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Why did design legend Jonathan Ive leave Apple?

Jonathan Ive, known as Apple’s design legend, quit after decades of working because of the leadership mechanism under Tim Cook.

Ive, former Vice President AppleOkay Steve Jobs described as “spiritual partners”. He is so influential in the company that the CEO Tim Cook once worried that investors would sell off the stock if he left the company. Many former Apple executives also think that the company could lose $ 50 billion in market capitalization, or 10% of the company value, if this happens,

Finally, Ive still left Apple in 2019, marking a permanent shift in the balance of power for a company known for its groundbreaking, market-leading products. Apple lost one of the creative designers, the driving force behind the latest devices.

Details of Ive’s passing are revealed in the book After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul (After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion Dollar Company and Lost its Soul) by Tripp Mickle. The work is based on interviews with more than 200 people, such as former employees and employees at Apple, friends and colleagues of Ive.

Relationship between Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive

Jonathan Ive’s pivotal role at Apple began when Steve Jobs returned to the company in the late 1990s. Jobs had intended to remove him from the position of head of the design team and replace him with world-class talent. However, Hartmut Esslinger, Ive’s partner on the Macintosh project, asked Jobs to give the design team a chance.





Ive (left) next to early iMacs.  Photo: AP

Ive (left) next to early iMacs. Image: AP

Jobs asked Ive to design a computer with an emphasis on Internet connectivity. The result is a lively computer, with a futuristic look but still familiar to the user, born. This iMac model had a transparent case, which was three times more expensive than a regular case, but was supported by Jobs because it was an important element in the design and the Apple CEO wanted to convince users to order the revolutionary product.

When Apple was preparing to launch the iMac in early May 1998, Jobs discovered what he considered a “fatal mistake” in the device. He wanted the machine to use a slot to swallow CDs, but it was equipped with a tray reader. Jobs got angry and threatened to cancel the launch. Ive approached his superior and tried to calm him down. The two then left and Jobs put his arm around Ive. “Since then, Steve was relieved every time Jony appeared in the room,” recalls Wayne Goodrich, Jobs’ longtime subordinate.

Demand for iMac exploded after the launch. One computer was sold every 15 seconds globally, making it the best-selling computer in history at the time.

The success of the iMac cemented the relationship between Jobs and Ive. They share the same views on design and support a minimalist philosophy. The two personalities are also balanced. Jobs has always shown vivacity, directness and steadfastness, while Ive has shown himself to be calm and patient. They often had lunch together, and Jobs went to the design studio almost every day.

This contrasts with the relationship-building process between Jobs and Cook. Colleagues feared that HP would entice Cook and urged Jobs to promote him to chief operating officer in 2005. The decision to choose Cook as his successor also stemmed from the fact that half of Apple’s value was accounted for. created thanks to the ability to ensure the production schedule and supply equipment. Those are the skills that helped increase iPhone sales from 10 million units a year to more than 200 million.





Steve Jobs (left) had an iPhone video chat with Jonathan Ive during the 2010 event. Photo: Reuters

Steve Jobs (left) had an iPhone video chat with Jonathan Ive during the 2010 event. Photo: Reuters

Even so, Steve Jobs still considers Jonathan Ive to be the second most powerful leader at the company. He puts the design team at the forefront of the product development process, ensuring they play a central role in the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

After Steve Jobs passed away

On October 5, 2011, Jobs passed away. Ive sitting in the garden at Jobs’ own house. He felt numb as he recalled the last words of his superior and longtime friend: “I will miss our conversations.” In the months that followed, he was engulfed in sadness, and the idea for a new smartwatch helped him get out of this mood.

Analysts and customers both questioned Apple’s ability to develop new products in the absence of Jobs. Jonathan Ive gathered the entire company and set out to clear all doubts with the Apple Watch model. He wants customers to feel that they can personalize their products, and at the same time mobilize human resources specialized in fashion.

Some Apple employees said that Tim Cook rarely visited the design room during this period. In one appearance, he focused solely on the Leica camera Ive designed for a charity auction. Ive excitedly talked about the elements brought into the camera, while Cook just nodded expressionlessly. The visit also lasted only a few minutes.

The Apple Watch launch event in 2015 is considered a new milestone in Jonathan Ive’s career. But he appeared tired instead of excited.

Later that year, Ive gathered the design team and engineers, congratulating them on exceeding all expectations. Then he stopped and sighed. “I’ve been at Apple for 20 years. It’s been one of the hardest years I’ve had,” he said.

The Apple Watch did not sell as well as expected, prompting Tim Cook to redirect its advertising from fashion to fitness. Ive reached out to Cook and said he was tired and wanted to step back from the business.

The absence of Steve Jobs made Jonathan Ive take on most of the responsibility for both design and product promotion. People close to him said that he was exhausted from competing with colleagues, overwhelmed by managing hundreds of employees, instead of the 20-person design team under him as in previous years.

Cook fears Ive’s departure will cause investors to sell off stocks. The two agreed that Ive did not need to take responsibility for management and focused on developing new products. He was promoted to design director, while two subordinates were also promoted. Only a few people at Apple at the time knew that Ive was depressed and exhausted.

The dominance of the ‘left brain’

Ive’s exit helped Cook reshape the company to his liking. He replaced director Mickey Drexler, the advertiser who built the Gap and J. Crew brands, with former Boeing CFO James Bell.

Ive expressed anger at the “left-brain” leadership, only those who only want to continuously improve their existing advantages, replacing one of the few “right-brained” followers – leaders who want to create should make a difference.

“Another accountant,” Ive told a colleague.

Tim Cook also strengthens the financial department, while expanding Apple’s services business strategy.





Jonathan Ive (centre) at an Apple event in June 2019.  Photo: New York Times

Jonathan Ive (centre) at an Apple event in June 2019. Image: New York Times

During the 2017 strategy meeting, Ive left the boardroom as a new leader named Peter Stern began his speech to the board. Mr. Stern opened a chart showing that profits from selling iPhones, iPads and iMacs are dwindling, while those from services and software like iCloud storage are growing.

The speech made some people nervous. It reflects Apple’s future, where Ive as a manufacturer of its products will no longer make sense, while services like Apple Music or iCloud will become more and more important.

Last meeting

“Art needs the right space and support to thrive. When you’re really big, that’s even more important,” Ive told the design team in late June 2019.

A day later, Apple designers were asked to delete all schedules to meet with Jonathan Ive. He waited for everyone to gather in his office in 4th floor at the new headquarterssaid that his most important project, the Apple Park headquarters, was completed and it was time for him to stop leading them.

All faces turned dark. Many were surprised, while some tried to suppress their panic.

Few people know the full extent of Ive’s inner battles, which include his confrontations with Apple’s financial team. Not many people understand how grueling he must be as he battles to promote the Apple Watch, a product that has grown in sales and plays a central role in the company’s $38 billion wearables business. But many people realize how hard it is to change out iPhones, iPads, and Macs every year.

Tangible products played a small role in Tim Cook’s recent launch event. He focused on announcing the broadcast deal with the US National Baseball League and praising the movie CODA on Apple TV+.

After Ive’s departure, the designers say they collaborated more and more with colleagues in engineering and operations, and faced ever-increasing cost pressures. Meanwhile, the basic products are still the same as when Ive left the company.

Diep Anh (according to New York Times)

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