In Ian Parker’s excellent New Yorker profile of Apple’s Jony Ive, the Apple design maestro is mentioned to be disparaging of an unnamed competitor who allows customers to make their devices into “whatever you want.”
Apparently, Motorola thinks the comment was about them, and Motorola CEO Rick Osterloh is now firing back, calling Apple’s pricing “outrageous” and taking issue with Ive’s comments.
Just as a flashback, in the New Yorker profile, Parker writes:
In one of our conversations, Ive was scathing about a rival’s product, after asking me not to name it: “Their value proposition was ‘Make it whatever you want. You can choose whatever color you want.’ And I believe that’s abdicating your responsibility as a designer.”
That’s pretty vague… so vague it never even occurred to me that he might be talking about Motorola. But Osterloh thinks Ive’s clearly talking about them. In an interview with the BBC, Osterloh said:
Our belief is that the end user should be directly involved in the process of designing products… We’re making the entire product line accessible. And frankly, we’re taking a directly opposite approach to them [Apple].
Osterloh then went on to call the price of the iPhone 6 outrageous, comparing a 16GB iPhone 6 at $649 for a 16GB Moto X at $399. Apples to oranges in my book, no pun intended, but there you go.
Osterloh may be right, and that Ive was speaking disparagingly of Motorola. He’s also right that Ive’s comments about “abdicating your responsibility as a designer” by allowing people to choose personalization options is a little rich coming from Ive. Not only is Ive about to launch the Apple Watch, a fashion device with a high number of personalization options, but the iPhone, iPod, and iPhone lines have shipped with all sorts of customization options: heck, you can buy an iPhone in gold, or you can buy one in bright green plastic. If Motorola’s abdicated its responsibilities as a designer for allowing users to customize, so has Apple.
That all said. In defense of Ive, he had the good grace to not name Motorola, or any of the other companies he criticised in the New Yorker piece by name. Maybe Osterloh should have let the criticism slide.