Jony Ive: Thinking different is easy

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Jony Ive
Jony Ive sheds (a bit of) light on the new MacBook Pro's creation story.
Photo: Vanity Fair/YouTube

A new interview with Jony Ive sheds light on his team’s thought process as they created the new MacBook Pro and its innovative Touch Bar.

Ive addresses the history of the Touch Bar project, touches on his rationale for ruling out a touchscreen Mac, and explains why thinking different is easy — but doing so is only a small part of the innovation battle.

“Doing something that’s different is actually relatively easy and relatively fast, and that’s tempting,” Ive says. “We don’t limit ourselves in how we will push — if it’s to a better place. What we won’t do is just do something different that’s no better.”

It’s a comment that reminds me very much of Tim Cook’s comment on an Apple earnings call back in 2012, in which he said that, “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user.”

Or, to put it another way, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Ive doesn’t single out any of Apple’s rivals in the new interview with CNET. But his comments could certainly apply to several of them.

He noted that this way of thinking is the reason Apple “many, many years ago” decided not to add a touchscreen to the Mac. “We just didn’t feel that [the Mac] was the right place for that,” he said. “It wasn’t particularly useful or an appropriate application of multitouch.”

Ive also talks about how the Touch Bar grew out of an open-ended research project to create a “larger, haptic-rich trackpad.”

As with many interviews with senior Apple execs, it’s not always the most revealing talk. However, it does offer interesting insight into Apple’s problem-solving approach. Particularly if you know anyone who talks about Apple being out of ideas, it’s interesting to be reminded that — as Steve Jobs was keen on noting — saying “no” to certain ideas is just as important as saying “yes” to others.

You can check out the entire CNET interview here.