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Jony Ive resumes full-time design at Apple; iPhone and Mac platforms likely to remain focus

Jony Ive, Apple's chief design officer is returning to his managerial role amidst growing challenges from competitors. His return is seen as company's push towards products launching in 2020.

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Jony Ive, the chief design officer of Apple, is returning to his managerial role at the iPhone maker. He will now directly lead the product design teams after handing over responsibilities to Alan Dye and Richard Howarth to concentrate on Apple Park campus.

Ive is widely acclaimed for the design of original iMac, which brought Apple back from the brink of bankruptcy. He has also been pivotal in the design of the first iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. These three devices have played a significant role in Apple’s emergence as the most valued company in the world.

The man Jony Ive

Apple named Ive as company’s chief design officer in 2015 and CEO Cook made him in charge of software design as well in 2012. “Design is one of the most important ways we communicate with our customers, and our reputation for world-class design differentiates Apple from every other company in the world,” Cook had said in his memo announcing Ive as new chief design officer.

Ive’s return marks a critical juncture where the company has completely redesigned the iPhone and is planning to introduce a new Mac Pro aimed at its professional users.

For Ive, one of the biggest task as chief design officer would be to bring synergy between iPhones. Apple currently sells iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X as its premium offerings but the devices differ not only in terms of appearance but also how they work. With the iPhone X, Apple has ditched the Touch ID in favor for Face ID and has introduced new methods of interaction in the form of gestures.

Creating the Apple experience

Apple is known for ensuring a consistent user experience across its product portfolio. But that seems to have changed this year. While Apple is most likely to make iPhone X design language standard among its offerings next year, there were be a handful of users sticking to older models. Going forward, Ive will have to design the operating system so that it works similar across all devices.

Ive will also be responsible for reimagining and redesigning Apple iOS from an AI-first perspective. Google and Amazon have made significant strides in the AI world and Siri, Apple’s digital assistant largely remains in the shadows. The timing seems apt for Apple to make Siri more than as assistant and take over core functionalities of the ecosystem. Apple’s ENRI team envisioned iPhone as a piece of glass that can serve more than phone calls.

With the glass on iPhone X reaching the edge of the device, Apple has almost come closer to that reality. The next major step would be to design a software that works and feels like its made for this new design language.

Apart from bringing synergy to iOS, Ive will also be required to address the growing discomfort among its professional customers. The pro users who once depended on Apple software and hardware for their creative applications are switching camps due to wider hardware support for Windows and better application design from companies like Adobe.

In an attempt to address those customers, Apple refreshed its iMac lineup in June with latest processors, faster graphics and support for brighter displays. It also introduced iMac Pro, a more powerful version of its all-in-one desktop with 5K display and better port selection, but it is yet to start shipping the device.

Apple has also addressed that its trashcan Mac Pro will finally be redesigned after three years. The Mac Pro served as the ultimate tool for creative professionals and new modular Mac Pro‘s arrival will fill the void left by Apple’s reluctance to update the hardware. If Ive had to start somewhere then it has to be here.

He needs to reimagine the Mac Pro for a professional who needs latest in the word of computing power, whether it is processor or graphics chipset. The device should also allow for easier upgrades in the future especially considering that Moore’s law is no more applicable in the world of silicon design and most of the applications themselves are being hosted on the cloud.

The road ahead

Apple needs to take a look at what Microsoft has achieved with its Surface lineup. Despite Surface being a hobby, the Redmond-based software major has managed to create hardware that most people would aspire to buy. It’s a stance once projected only by Apple and lost in the past few years. Ive, in all likelihood, will reinvigorate that spirit and bring new products that don’t play second fiddle to competitors and force others to innovate faster.

There is one more thing: Future. Most analysts see Ive’s return as Apple focusing on its future products like Augmented Reality glasses that are expected to arrive in 2020. The AR glasses from Apple should not only be minimal, but also should be less distracted when a user wears them.

It should nullify Google Glass’ design issues where the camera sensor appeared uncomfortable and privacy scare for lay users. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is still looking for its first breakthrough product, believes AR can be as big as the iPhone. However, its success will depend on entry price point, device ecosystem and applications to work with. But the most important role would be played by design, which Ive seems to know much better than many other industrial designers.

  • Published Date: December 12, 2017 3:21 PM IST