Jony Ive has been on his way out of Apple for years

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Jony Ive CultCast
Ive only visits Apple's campus a couple of times a week.
Photo: BBC

News of Jony Ive’s departure from Apple may have come as a shock to some, but to many others, it has been a long time coming. A new report claims Ive has been slowly reducing his responsibilities since the launch of Apple Watch.

Sources close to Apple have revealed that Ive has been visiting the company’s new headquarters as little as twice a week. “This has been a long time in the making,” one said.

We’ve known for some time now that Ive’s passion for designing Apple products has been waning. He reportedly became the most important person at the company after Steve Jobs died in 2011. But without Jobs, who was also one of Ive’s closest friends, it seems working at Apple just wasn’t the same.

Ive revealed to The New Yorker in 2015 that he had become “deeply, deeply tired.” Rumors surrounding a possible departure began to surface — until Ive was soon after named Apple’s Chief Design Officer.

Ive’s slow departure

The new role allowed Ive to maintain the power he had over Apple’s design decisions, but relinquish some of the leadership responsibilities to Alan Dye and Richard Howarth, who were promoted to vice presidents.

“Ive began to shed responsibilities” soon after Apple Watch made its debut in 2015, Bloomberg reports. However, by the end of 2017, many of the leadership tasks he had dropped found their way back to him once more.

Ive still made trips to Apple’s headquarters just a couple of days a week. He reportedly set up his own design studio in San Francisco and met with his team at their homes, in hotels, or at other venues. He more frequently traveled to London where he grew up, and even missed out on Apple launch events.

Not a lot will change … yet

Ive’s slow departure means that not a lot will change at Apple initially. But people familiar with the situation are “already worried about the new design leadership,” Bloomberg adds.

Those who have been placed in charge of design aren’t designers. And they all report to Jeff Williams, who is Apple’s chief operating officer, rather than Tim Cook. It’s a sign, some say, that Apple is becoming more of an operations company.

Apple certainly has plenty of creatives onboard, “but there is an operations barrier that wasn’t there before,” one source said. “People are scared to be innovative.”

What’s left of Apple design

Ive’s announcement follows the departure of three other members of the design team in the past six months. But Apple has been recruiting younger designers to bolster the size of its team, and it insists it will continue to work closely with Ive.

It will certainly be interesting to see how much involvement Ive has going forward. Apple will be a “primary client” of LoveFrom, Ive’s new firm, and the two will “continue to work closely and on a range of projects,” Apple said.

But some fans are wondering whether this is just lip service — Apple’s efforts to avoid a potential panic from fans and investors.