Shakeup Cements Jony Ive’s Control Over Apple’s Software Design

| Analysis

Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedly initiated another management shakeup at Apple in a change that will soon leave Sir Jony Ive firmly in charge of Apple's software design. 9to5Mac reported that Apple Human Interface Vice President Greg Christie is departing the company, and that Sir Jony will completely subsume control over Apple's software design group.

King Jony Ive

Sir King Jony Ive

Greg Christie was the creator of the original iPhone interface, and his roots inside Apple went as far back as work on the Newton. In his most recent capacity at Apple. Mr. Christie reported to Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, and according to Mark Gurman's sources, it was friction between Jony Ive and Mr. Christie that led to the latter's ouster.

That friction reportedly began immediately after Scott Forstall's ouster, when Jony Ive had Mr. Christie's Human Interface team began redesigning the look and feel of iOS from the ground up. The two reportedly clashed over the direction that effort should take, and Sir Jony effectively went around Mr. Christie to get what he wanted. The result was iOS 7.

All of which makes me think of one of the comments the late Steve Jobs wrote in an email in 2010 that recently came to light during Apple's patent infringement trial against Samsung. In that email, Mr. Jobs wrote, "Apple is in danger of hanging on to old paradigm too long (innovator's dilemma)."

My read on the 2012 departure of Mr. Forstall and the impending departure of Greg Christie is that Tim Cook is determined not to let the innovator's dilemma take root at Apple. The narrative for both departures is that the executive resisting change was let go.

Of course, the other thread is that the executive who was at odds with Jony Ive was let go. Somewhere in there may be a lesson for other executives, but I'd prefer to focus on the resistance to change aspect of these shakeups.

Remember, too, that Tim Cook has devoted major resources to expanding Apple University within Apple, an educational system designed to instill and institutionalize the values identified by Steve Jobs as crucial to Apple being Apple.

This is a company that must move forward. It is more important for Apple to fail, and to fail spectacularly, than it is for Apple to perpetuate what already works. This was a message hammered on repeatedly by Steve Jobs, and to all outward appearances, it's a message that Tim Cook heard loud and clear.

Image made with help from Shutterstock.

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John Dingler, artist

Hi Bryan,
I don’t know what to think.

iOS 7’s thin fonts are overly thin, overly-reductive, I supposed employed so that users take a bit longer to look and see what they are looking at. I guess this is on purpose, but why? Or maybe the designer’s ego is overly-confident, assuming that he/she is right and I and my friends are wrong.

We don’t agree with this minimalism, and it seems that it’s a top-down, absolutist imposition taken too far.

Having read countless articles about the character of dynamics that occurred between the two – whereby the synthesis usually produced a positive outcome for the end user, I strongly suspect that this wrong move to bad fonts can be attributed to a lack of a counterforce that Jobs provided to Ive, a counterforce that Cook seems not to have that innate – perhaps inborn – capacity to provide. If so, then someone needs to step up and provide it.

But who can can stand up to Ive’s MO and specifically to his overly-minimalist extravagance? I see no one; He seems to be, well, a dictator into himself. Is this good for Apple, for us? I hope I am wrong and that pleasant aesthetics returns and that confrontational aesthetics, aesthetics that confront one’s sensibilities, is minimized.


Make no mistake here. If Ive starts taking on any marketing related duties or acts as a public face (stage appearance at WWDC), there is no doubt in my mind he is being groomed to be CEO. Apple is a products company.  While Cook is doing a fine job, he’s not a visionary.  Ive is.

Lee Dronick

  iOS 7’s thin fonts are overly thin, overly-reductive, I supposed employed so that users take a bit longer to look and see what they are looking at. I guess this is on purpose, but why?

In most every photo that I have seen of him he is wearing a plain T-shirt. Perhaps his sartorial style is reflected in iOS 7.

John Dingler, artist

Hi dswoodley,
Perhaps, but what about the former Ms. Burberry, Angela Ahrendts? Her poses in the photographs she releases of herself project an image of confidence, leadership, and aesthetics.

John Dingler, artist

Hi Lee,
Angela Ahrendts participation in Apple might provide a moderating force to Ive’s overly minimalistic – I think cold – approach.

Lee Dronick

I agree John, It is a matter of balance.


I wonder if they changed the UI so it would scale better on different screen sizes.

I’m pretty happy it it by the way.


Just a reminder that all the iOS opinions here are purely subjective, including my own. Some seem to think that their opinions are the final, definitive word. They are not, so get over yourselves.

I love the look of the OS, and yes, my tee shirts are also plain.

Lee Dronick

True that Jack. Different cloaks for different blokes.

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