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Jony Ive ‘dispirited’ by Tim Cook’s lack of interest in product design: WSJ

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A narrative is growing that Ive’s exit from Apple started years ago

Apple CEO Tim Cook Delivers Keynote At Annual Worldwide Developers Conference Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

To many, Jony Ive’s announced departure from Apple last week felt very sudden. But a narrative is forming to suggest that he’s been slowly exiting for years as the company shifted priorities from product design to operations. The Wall Street Journal’s Tripp Mickle just published a new list of brutalities that paints a picture of discontent inside Apple, that’s responsible for “eroding the product magic” created by the union of Apple’s genius CEO and genius designer.

The WSJ report follows a similar piece published by Bloomberg last week. Both reports describe an Apple design team, led by Jony Ive, increasingly frustrated by his absence after the launch of the Apple Watch in 2015. They tell the story of a company that once put design at the forefront, progressively being led by operational concerns. Ive’s absence was “straining the cohesion central to product development,” according to the WSJ, causing several key design team members to leave Apple over the last few years.

Here are some of the highlights from The Wall Street Journal piece that’s well worth a read in full:

  • Ive was “dispirited” by Tim Cook who “showed little interest in the product development process,” according to sources speaking to the WSJ. This helps explain why Cook, who comes from operations, sometimes appears to be seeing products for the first time in the hands-on area after Apple events (like the photo at the top of this article).
  • Ive grew increasingly frustrated as Apple’s board was populated by directors with backgrounds unrelated to the company’s core business.
  • Apple will pay Ive’s new firm LoveFrom “millions of dollars a year to continue to work with Apple.”
  • Ive disagreed with “some Apple leaders” on how to position the Apple Watch. Ive pushed for the Apple Watch to be sold as a fashion accessory, not as an extension of the iPhone. The product that went on sale was a compromise. Apple only sold a quarter of what the company forecasted in the first year, according to the WSJ, with “thousands” of the $17,000 gold Apple Watch Edition left unsold.
  • The design team continues work on AR glasses “that would give users visual displays of messages and maps.”
  • Engineers found that the doomed AirPower charging pad “behaved more like a dorm-room hot plate, heating up loose change and failing to evenly recharge devices.”