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Legendary Design Guru Jony Ive Now Runs Apple Software, Too

A management shakeup at the tech giant may usher in a new era of more unified devices for Apple.

Masked by a gigantic Frankenstorm, Apple announced yesterday that Scott Forstall, the head of iOS, is leaving the company. Blame skeuomorphism. Blame the Maps disaster. Blame an unsigned letter. The reason for the axe is largely irrelevant; the story is less about Scott Forstall being out than Jony Ive being in.

Jony Ive—the man behind the iMac, the iPhone, and the iPad hardware—will be taking a brand new role as head of human interface design alongside his existing role as leader of industrial design. He will run hardware and software. Apparently, after hinting to The Telegraph earlier this year that he was upset with the skeuomorphic designs of Apple’s software, Ive made a powerplay within the company (or someone made it for him).

The original iMac, Ive’s breakout design.

It’s particularly relevant for Apple when you consider what looks to be a pretty inevitable future, a world where desktop software and mobile software seamlessly complement each other. The style is minimal. Buttons may not even exist. Control by touch, mouse, voice, gesture—it makes no matter. All that’s important is the information you wield as naturally as possible wherever you want to see it.

This scenario is ostensibly where Microsoft is with Windows 8, today. While Apple was getting ahead in hardware design, they fell behind in software design. The rampant skeuomorphism comes to mind, sure, but the looming issue is far larger than that. Despite the fact that both iOS and OSX share a common Unix core (Darwin), and despite the fact that iOS and OSX apps are largely written in the same language (Objective-C), the closest thing Apple has today to cross-platform integration is the ho-hum iCloud, which is just online file storage, and the useless LaunchPad app, which merely mimics the iPhone interface for a few apps on the desktop.

So with Ive in place as the Alpha and the Omega—with the most influential designer in the world given more power than ever—will this be the third coming for Apple?

Even with his credentials, it’s vital to remember that Apple is a company of 60,000 incredibly talented people. For however Walter Isaacson told the story of Steve Jobs and Jony Ive handcrafting iPhones in a top-secret lab, the company depends on tens of thousands of employees working very hard every day to succeed. And notably, it’s not Ive, but Craig Federighi who has been appointed to directly manage both iOS and OSX in what looks like a play toward platform unification.

But if the Jobs era(s) proved anything, it’s that Apple is only really Apple when they have a strong creative visionary at the top. And while Tim Cook is obviously still crunching the numbers, it seems that Ive has been tapped to handle that vital role of lead visionary.

See Apple’s announcement here.

[Hat tip: FWD]

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  • ash

    As a designer I feel almost complete control of interface and hardware makes for a complete product, compromise can lead to a broken link and missed concept. This is the position Ive should be in.

  • Elmtree

    I really, really hope they don't try to give up completely on skeuomorphic design. For me, and a lot of other people, part of what makes iPads so exciting is how they don't feel like computers: they feel like some magic scrapbook that shifts under your fingers. 

    Destroying that amazingly cohesive look and feel would be like knocking down a treehouse and replacing it with Pruitt-Igoe.

  • VasyaPupkinsan

    "The style is minimal" - and WHY is that better than well-crafted style?

    People still use notebooks and pencils to create, so you obviously are not thinking clearly. My guess is you sold out to Ballmersoft.

  • Fred Flintstone

    60,000 incredibly talented people? Or 59,900 people who are just regular Joes, who pick their nose, eat burger when they shouldn't, drive badly and fight with their families occasionally, and 100 people with a vision? One is the standard hyperbole we've come to expect and the other is true, you choose.

  • GreatBoo

    I don't think any news outlet in reporting a power play from Ive, and he's not head of software Ive "will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design. "

  • Rob Green

    I agree that he should be good in the new role, I really have to disagree with the suggestion that Apple's fallen behind with its software.

    The Windows 8 approach is novel at, but having the same OS for all devices is a step backwards and Apple knows this. The OS should be tailored perfectly for the device it runs on and Ive is definitely the man to push this forward.

  • arthurascii

    Now that Scott Forstall has gone, can we please have the Save As... Command back please Mr Ive?

  • rtown

    I agree with this comment more than any other. Seriously need "save as" back...

  • Robertjan Kuijten

    Again Mr. Wilson displays a lack of knowledge on the subject. When will it be time for him to be kicked out?

  • VasyaPupkinsan

    I agree.

    "rampant" skeuomorphism is the key ingredient to drive imagination. Without it there would be stupid ugly rectangles all over the place... well, as in this stinker windows 8.

  • robtannen

    In theory it makes sense to merge industrial design and user interface design under a single leader and vision.  In practice, this is easier said than done as these two disciplines both require deep expertise and historically have been separated by training and organization.  In my experience great industrial designers can become great interface designers (but rarely vice-versa), so Ive would seem to be the right man for the job.

  • stevenla

     I cant wait to see when Ive is going to be pushed out of Apple in the next few years.

  • Jim Ulle

    I cant wait to see what Ive is going to be pushing out of Apple in the next few years.