First peek inside Apple after Steve Jobs: Tim Cook has little interest in product dev, design team left 'rudderless', says WSJ report

First peek inside Apple after Steve Jobs: Tim Cook has little interest in product dev, design team left 'rudderless', says WSJ report
Apple has been delivering hit product after hit product with a great precision and at a pretty steady cadence: a new product category was unveiled about every 5 years or so: 

  • the first iPod was released in late 2001
  • the first iPhone came in 2007
  • the iPad series launched in 2010
  • the Apple Watch arrived in 2015

But even the Apple Watch was not the mega hit the company expected, making it nearly ten years since the launch of the last mega product, the iPad.

Now, as the time is approaching for Apple to move forward with its next hit launch, the rumored Apple Glasses, some of the visionaries that were moving the needle seem to be leaving the company. Six members of Apple's design team had left in the past year, and on Thursday, the most iconic designer, the person behind every successful Apple product from the past two decades, gathered the design team which he built together as a family-like group to announce his departure. What had been developing for years with longer and more frequent absences, had finally happened: Jony Ive announced he was leaving Apple.

The news sent shock waves across the industry and probably the biggest one among them came in the form of a detailed report by the Wall Street Journal describing a 'dispirited' Jony Ive, a design team left 'rudderless', and bit of the secrecy surrounding the design workings of the company finally lifted.


The big takeaway documented in this recent report and from Ive's departure is that the culture within the company has changed. Jony Ive was extremely close with Steve Jobs as the two were sharing meals and Jobs was a frequent visitor to the design studio and fascinated with the design process. The picture that this report paints of Tim Cook is quite different: an operations specialist who rose to power by helping the company master the supply chain. Cook is also said to nurture much less excitement about design and keeps his focus on maintaining profit margins and using past Apple success to drive sales. And while Mr. Cook has sought to keep Ive in the company with a paycheck far exceeding that of other top-level executives, the British-born designer is said to have grown 'dispirited' with the little interest the current Apple CEO shows in product design. Further contributing to Ive's frustration was the fact that the Apple board of directors was increasingly growing thicker with finance and operations specialists, while those with the technical background that was core to the company seemed left behind.

This change in company policy makes a stark contrast to the days past when hardware engineers at Apple had a saying: "Don’t disappoint the gods," referring to the immense role of the design team, now far less vocal.

That was the team Jony Ive had built: a family-like group that worked long hours and would often gather after work to party together.



The last major product project where Jony Ive was fully involved was the Apple Watch. After the launch of the wearable, in May 2015, Ive was promoted to chief design officer to recognize his wider role overseeing not just industrial design, but also human interface, packaging, retail stores and the new Spaceship campus. But this also marked the start of a period when Ive would work distantly. His absence from design team gatherings allegedly left the team confused.


And this is the picture that this detailed report paints of the change in culture at Apple. After Jony Ive's departure, the design team will report to COO Jeff Williams and it is left without a proper representation in the board of directors.

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22 Comments

1. LawnBoy

Posts: 203; Member since: Feb 23, 2019

Or....maybe Tim Cook knows what he is doing and is finally getting rid of the old guard types that were cultivated around Jobs' design philosophy of one size fits all. Cook allowed for larger phones to hit the market. If Jobs was still around, he still would running a 4 inch screen and 1/2 GB of ram.

2. tedkord

Posts: 17452; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

But there's no denying that design had been a weak point for Apple post Jobs. The iPhone 6 and up are not good looking devices, nor is the watch. The closest they've come to good looking design was the cylindrical Mac Pro, and that was nice looking but silly.

10. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

This has been glaringly obvious to everyone but the Apple faithful. Funny how none of them have commented yet.

14. Vancetastic

Posts: 1698; Member since: May 17, 2017

There’s gotta be some Leo excuse thing coming. He’s got it bad.

15. TBomb

Posts: 1632; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

The 6 and up look just like every other mainstream flagship from companies - and every year it gets more and more difficult to find any TRUE difference. I will agree though - the watch is pretty barfable.

27. Vokilam

Posts: 1343; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

tedkord, I agree with you, I always said iphone 5/5s/SE was the pinnacle of apple's phone design. The departure of J.ive. makes me giddy that someone will have to fill those shoes from inside (regardless that apple says they'll be hiring J.ive's services). As much of a fan I am of iphones and specially iOS, I want a new hardware design.

11. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2474; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

That’s a stretch that Jobs would’ve kept pushing small phones with 1/2 GB of RAM. People take company head quotes out of context in the sense that they’re trying to sell you a product. Samsung said it wouldn’t abandon the headphone jack and they’re about to do just that in less than a year. Microsoft said that nobody would want to buy an Android and admitted later on that they lost the phone race to Google. Company heads say one thing in an effort to promote their product as best, but don’t think for a moment that they aren’t behind the scenes developing technology to one up their competition.

3. LawnBoy

Posts: 203; Member since: Feb 23, 2019

The best looking phone from Apple IMO was the 4. I think Cook is looking at what the Chinese companies are doing as they are the clear leader in design / taking risks and he needs Apple to morph into that. A 25 year designer cannot continue to innovate as he is always falling back on historical success.

4. Xxtoxicskittlexx

Posts: 192; Member since: Jun 11, 2018

Where's the link to the original article??

5. Victor.H

Posts: 1095; Member since: May 27, 2011

I've embedded it as a link in the article or you can just see it here:https://www.wsj.com/articles/jony-ive-is-departing-apple-but-he-started-leaving-years-ago-11561943376

8. Xxtoxicskittlexx

Posts: 192; Member since: Jun 11, 2018

Thank you

6. strawberry

Posts: 116; Member since: Feb 20, 2019

i find that china phones design are much better these days than samsung and iphones

18. BuffaloSouce unregistered

They're all the same. Rectangular slabs of glass and metal. The only difference is camera placement

7. Mreveryphone

Posts: 1841; Member since: Apr 22, 2014

Kinda explains it as the 6-8 stayed the same design wise...

12. iloveapps

Posts: 909; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Still apple sells more than 200M a year.

13. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

The glee of the SDF is hysterical. No need to even bait them, just sit back and enjoy the show.

16. TBomb

Posts: 1632; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Still nobody cares about the sales numbers.

29. Vokilam

Posts: 1343; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

sales numbers prove that what company is doing is the better product compared to competition.. We can all have our individual opinions of what's best, but every company, samsung, apple, huawei, etc all try to build a product for the highest denominator. And based on recent article, high end market belongs to Apple, the rest (bigger chunk of world population, belongs to Android - and Apple doesnt even cater to that). This means, that if you look at the market that matters to every company that makes phones, the market they all try to sell to - apple builds the best device - proven by SALES NUMBERS! yes we dont care what the company makes, or how successful it is. but for arguments sake of which phone is better compared to another phone - it's up to the market to decide, not a few individual nerds like us.

9. cmdacos

Posts: 4302; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

After riding Job's vision until it ran out for product development, Cook will ruin Apple. Half baked hardware pushes like HomePod and similar service developments IE News+ and TV+ are Tim's legacy.

19. jjface

Posts: 256; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

I don't know why everyone thinks the 5 was a great smarphone. I hated it. It was boxy and uncomfortable to hold. The 7 was my fav iphone. Though no one can forget the 4. The competition had caught up by the 5.

20. Wazupmrg

Posts: 196; Member since: Apr 10, 2017

Apple is the next Blackberry

21. oldskool50 unregistered

Apple is gonna kill themselves by putting profit above anything else. You can see it in their products. How do you release a Mac that doesn't have USB ports to be backwards compatible to older hardware? How and why remove the card reader when many Mac users are photographers. Then when you make a phone big for the first time and you used cheap metal and same for the iPad. Why is it it seems that the better quality stuff now, is stuff that cost less than Apple stuff? The XR was all about profit for a phone that cost them only a couple hundred to build. The Watch is just boring. The Mac Pro is suffering from being abandoned. All the Macbook keyboard issues and Apple using the wrong parts to. Build hardware and these parts are failing before expected. In just 3 years, if Apple keeps this up, they will be selling less than 100M iPhones and their profits are gonna drop because services aren't gonna bring in the same revenue. After iPhone 11, I already expect Cook to be next looking for new job. I have no opinion about I've. I perceived him as being snobbish and arrogant, like their fans can be. And with Jobs likening him, Jobs was also arrogant, a drug addict, a deadbeat dad, and a thief. Apple has the cash to redesign every iPhone just like Sammy did with the S. Apple is lazy and dows what car companies do. They make one platform and try to. Build as many products off of it to have more product, but all with questionable quality.

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