There’s a plenty of court intrigue about the reasons for Jony Ive leaving Apple.
John Arlidge, who interviewed Ive for the U.K.’s Sunday Times in 2013 and 2014, has an interesting take. In an article for Wired, Arlidge points out that Ive’s split from Apple comes at a time when it’s pivoting away from hardware.
Caring about software means making hardware
For as long as it’s been around, Apple has distinguished itself from rivals by making both software and hardware. This was in keeping with a mantra from Xerox PARC (and, later, Apple) employee Alan Kay. Kay noted that anyone serious about software must also build the hardware that said software is running on.
Arlidge writes that:
“In my most recent interview with [Ive] in 2014, he was then full of optimism about Apple’s future. No doubt he was looking forward to the reveal of the Apple Watch in 2015, perhaps the last major design coup for Ive and his team because, as with the iPhone, iPod and iPad before it, it completely invented a new product category. ‘We are at the beginning of a remarkable time, when a remarkable number of products will be developed,’ he said. ‘When you think about technology and what it has enabled us to do so far, and what it will enable us to do in future, we’re not even close to any kind of limit. It’s still so, so new. At Apple, there’s almost a joy in looking at your ignorance and realising, ‘Wow, we’re going to learn about this and, by the time we’re done, we’re going to really understand and do something great’.’ So the best of Jony Ive, the best of Apple, is still to come, I pressed. ‘I hope so,’ he replied.”
After the Apple Watch, however, Ive reportedly began to move away from Apple. As Arlidge notes, “apart from the Watch, what followed was a stream of iterative redesigns and improvements, both big and small, to existing products.”
The shift to services
He suggests that Apple “has not had a break-out hardware hit – at least by its high historic standards – since the iPad in 2010.” Meanwhile, the other markets Apple operates in — phones, tablets and computers — have matured. As a result, outward innovation has slowed.
“We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects,” Ive said in one of his interviews with Arlidge. “It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care — just like the people who make them. But what [Apple has] shown is that people do care. It’s not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made.”
A recent Wall Street Journal report (which Tim Cook has publicly disagreed with) suggests that Apple’s top leadership isn’t as design-focused in the past. This also comes at a time when Apple is shifting its focus toward services. For the first time in Apple history, the focus for new products is tilting in the direction of software. Hardware, while still a big part of what it does, is more about refining existing products.
An interest in luxury
Ive is also seemingly interested in the luxury sector. This is where he has focused for much of his work with BFF Marc Newson. But while Ive was interested in making the Apple Watch a fashion item, this isn’t how it’s wound up. Apple has distanced itself from these early aspirations. Instead, the Apple Watch’s big selling point has become its focus on mobile health.
Arlidge’s article may be overstating its case when he titles it “The real reason Jony Ive left Apple.” However, it contains interesting observations from a writer who, unlike many Apple journalists, has spoken with Ive on several occasions.