Jony Ive’s successor could someday replace Tim Cook at Apple’s helm

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Apple COO Jeff Williams
Williams is next in line for the CEO’s office.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s COO Jeff Williams won’t take on the departing Jony Ive’s title of Chief Design Officer but he’s nevertheless stepping into the role.

A new profile in The Wall Street Journal quotes sources who question whether Williams has the vision to take Ive’s place. Even so, some are looking at this executive to someday replace CEO Tim Cook.

Williams has a design win

Despite his operations background, the WSJ piece paints Williams as someone with an interest in design. And Apple’s own bio credits him for a signature product: “Jeff led the development of Apple Watch in close collaboration with the design team, and oversees the engineering teams responsible for Apple Watch.”

Williams is also supposedly responsible for pivoting the early versions of Apple’s wearable away from a simple fashion accessory and into health and fitness, where it’s found a market.

Design myopia

However, WSJ sources doubted his long-term vision. “He sees where we are, not where we need to be in years to come,” said one unnamed source described only as a former colleague. That’s not surprising, as Williams’ experience is in the day-to-day running of the company, not design.

Still, there have been unconfirmed reports that Williams is more interested in product design than Tim Cook, which might make him the best available successor. However, Apple’s CEO denied an earlier Wall Street Journal accusation that one of the reasons Ive is leaving the company is because Cook doesn’t want to be involved in the design process for future Apple products.

Looking past Jony Ive

Apple’s chief executive has been upbeat about a post-Ive Apple. “The design team is phenomenally talented. As Jony has said, they’re stronger than ever, and I have complete confidence that they will thrive under Jeff, Evans and Alan’s leadership.”

He’s referring to Evans Hankey, the new VP of Industrial Design, and Alan Dye, VP of Human Interface Design. These new hardware and software chiefs will report to Williams as chief operating officer.