Monday was a bank holiday in both the U.K. and the U.S.
Markets were closed in both countries.
The Telegraph chose that day to publish comedian Stephen Fry’s interview with Apple design guru Jony Ive, in which he revealed that Ive was getting a new title: Chief Design Officer.
It was portrayed as a promotion. But a theory is rumbling around that Ive is actually preparing to retire or step way back from daily duty, and Apple has been orchestrating a careful public relations campaign to ensure this news doesn’t spook investors.
Stratechery analyst Ben Thompson was the first we saw float the theory.
He noticed that a recent profile of Ive in The New Yorker took pains to mention Ive’s lieutenant Richard Howarth, calling him a “badass.”
He also noticed that Wired’s recent piece on the Apple Watch pointed out Alan Dye, Apple’s chief of human interface design, as a critical person who helped Apple manage the big design changes that Ive kicked off in iOS7.
So guess who’s taking over Ive’s “day to day responsibilities,” according to a leaked internal memo from CEO Tim Cook?
That’s right: Horwarth and Dye.
Thompson called the whole sequence of events “a masterful display of public relations.”
So let’s say that’s true. If Ive retires, or takes on a lot less active role at Apple while still retaining his new title, does it matter?
Yes, Ive was reportedly closer to Steve Jobs than almost any other Apple exec, which gives him some kind of authority that other folks at Apple may lack. The design team he led was certainly a huge factor in Apple’s revitalization during the 2000s — from the Bondi Blue iMac through the iPod’s click wheel and the iPhone’s touch screen.
But Ive’s team is that — a team. It was acting on principles that Apple has championed for a long time, such as placing the end-user experience over other considerations, like how products will be received by business owners or CIOs.
And there were lots of other factors in Apple’s rise. It always focused on a few key products rather than trying to do too much. It performed some amazing technical feats, particularly packing the guts of a full computer into a tiny package and revolutionising the touch screen with the first iPhone. It resisted calls to create cheap versions of its products to cater to cost-conscious buyers — instead it discounted older versions and kept selling them, keeping supply chains relatively simple and quality consistent. And when the market clearly told Apple it was missing something — like big screens on phones — Apple adjusted.
No single person makes a company.
It’s one thing if Ive departed and that sparked an exodus of other critical Apple execs. Or if it seemed like Apple wasn’t able to recruit and retain great talent. But so far, there’s no evidence of either.
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