Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Is Jonathan Ive the Real Genius Behind Apple?

Leander Kahney gives us an insight into the challenges of writing a biography on Jonathan Ive.  He didn't interview the design guru directly, but worked diligently to get the views of others - colleagues, teachers and friends - who saw behind the veil.  He comes away with the belief that Apple is more secretive than the National Security Agency.  In an era that is markedly transparent, Apple must be an anachronism.  But persistence pays off for Kahney.

(image credit)
Apple was flying high at the time, but soon got into trouble after the release of Microsoft's Windows 95, which dramatically reshaped the PC market. Suddenly Apple's relatively expensive machines couldn't compete. The company nearly went out of business until Steve Jobs returned to save it. 
Ive, now in charge of the industrial design group, was about to quit and return to London. Jobs convinced him to stay with a promise that great design would be central to Apple's comeback. It seemed like wishful thinking, but the two embarked on a collaboration that is unparalleled in modern corporate history. Jobs empowered Ive and his design group, turning them into the primary inventors within the company, shaping not just how the products looked, but also how they worked.

Jobs and Ive overturned Apple's engineering culture and made it design centric. Working in an ultra-secret design lab at the heart of Apple's HQ, Ive's design group churned out a string of smash hit products one after the other. The first was the see-through iMac, a candy-coloured machine that launched a thousand lookalike electronics. It was followed by sleek Titanium notebooks and powerful aluminium towers, but it was the iPod that transformed the company. In a few short years, the iPod turned Apple from a small computer company into a huge consumer electronics company.

The more I read about it, the more incredible it was of Steve Jobs to have found the right talent to complement his own, to realize his vision, and to enable his business model.  Perhaps at the end of the day, Jobs was more visionary and influential, than he was innovative or technological.  In particular, Ive strikes me as introverted, perhaps quite willing to conceive and create behind the scenes.  Quite literally behind that thick veil of secrecy that covers Apple.  Another design genius who clamored for the spotlight wouldn't have permitted Jobs to grab it all by his lonesome.

Further still, the more I read about it, the more I think Apple has every opportunity to sustain to renown with which it took the world by storm in the first decade of the century.  When Jobs died two years ago, I expected Apple to keep flying for the foreseeable future, which it did, rising up to the highest market valuated company in the world.  Then it would decline gradually over time, which it also did, judging by its stock performance over the past year or so.  

But if the real genius behind Apple is Ive, then the company that Jobs founded in the 1970s is very much pulsing and breathing.  

Jonathan (`Jony) Ive
Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

No comments:

Post a Comment