Jony Ive's Long Goodbye

A Brief Note on Apple

Long-time Apple design head Jony Ive’s departure is another milestone marking the passing of the Steve Jobs era.

Ive was ready to leave a distressed Apple Computer in 1997 but changed course after Steve Jobs (back as CEO after a 12 year exile) visited the design lab and was encouraged by what he saw -  a historic design partnership was born. Ground-breaking products included the iMac computer, the iPod music player, cutting edge thin laptops like the “Air”, and the iconic iPhone.

News of Ive’s departure was not unexpected however. Ben Thompson of Stratechery said it best: “it is less that Jony Ive is leaving Apple, and more that Apple, for better or worse, and also by necessity, has left Jony Ive and the entire era that he represented.”

It's a sign of the times for Apple in terms of “The Big Stack” - the infrastructure and software which connects everyone to a global network economy and society, and that includes our smartphones.

Apple grew into a cash-rich global giant when it installed a physical layer of iPhones and devices, all tied to Apple’s software, throughout the world by selling to millions of customers. And it was Ive’s designs which helped make that possible. But times have changed.

Users are not upgrading to new phones as quickly as they used to but they will continue to use and consume digital services and software.

It's no longer the exciting Steve Jobs/Jony Ives era of "sexy" designer hardware. Everyone has hardware now. The focus now is about services and experiences. Apple reinvents itself periodically, ever since its hobby computer origins in the 1970s. Ive's departure is just another chapter.

Millions of Apple customers will continue to spend on digital services with shifting desires (which includes privacy, a subject for future coverage). This is enabled by software. Apple customers who came for the great product designs will stick around for the services.

Services and software overshadows sexy design (until the company changes again).

New Apple, Old Apple, New Apple again.

Hello, Goodbye, Hello again.

Additional reads:
Jony Ive 2015 profile in The New Yorker.

John Gruber’s The Daring Fireball’s coverage and podcast of Jony Ive’s departure from Apple.

Ben Thompson’s Stratechery’s coverage of the Jony Ive story with his usual big picture context.

(Wikipedia: The iMac G3, introduced in 1998.)