More Than One Jony Ive At Apple Now

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. 

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Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about mobile devices, crowdsourced entertainment, and the integration of cars and computers. His work has been published with Macworld, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, ReadWrite and numerous others. Multiple columns have been cited as "must reads" by AllThingsD and Re/Code and he has been blacklisted by some of the top editors in the industry. Brian has been a guest on several radio programs and podcasts.

17 thoughts on “More Than One Jony Ive At Apple Now”

  1. Interesting article, though I don’t think you’ve provided solid evidence as to why design would be stripped from Ive other than Apple is too big. Is Apple too big for Dan Riccio to run hardware engineering, Craig Federighi to run software engineering or Eddy Cue to run services? On the earnings call yesterday when Cook was asked about acquisitions he talked up his executive team and said they absolutely could take on a large acquisition.

    There might be more people providing input on future designs (especially as Apple moves into fashion), and Ive’s design team will probably get bigger but I doubt we’ll see designs that don’t ultimately come out of his shop.

  2. “If you can’t control everything, you can’t control anything, not really.”

    That quote alone shows at least one strong reason why Ahrendts was hired. I don’t think the new hires’ design philosophy is all that different from Ive’s, making his management of the company’s designs easily and confidently delegated. That’s the beauty of having a singular driving design philosophy and aesthetic if everyone understands and supports it. Otherwise they will be Browetted.

    I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the Beats redesigns, either.


      1. Still curious why you think Angela Ahrendts is the new Steve Jobs. We haven’t even seen her on stage at an Apple event yet. I’m a bit worried people are hyping her to the point where she’ll never be able to live up to expectations.

        1. I think her words and her actions at Burberry reveal how much Ahrendts is like Jobs.
          There is no reason for you to be worried about whether or not she lives up to expectations.

          1. Ahrendts ‘gets it’, she has taste and understands that quality matters.

          2. Angela Ahrendts isn’t a designer. She was CEO at Burberry not chief designer. She might provide Ive & his team opinions or advice re: fashion trends but my guess is she will be mostly focused on expanding Apple’s retail presence in emerging markets, especially China. I think she’ll have her hands full managing retail and won’t have much time to be involved in product design.

          3. I didn’t say a thing about Ahrendts being a designer or being involved in product design. I said she has taste and she understands that quality matters. Those are important cultural alignments re: Apple.

          4. But the premise of this article is as Apple expands into wearables fashion, etc. it doesn’t make sense to put Ive in charge of the design for all those things. Ok then, who will be in charge? Angela Ahrendts isn’t a designer. Neither are Dr Dre or Jimmy Iovine. Beats hardware was contracted out to Robert Brunner at Ammunition (who said in a blog post that Beats design would be moving to Apple’s design shop). Sure these there may be Jobs like in terms of having “taste” and understanding quality/culture/fashion (though I’d quibble on quality when it comes to Beats hardware as my experience has not been great). But at the end of the day you need designers (and engineers) building the products.

            As I said in another post it makes no sense to me that Cook would put Ive in charge of all design (his title was changed to SVP Design) only to start stripping some of that away as Apple moves into other areas where design (and fashion) become more important than ever. I think the last thing Apple wants (or needs) is rival factions within the company providing different design directions. What is entirely possible is that Ive’s team gets bigger and he brings in people with more experience in the fashion/wearables space.

          5. Oh, I agree, Ive will be in charge of design, but it’s good to have input from all kinds of sources, as you say Ive’s team is likely to get bigger. I think we’re mostly in agreement.

          6. I get worried anytime someone is hailed as the next ‘Jobs’. Jobs can’t be replaced and it would be a mistake for Apple to try and mould someone into the next Jobs.

            Seems to me what Cook did was make Apple more functional than it ever was under Jobs. Under Jobs you had separate leaders for Mac and iPod/iPhone, and OSX and iOS. Jony Ive was only responsible for hardware design (heck Jobs wouldn’t allow software designers to see the hardware and vice versa – that’s nuts!). Eddy Cue didn’t have responsibility for all online services. Basically under Jobs Apple people (like Forstall) were able to create fiefdoms.

            That’s no longer possible at Cook’s Apple. You have one person responsible for software engineering, one for hardware engineering, one for design and one for services/cloud. And then you have leaders for things that support all of it – operations, finance, marketing, etc. Cook’s Apple forces everyone to work together and as a result is creating more cohesiveness between platforms, services, software and hardware. Cook realizes you don’t need tension in the executive ranks to create great products.

          7. Not to speak for Brian, but I’m fairly sure he means “like Jobs” in the sense that she understands how to sweat the details, that design matters, taste is important, and so on.

          8. I prefer Cook’s model. We know who is responsible for what and decisions aren’t driven by what interests Cook at the moment. Only thing I’m not crazy about is Cook is more political. Hopefully he doesn’t allow Apple to become too political as I can see that turning off some customers (I’m sure there are a lot of folks in middle America who own Apple products – I’m one of them).

  3. “If you can’t control everything, you can’t control anything, not really.”-Angela Ahrendts
    I am so going to repeat that!

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