Jony Ive's departure is just the latest headache in Apple's increasingly tough year

  • Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive is leaving to start his own firm.
  • His departure is the latest in a series of disappointments for the tech giant, which is already facing antitrust concerns, disappointing earnings, slow iPhone sales, and the ongoing fiasco around its MacBook Pro keyboards.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive is leaving to start his own firm, the tech company announced Thursday.

“Jony is a singular figure in the design world,” wrote CEO Tim Cook. “His role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated, from 1998’s groundbreaking iMac to the iPhone and the unprecedented ambition of Apple Park.”

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Apple’s longtime design chief Jony Ive is leaving the company

Ive’s departure is just the latest blow in what’s proving to be a difficult year for the tech giant. In January, Apple took the extraordinary measure of warning investors of lower-than-expected revenues for its holiday quarter – weeks before it actually reported its earnings.

“While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” wrote Cook in a letter to investors. “While it’s disappointing to revise our guidance, our performance in many areas showed remarkable strength in spite of these challenges.”

In May, the Supreme Court ruled that an antitrust class action lawsuit against the tech giant could proceed. The lawsuit accused Apple of using its “monopoly power to raise the prices of iPhone apps,” according to a report by the New York Times. Previously, Apple had argued that “App Store customers technically buy apps from third-party developers and have no direct purchasing relationship with Apple, and therefore no standing to seek damages from the company,” according to reporting by Wired. But the Supreme Court didn’t buy it, saying instead that “consumers should be allowed to try to prove that the technology giant had used monopoly power to raise the prices of iPhone apps,” according to the New York Times report.

It’s also faced scrutiny abroad: In March, Spotify filed an antitrust complaint with the EU, claiming that Apple’s practice of taking a 30% cut of most transactions in the App Store constituted anticompetitive behaviour. Apple fought back, saying that Spotify couldn’t have gotten where it is without the benefits afforded by the App Store platform.

“Spotify wouldn’t be the business they are today without the App Store ecosystem, but now they’re leveraging their scale to avoid contributing to maintaining that ecosystem for the next generation of app entrepreneurs,” Apple said in a response to Spotify. “We think that’s wrong.”

The butterfly keyboards used in the most recent versions of the MacBook Pro also came under fire for an issue around stuck keys that prompted one prominent blogger to name them the “worst products in Apple history.”

Then in June, two developers launched another lawsuit in San Jose, arguing that Apple “abuses the dominance of its App Store to make developers pay ‘exorbitant’ fees for premium apps and in-app purchases.”

This all comes as Apple looks to reinvent itself as a services business as its devices businesses flatten out: Later this year, Apple will introduce Apple TV Plus, a premium paid movie and TV streaming service on which the company has pinned much of its hopes for a post-iPhone future. However, it’s not clear how well Apple will be able to compete in a crowded video streaming marketplace dominated by the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

While Ive’s departure will mark a difficult transition for the design team at Apple, which has benefitted from his leadership for decades, the real challenges may lie ahead.

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