop, and a team of Tleilaxu technicians to run it.”

    *Dune love*

  12. Goobi says:

    I think Phill Schiller will do the job of CEO. Ive should remain a designer and concentrate on that aspect. Besides, Phil seems to be hogging quite a bit of limelight these days…

    A random musing…What about Woz?

  13. Austi says:

    John Ives would be a great CEO of Apple. He’s already got the design aspect, which would equal great advertising and awesome products. And im sure Steve wouldn’t just let him go, he cares too much about Apple to do that. Jobs will give him sales training and make him ready for it, if this is to be the actual outcome. ALL FOR IT

  14. raewhitlock says:

    Honestly, I could see Ives and The Steve in a Ballmer/Gates-like relationship to Apple, with Ives taking over as CEO and Jobs taking on a figurehead-and-face-to-the-public role.