No, Apple is not making better products because Jony Ive left

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Apple is doing fine since Jony Ive left the company, and it was doing fine before he left. This does not mean that he wasn't a loss, but it also does not mean that Apple has somehow been liberated by his leaving.

Jony Ive
Jony Ive


Ex-Chief Designer Jony Ive was famously strong at opposing what he didn't like and doing something about it. When Scott Forstall left, for instance, and Ive got control over iOS, we got the radical iOS 7 redesign, the first overhaul of the iPhone software since the start.

Then while we have yet to see the end result of the Apple AR headset and "Apple Glass" work, it was reported that Ive vehemently disagreed with how the company was originally proceeding. Allegedly, Apple was looking to make a device in two parts, and before he left, Ive pressed instead for a single headset, even though that would necessarily be less powerful and functional.

Bloomberg wants to argue argue that Apple's design is now more practical than it was under Ive's aegis.

Saying that Apple is better without Ive is as logically fallacious as saying that something would have never happened had Steve Jobs still been alive. The statement is never about Jobs, as it is only said when the real meaning from the sayer is "I don't like this thing, and my own image of Jobs (or Ive) wouldn't have done it."

Likewise, saying that Apple is better without Ive is said through a lens of an individual user, and it doesn't apply as a blanket summary the way Bloomberg has.

Form follows function, but you choose your function

Without Ive, Apple's ultimate goal in AR would be a headset and a separate device. It could still be that we get at least one headset that requires an iPhone to be present, just as the Apple Watch does. But the idea had been to make a powerful AR device that effectively relayed images to the headset.

Unquestionably, a two-device system like that would mean Apple would have the capability to render brilliant AR and VR. It could truly innovate in AR with powerful systems and experiences no other company would match.

Except they wouldn't have sold a single one. Not outside the existing AR/VR community, not to anyone who wasn't buying for the love of technology.

Only Ive really knows what he thinks, but this argument about practicality versus aesthetics seems to be anathema to a true designer. It's bordering on saying that design is what something looks like, or that engineering must come first and you can fret about the paint later.

This is part of the claim that Apple has been freed by Ive moving on, that now it can listen to users, that it can make practical choices.

Tim Cook (left) with Jony Ive
Tim Cook (left) with Jony Ive

Better is in the eye of the beholder

One example cited for this is how Apple has now included a HDMI port on the new MacBook Pro. It's because, finally, the artists have been replaced by engineers who know what users really need.

Except if that were the case, those engineers would've insisted on HDMI 2.1 instead of the not-current HDMI 2.0 we've got.

And if it were that Ive ignored users but Apple now listens to them, then the high-end MacBook Pro wouldn't have a mid-line SD card reader.

Those particular generations of technology picked and installed are peculiar choices to make, and not ones that would drive an aesthetics-obsessed designer. They are both performative ports -- they are technologies found on $200 Chromebooks, rather than what you'd expect to find on a $2500 premium laptop.

Then, too, it's true that the 24-inch iMac got a redesign after Ive left the building, but we do believe he was involved in it. Plus, of course, it is an iMac of many different colors.

There is no practical need for any more than one color, and there is a cost in just the complexity of managing multiple SKUs.

So Apple hasn't been taken over by practical people who know to listen to what we want. It remains focused entirely on making products that people will buy.

That does mean making engineering improvements, but it really means making design choices that appeal, that work. So no, Apple did not introduce flat edges to the iPhone 12 because Jony Ive wasn't there to stop it.

Certainly, the flat edge does change the feel of, and the grip on, the phone, and presumably it does make the internal engineering easier.

But Apple did exactly this, precisely this, with the iPhone 4, during Jony Ive's time. And then kept that design with the iPhone 5. And, in all likelihood the road map to the iPhone 12 enclosure with its flat sides was laid out two years ago or more, when Ive was still actively working inside Apple's walls.

The change from rounded to flat edges is more likely to be cyclical than revolutionary. It's more likely that Apple is working to make each iPhone be distinctively different to the one before for marketing reasons, than it is that there's been some flat-edge coup in Apple Park. After all, with a new external design, the new iPhone in the hands of a passer-by or friend is easier to spot.

Apple isn't trying to be first

Apple plays the long game and if it can now afford to do that, still it has always looked far ahead and made moves intended to pay off later. This is why it's first to commercially exploit and then drop technologies like CD-ROM, and the first to adopt new technologies like Wi-Fi.

But it doesn't do any of that in order to be first. Apple does not try to be first, it tries to come in late and beat everyone else with a design that has been thoroughly and properly considered.

Steve Jobs (right) with Jony Ive
Steve Jobs (right) with Jony Ive


Which takes us back to that AR headset.

Apple isn't trying to make the next great AR/VR headset, it is trying to make an AR system that absolutely everyone will use. Call that Apple working to enhance technology for all of us, or call it Apple pursuing a bigger market, but that is its aim.

So yes, Ive argued against a two-device system that would be technologically superior to a lower-power, lower-weight single one. He was right.

And Apple is going to continue working that way. Apple is different without Jobs, and it is different without Ive. That is all that can be said as a blanket assessment of the impact that the absence of the men have made.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 49
    I don't know about Ive, but I do know someone hasn't been paying attention when designing the new 24 inch Mac. I first orderd the yellow one, but seen from the front it's not yellow but gold that's the dominant color. I had it returned within an hour. Now I have the traditional metallic one but every time I look at it I still wonder if it's a real Mac or cheap screen with Hackintosh on it. Why is it so not distinctive? And why, darn, doens't it have an Apple-logo on it's front? That's a very big design (and marketing) blunder. 
    williamlondonelijahgrcfawatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 49
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,111member
    What is this article in response to?
    bloggerblog
  • Reply 3 of 49
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,808member
    schmrtzzz said:
    I don't know about Ive, but I do know someone hasn't been paying attention when designing the new 24 inch Mac. I first orderd the yellow one, but seen from the front it's not yellow but gold that's the dominant color. I had it returned within an hour. Now I have the traditional metallic one but every time I look at it I still wonder if it's a real Mac or cheap screen with Hackintosh on it. Why is it so not distinctive? And why, darn, doens't it have an Apple-logo on it's front? That's a very big design (and marketing) blunder. 

    You are missing the whole point. Design has nothing to do with the choice of "yellow" and whether or not you like it. Nor does it have to do with logo placement. That is marketing.
    dewmeJWSCbloggerblogStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 49
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 489member
    Basically, things change.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 49
    crowley said:
    What is this article in response to?
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-19/apple-s-product-design-has-improved-since-jony-ive-left

    MacRumors linked to it a few days ago.
    Oferrusswnarwhalwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 49
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,633member
    Ive and Cook get drug around by the perpetually disappointed crowd as the boogymen. Apple is three times the size it was under Jobs ten years ago. Of course it has changed. Thank god the bullshit spread around on tech blogs is completely irrelevant. 
    OferdewmewilliamlondonStrangeDayswatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 7 of 49
    First things first, you have to put this Bloomberg's article in context: Bloomberg lives on pageviews and ‘blaming Apple brings page views’!

    Second, Bloomberg whole misses the point on Apple.
    Apple is a company that learns!
    Do somebody remember the first ‘Apple Portable’ —also known as ‘the brick’—… and then come the PowerBook that changed laptops forever.
    Do somebody remembers the ‘original fashion $17K gold Apple Watch’… and now we have the most sold smartwatch of the world —OK, also, the most sold ‘watch’—.

    Writing a column could take less that a day… building a change as the one we saw last Monday takes several years. (In a camera-related interview some Apple's exec said that they frozen the chip/camera design… three years in advance!)

    As Tim Cook uses to say in the revenues/shareholders meetings… Apple is for the long run!

    (And always, even with Steve's Cube, Apple is not afraid to ‘correct its mistakes’!)
    OferJWSCgregoriusmStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 49
    I wish Apple would make better software products with Ive gone. It was insane that someone like Ive was ever given control over software design. He is an industrial designer, a completely different field. He managed in a short time to seriously damage Apple’s legacy of human-centered design, leading the firm down a path of precious prettiness over function. It really saddens me to see that nobody has been #brave enough to set it back on course. The grotesque redesign of macOS alone is filled with many little pockets of shameful UX. The wrongheaded Safari tab redesign shows a company without a strong editorial eye overseeing software design. The graphic designers now have the keys to the kingdom and this does not bode well for the usability of Apple’s products. 
    williamlondonlkruppviclauyycrussw
  • Reply 9 of 49
    Wonder if Jony is/will contribute to the AppleCar. 

    He helped immeasurably to define and refine Apple’s distinctive look. Not sure Apple would have survived, or at least be what it is today, without him. On the other hand, fresh ideas and new talent are a good thing. But Jony created an enduring design language, like Jazz in music, that others can riff on for decades to come. 
    edited October 22 OferBeats
  • Reply 10 of 49
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,642member
    lkrupp said:
    Ive and Cook get drug around by the perpetually disappointed crowd as the boogymen. Apple is three times the size it was under Jobs ten years ago. Of course it has changed. Thank god the bullshit spread around on tech blogs is completely irrelevant. 

    Isn’t it more like 5x bigger?
  • Reply 11 of 49
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,399member
    The graphic designers now have the keys to the kingdom and this does not bode well for the usability of Apple’s products. 
    And when engineers have the keys to the kingdom, you end up with things like Windows Mobile: shoehorning a desktop OS on a mobile device because you only see the functionality and not the usability.


    dewmewilliamlondongregoriusmroundaboutnowStrangeDaysrusswmike1
  • Reply 12 of 49
    The 2016 MacBook Pro is the poster child for function following form. Design had too much power within Apple at that time. It is why we saw the removal of vital features that the pros relied upon ripped out of the product for no reason anyone could clearly state. Johnny Ive should shoulder much of the blame since he lead the division when the product was designed. Johnny likes nice clean shapes without any holes for silly things like HDMI, a SD card slot, ethernet plug or heaven forbid, headphone jacks. He currently works for Ferrari and is trying to figure out how to get rid of those pesky doors.
    edited October 22 elijahggregoriusmentropysviclauyycGG1russwnarwhal
  • Reply 13 of 49
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,521member
    The UI problems in macOS and iOS are, in my book, not because graphics guys got the keys to the kingdom, but rather, they lost track of actual cohesive usability and just have each group make up their own. 

    in an older iteration of MacOS (maybe as far back as pee OS X), only vital system stuff could take over your screen.   Non vital (non “your system is about to die”) stuff and application stuff couldn’t.  Now, the system and any app can force their precious modal to the front at any time.  I can be in the middle of typing something, like a password, and half way through some stupid modal pops up with something totally irrelevant (on macOS), interrupting what I was doing. What should happen is some sort of small UI element should unobtrusively let me know an app or the system needs some attention.  There should be no way for the system or another app to gain focus automatically, except for system critical stuff that could damage the system or cause data loss

    on iOS, messages has the slide to delete that works differently than every other slide to delete in the system. 

    On and on and on. 

    Still beats android and windows.  I’ve had to use an android the last few weeks at work to test our teams android offering (cross platform testing) and the interface makes no sense in terms of how you do basic system level stuff.   I feel the same way on Windows in those rare instances I have to touch windows (yearly company taxes and some model train speciality sw)
    williamlondonelijahg
  • Reply 14 of 49
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,615moderator
    Apple is doing fine since Jony Ive left the company, and it was doing fine before he left. This does not mean that he wasn't a loss, but it also does not mean that Apple has somehow been liberated by his leaving.

    Apple is different without Jobs, and it is different without Ive. That is all that can be said as a blanket assessment of the impact that the absence of the men have made.
    Jony Ive has said a couple of times he's still working with Apple, most recently in his letter (linked via Google to bypass the WSJ paywall):

    https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=https://www.wsj.com/articles/jony-ive-steve-jobs-memories-10th-anniversary-11633354769

    "While I am absurdly fortunate that I still collaborate with my dear friends at Apple, I am also terribly lucky that I get to explore and create with some new friends."

    If he's still working on projects at Apple, there's no way to tell if some of the the new product designs are from his involvement. Communicating via video chat is common now, all it would take is a chat to decide on making the base of the keyboard black or the layout of the display the way it is.

    Also some of the people who are designing things at Apple trained under Ive so it's not as if the decisions they make on their own would necessarily differ from the decisions Ive would make. When new products come out, people like to project stories onto how the designs came about without knowing any of the details. The extra ports for example, those were on Apple's laptops years ago when Jony Ive was there.
    williamlondonlkruppgregoriusmStrangeDays
  • Reply 15 of 49
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,502member
    Saying that Apple is better without Ive is as logically fallacious as saying that something would have never happened had Steve Jobs still been alive. The statement is never about Jobs, as it is only said when the real meaning from the sayer is "I don't like this thing, and my own image of Jobs (or Ive) wouldn't have done it."

    Uh what? How AI would have any idea if things would change direction or not due to Ive leaving? Considering the sentence above says that Ive was vehemently opposed to a VR headset in two parts proves he had a big say in what direction Apple took. Therefore without him, perhaps the direction will change or maybe even has - the MBPs have more ports once again, ports that no one ever wanted removed - that's an indicator of change that could be attributable to Ive: we know he hated breaking up the perfect lines on products. And through the eyes of many, Apple is now "better" as it has produced a device that's more desirable. But really, it's impossible to say one way or other.

    The writer says someone trying to claim what Jobs or Ive would do is a logical fallacy, then goes on to say with regards to a headset: "Except they wouldn't have sold a single one." So predicting what Jobs or Ive would or wouldn't have done is not ok, but predicting Apple's sales of a particular AI headset without Ive's input is fine? 

    This seems like an odd piece.

    bloggerblog
  • Reply 16 of 49
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,445member
    Three things in life are a certain, death, taxes and people complaining about Apple's bad press. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 49
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,049member
    I wish Apple would make better software products with Ive gone. It was insane that someone like Ive was ever given control over software design. He is an industrial designer, a completely different field. He managed in a short time to seriously damage Apple’s legacy of human-centered design, leading the firm down a path of precious prettiness over function. It really saddens me to see that nobody has been #brave enough to set it back on course. The grotesque redesign of macOS alone is filled with many little pockets of shameful UX. The wrongheaded Safari tab redesign shows a company without a strong editorial eye overseeing software design. The graphic designers now have the keys to the kingdom and this does not bode well for the usability of Apple’s products. 
    Well, no.  Graphic design and industrial design are joined at the hip.  At my university the first year and a half the design students shared a common core program.  Only at the year and a half mark did you choose graphic or industrial.  To imply that Jony was out of his element is ridiculous.  And the reality is that you learn far more in your work life than you’ll ever learn at university anyway.

    Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that UX and graphic design are the same thing.  UX is it’s own thing.
    williamlondongregoriusmroundaboutnowmike1
  • Reply 18 of 49
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,049member
    The 2016 MacBook Pro is the poster child for function following form. Design had too much power within Apple at that time. It is why we saw the removal of vital features that the pros relied upon ripped out of the product for no reason anyone could clearly state. Johnny Ive should shoulder much of the blame since he lead the division when the product was designed. Johnny likes nice clean shapes without any holes for silly things like HDMI, a SD card slot, ethernet plug or heaven forbid, headphone jacks. He currently works for Ferrari and is trying to figure out how to get rid of those pesky doors.
    You can’t seriously believe any designer, let along Jony Ive, would remove a port because it would disrupt a line.  No.  Just no.  Deeply uninformed formed comment.
    edited October 22 williamlondonroundaboutnowStrangeDaysmike1
  • Reply 19 of 49
    ciacia Posts: 155member
    Apple was not first on the CD ROM train.  They were one of the first to drop it, but they started adding it into their computers around the same time everyone else did.

    If anything, Apple was first to use the 3.5" floppy, and most certainly was the first computer company to have the "courage" (lol Shiller) to drop it.

    They also were basically first on the USB-A train.  So early in-fact that (as anyone who bought the OG iMac remembers) trying to get peripherals, printers..ANYTHING in USB form was a hunt for the first few months.  
    15 years later they repeated history, and started killing of USB-A.  Again it became a hunt to find ANY pure USB-C peripherals again.  Thankfully docks and adaptors came quickly this time around though.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 49
    dk49dk49 Posts: 185member
    I think it would be ok to have a two device VR system, as VR devices aren't really meant to be mobile, unlike AR. Nobody's really complaining that the Apple Watch needs an iPhone to operate, though it's becoming more independent with new iterations. 

    As for AR, I don't think it's possible to make slim AR glasses with its complete own locally running OS that's as powerful as the iPhone. At least not for a few years to come. 
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