Does Jonathan Ive really want an iPhone “phablet”? I have doubts. Ive resisted increasing the size of the original iPhone, yet today’s larger iPhones (5/c/s) seems far too small for much of the world. Ive’s iconic design will doubtless change yet again, soon, driven not by design principals but by market demand.
This is to be expected. The market never sleeps.
What I had not expected, however, yet which appears now almost certain to happen, is that Jony Ive likely won’t be involved in several major Apple hardware designs. Apple has simply become too big.
In yesterday’s earnings call, Tim Cook said he “can’t wait” to introduce several new products and services to the market. Ive may have overseen the design of all of these, but that’s not likely to remain true. What does this mean for Apple products going forward?
Mostly good things, I believe, with an explosion of not only new products, but new looks and new identities.
Cook Brings In Ringers
Does anyone really expect Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine to have their (Beats) headphones, speakers and related audio accessories conform to any Jony Ive preferences?
Yes, Ive is Senior Vice President, Design, in charge of software and hardware design. He has certainly earned his reputation as a peerless product designer. But I think Cook is right to bring in ‘ringers’ as the company steadily moves into new markets, new products and new regions, propelled by the world’s insatiable appetite for the high margin iPhone.
As Jan Dawson‘s latest chart reveals, iPhone revenues simply dwarf everything else at Apple — practically everything else everywhere.
Tim Cook has no intention of allowing this trend line to falter on his watch. More iPhones are to be sold to more people, with iPhone sales and margins protected by a range of hardware accessories. Beats, wearables, watches; these will be the start. Not all new hardware design will be overseen by Jony Ive.
Consider these Beats headphones. What will be Ive’s input into future Beats designs? Will he have any input?
It’s not just headphones and speakers, of course. Angela Ahrendts, the new Senior Vice President, Retail and Online Stores, has brought to life numerous fashions and accessories for Burberry, a company she almost singlehandedly rescued.
Ahrendts proved her deft touch in determining what products would sell to discerning customers, particularly in China — factors extremely important to Tim Cook’s grand plans. It seems silly to believe the future Dame Ahrendts will only be involved in the look and feel of Apple Stores given her uncanny ability to understand fashion, luxury, design and desire.
In fact, there may be no one at Apple with a stronger intellectual and emotional connection to Steve Jobs than this newest member of Apple’s executive team. Consider these quotes from a Vogue interview with Ahrendts:
Upon her arrival in London, she discovered that there weren’t many high-level Burberry executives who shared her enthusiasm for the label. Within a year, she sacked the entire Hong Kong design team and closed factories.
The label was in need of a dramatic overhaul, its famous plaid having become diluted by wide-spread, cheap copies.
Ahrendts and Christopher Bailey have taken (Burberry) back to its pure heritage.”
Ahrendts bought back 23 licenses that Burberry had sold to another companies, which had meant other firms could use its signature check on products such as disposable nappies for dogs. “I feel like I spent my first few years here buying back the company – not the most pleasant or creative task,” she said. “But we had to do it. If you can’t control everything, you can’t control anything, not really.”
Just like Cook didn’t acquire Beats solely for its margins on headphones, he did not bring in Ahrendts simply because she understands how to optimize profits per square foot.
A New Apple Design Template
I believe we are on the cusp of a product explosion at Apple. Given the new hires and acquisitions, I think a design explosion is also percolating inside Apple.
Just look at the talent.
This is a new Apple and one person, not even one team, can design every product for every market segment. Is Ive really best for each of these — or all of them?
- Tablets and laptops
- iWatch and wearables
- iPhone cases and accessories
- The look and feel of CarPlay — including built-in hardware — in vehicles ranging from a Mercedes AMG to a Chevrolet
- iBeacons. iPods. Beats.
- iPhone (all versions)
Putting Ive in charge of all of this is like putting Elvis in movies. Suboptimal results all around. Cook knows this. Therefore, he brought in significant talent from the outside. Ahrendts, Iovine, Dre, men and women with design experience in watches, fitness bands and wearables. Men and women with a keen, proven ability to attract Chinese consumers. Those with a keen ability to attract urban youth. Those who desire fashion and those who demand function.
Prediction: The iconic look and feel of Apple products will likely no longer be the single, driving element behind the company’s hardware. Rather, the depth of its integration to the iPhone. The days of ‘universal’ Apple products designed to satisfy everyone are coming to an end.
The future Apple will release some duds, no doubt, but I think there will mostly be an incredible range of beautiful, functional products.