Can Apple's Design Guru Fill Steve Jobs' Shoes?


When Steve Jobs died on Oct. 5, 2011, many investors were afraid the company's best days were now in the past. The legacy leader, many argued, is simply irreplaceable. With Apple's stock severely lagging the S&P 500's 47% surge since Jobs' death, investors are desperate. Arguably, Apple hasn't yet had the time to prove itself since his passing. But a year and a half later, investors are tired of waiting. Apple needs another wave of innovation. In hopefulness, heads are turning toward Apple's design guru, Jony Ive.

New responsibilities
"To receive the honor of knighthood and to be a Knight Commander, Civil Division, Sir Jonathan Ive -- for services to design and to enterprise." The words echoed in the Buckingham Palace as Jony Ive knelt before the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace last May.

At that time, Ive wasn't the executive in the limelight. Instead, the focus was on Scott Forstall, the executive in charge of Apple's mobile software division, overseeing the iOS operating system on the iPhone and the iPad. Numerous times he was highlighted as the person who had the Steve Jobs-like qualities that Apple would need to stay competitive.

Forstall "was as close to Steve as anybody at the company," said an ex-Apple exec to Businessweek. "When he says stuff, people listen."

That all ended abruptly, however, when Forstall was fired last October, after he reportedly refused to sign an apology for the Apple Maps fiasco.

Apple CEO Tim Cook replaced many of Forstall's responsibilities with an expanded role for Ive. The management shake-up was evidence of Apple's confidence in the lead designer behind nearly every revolutionary product Apple has launched since the iMac.

Jony Ive. Source: Apple press info.

Ive's new role gave him leadership of the Human Interface teams in addition to his role as head of industrial design. In other words, Apple's renowned hardware mastermind had been handed responsibility on the software side.

Signs of Ive in iOS 7?
Ive will undoubtedly have a large influence on Apple's iOS, the operating system behind its iPhone and iPad. In fact, Rumors of Ive's influence on iOS 7 are already surfacing.

All Things D reports that anonymous sources from Apple told them iOS 7 will be "de-glitzed" and receive "a much-needed 'de-Forstallization.'" Say goodbye to skeuomorphisms, or imitations of physical objects and textures like polished, wooden bookshelves (iBooks) and faux leather (Calendar and Contacts apps). Ive's redesigns are said to be simpler and "flat."

Will Ive's success translate to software?
Amidst fierce competition, Apple needs more than great ideas. Fortunately, Ive brings more to the table than that. As Time magazine wrote:

His genius is not just his ability to see what others cannot but also how he applies it. To watch him with his workmates in the holy of holies, Apple's design lab, or on a night out is to observe a very rare esprit de corps. They love their boss, and he loves them.

If Ive's unblemished record in hardware design carries over to software, Apple investors may be in for some good years ahead. But give it some time. As Time wrote, "His team are Jedi whose nobility depends on the pursuit of greatness over profit, believing the latter will always follow the former, stubbornly passing up near-term good opportunities to pursue great ones in the distance."

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