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How Apple got its mojo back after the death of Steve Jobs


In August of 2014, Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive flew to Latest York in a jet crammed with Apple Watches. He had arranged for a special unveiling of the corporate’s recent product on the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side, exclusively for Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

Ive insisted that Wintour see the watch before most of the people, an unusual request for “an organization that kept its work shrouded in mystery in order that it could reveal recent products with a magician’s flair,” writes journalist Tripp Mickle in his recent book, “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul” (Morrow), out now.

But this was Apple’s first recent product category after the 2011 death of co-founder, CEO and spiritual leader, Steve Jobs. Ive had spent three years sequestered at Apple Headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., “consumed by a project he hoped would honor his late creative partner and silence the echo chamber of doubt about Apple’s continued ability to innovate,” Mickle writes.

Ive hoped to do this with the Apple Watch, which in some ways echoed the evolution of the iPhone, a product that allowed its owners to play music, videos, games and access GPS amongst other amenities along with making calls. The Apple Watch could change into greater than only a flash-in-the-pan tech toy, Ive thought, but a vessel to “carry Apple right into a brighter future.”

What’s more, the Apple Watch was meant to reply the query on everybody’s minds after Jobs’ death: Could Apple exist without its Walt Disney?

Steve Jobs told his head designer Jony Ive he wanted a PC that felt “joyful” and looked futuristic, without intimidating users. The iMac was the result — and a smash success. AFP via Getty Images

Before his death, Jobs himself fearful concerning the Disney comparison. He knew that after the Hollywood mogul died in 1966 from lung cancer, the Disney empire floundered because it tried to forge its own identity. Employees asked “What would Walt do?” relatively than taking their very own creative leaps. “Jobs wanted Apple to defy the fate of Disney,” Mickle writes.

When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, after being ousted from the corporate he created in 1985, he wasted no time in promoting 30-year-old Ive, who was just one other design team member, to Senior Vice President of Design. In Ive, he saw a kindred spirit; they were “soul mates,” sharing a passion for absolute perfection, wrote Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson.

Jobs was the John Lennon to Ive’s Paul McCartney, Mickle writes. “Whereas Jobs was voluble, direct, and insistent, Ive was quiet, regular, and patient.” As Jobs told Isaacson, Ive was given “more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me. There’s nobody who can tell him what to do, or to butt out.”

Jobs first tasked Ive with making a PC that wasn’t just functional but joyful. Ive asked his team of engineers: “How do we wish people to feel about this computer? How can we make something that appears novel, but not threatening?”

When Ive (right) wanted to sell the Apple Watch he courted Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour before any tech reviewers. She embraced the gadget as a fashion statement.When Ive desired to sell the Apple Watch, he courted Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour before any tech reviewers. She embraced the gadget as a fashion statement.WireImage

Their goal was to create a pc that looked prefer it originated from an episode of “The Jetsons” cartoon: futuristic but familiar.

Ive’s team gave birth to the iMac, which was unleashed on the world in May 1998, and the demand was overwhelming. In accordance with Apple, they sold roughly one iMac every second between ’98 and 2001. It became the best-selling computer in the US and stays the fastest-selling in the corporate’s history. 

Growing up in a London suburb, Ive was encouraged at a young age by his dad, a highschool design teacher, to take apart electronics like radios and alarm clocks to see how they worked. His curiosity about electronics led him to launch Tangerine, a startup design agency based in London, which designed the whole lot from toothbrushes to toilets. After Ive won a consulting contract with Apple, they were so impressed they asked the 25-year-old to relocate to Silicon Valley in 1992 and change into a everlasting member of the Apple design team.

The Apple Watch was not just a triumph of design. It was proof that Apple's billion-dollar creativity machine could survive the death of Jobs. The Apple Watch was not only a triumph of design. It was proof that Apple’s billion-dollar creativity machine could survive the death of Jobs. Getty Images

When Jobs returned to Apple, he became Ive’s biggest cheerleader, emboldening the designer to embrace his instincts for perfectionism. When visiting the Chinese factories making Apple products, Ive would get upset seeing employees on the assembly line handling the parts too crudely. “I don’t want him touching our products,” he would complain about certain factory employees. “Have a look at how he’s touching the side of it!”

His perfectionism also led him to see flaws others couldn’t. While sitting together with his VP of producing design at a Hong Kong airport lounge, Ive glanced at the chrome steel bar and quietly announced, “I can see every seam on this bar.” His friend and colleague, who saw nothing irregular within the bar’s smooth silver metal, just shrugged and said, “Your life have to be f–king miserable.”

As a frontrunner at Apple, Ive had a popularity for being kind, whether it was just holding open doors for co-workers or sending champagne and flowers to his staff while they were on family vacations. But he also could possibly be difficult, like when he demanded absolute quiet within the studio workplace and ostracized engineers who brought up costs as a hindrance.

Those that dared mention money “would later discover that their badge now not accessed the studio,” writes Mickle. “Their admittance had been silently revoked.”

Jobs demonstrates the new iPhone 4 in 2010. The phone's initial success pushed Apple designers to develop products with equal aesthetic and commercial appeal.Jobs demonstrates the brand new iPhone 4 in 2010. The phone’s initial success pushed Apple designers to develop products with equal aesthetic and business appeal.Getty Images

Jobs’ death in 2011 from a rare pancreatic cancer shattered Ive. To his coworkers, he seemed “lost in a wilderness of grief,” writes Mickle. But Ive also knew that his late friend and boss didn’t want him to offer up, especially with the media “casting doubt on the long run of Apple. They reasoned that its cofounder had birthed the corporate and later resurrected it. Without him, it had withered…Apple was doomed.”

Jobs was determined to not let that occur. He believed that Apple “operated like a starfish,” writes Mickle, and in his final days, Jobs “pressed to maintain the legs of Apple’s starfish together.” This meant not only promoting each Tim Cook from COO to CEO, but meeting repeatedly at his deathbed with Ive to debate the corporate’s future. Ive urged his board of directors to offer the manager team retention stock grants, and Ive was handed an estimated $60 million in stocks to make sure he stayed with Apple.

‘They reasoned that its cofounder had birthed the corporate and later resurrected it. Without him, it had withered . . . Apple was doomed.’

writer Tripp Mickle on internal worries after Jobs’ death

But Apple’s iPhone 4S, which was released in 2011 on the identical day Jobs died, was a disaster. “Investors dumped shares, sending Apple’s stock price down as much as five percent and erasing billions of dollars in market value,” writes Mickle. “It was a box-office rejection.” 

The 2012 iPhone was so poorly received, it sent Apple’s share price to a six-month low and erased $160 billion of its market value, “about as much as the entire value of Coca-Cola that 12 months,” writes Mickle.

Ive was determined to offer Apple a course-correction. He’d been considering so much about Fitbits, the wearable technology that didn’t do far more than track your steps, and he desired to see how far he could take wearable technology. 

The iPhone marked a rare misstep for Apple and Ive; 2012's iPhone 5 was so unpopular that it pummeled Apple's share price and wiped $160 billion off its market cap. Ive (left) and current CEO Tim Cook (right) give their creation a closer look. The iPhone marked a rare misstep for Apple and Ive; 2012’s iPhone 5 was so unpopular that it pummeled Apple’s share price and wiped $160 billion off its market cap. Ive and current CEO Tim Cook give their creation a more in-depth look. Getty Images

During a 2011 brainstorming session together with his team of engineers, he wrote only a single word on the dry-erase board of their conference room: smartwatch.

Ive had a variety of ambitions for the Apple Watch. He and his team wanted it to “free people from the tyranny of their phones,” writes Mickle. The way it looked was as essential to Ive, if no more essential, than the way it worked. Ive showed his designers images of other smartwatches in the marketplace. “These products lack humanity,” he huffed.

Many of the team’s big ideas were eventually abandoned. The glucose monitoring and built-in EKG were deemed too complicated. And the plan to incorporate a microchip that might detect cancer — a thought that was very much on their mind, given their founder’s death — was shelved after they “considered the legal risks of providing customers with false positives or negatives and the potential brand damage that might come if Apple became a messenger of doom, tapping people’s wrists to deliver a bleak notification: you’ve cancer and will die.”

Ive wanted the Apple Watch to Ive wanted the Apple Watch to “free people from the tyranny of their phones.” After its debut in September 2013, greater than 100 million units were sold by 2021. Future via Getty Images

But when Ive finally met Wintour in Latest York to offer her a sneak preview, “delicately unwrapp[ing] the watches from swatches of leather as if he were unwrapping a present,” she didn’t see what was missing. The editrix was mesmerized by the product and “struck by the best way the design was on a par with a bit of art yet … functional.”

And when Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO since Jobs’ death, officially unveiled the Apple Watch at a live event in Cupertino on September 9, 2014, pitching it as a “fashionable computer for the wrist,” the group jumped to their feet with thunderous applause.

Moreover, in an enormous departure from Jobs, who typically acknowledged his teams in passing but took many of the credit for developing a recent product, Cook asked his Apple colleagues to face and be recognized for his or her work. He singled out Ive and praised him “for his incredible contribution on the Apple Watch.”

Despite his near total creative freedom at Apple, Ive eventually left the firm, weary of increasing corporate bureaucracy.  Two years after Ive's departure, Apple became the first company with a $3 trillion market cap.  Despite his near-total creative freedom at Apple, Ive eventually left the firm, weary of accelerating corporate bureaucracy. Two years after his departure, Apple became the primary company with a $3 trillion market cap. Getty Images

Now, Ive “found your complete room applauding for him,” writes Mickle.

The next month, the style elite of France celebrated Ive and his design at an Apple Watch event attended by Wintour, top designers Karl Lagerfeld and Azzedine Alaïa, and A-list guests including Lenny Kravitz, Salma Hayek and Mick Jagger. But while Ive’s design had impressed the worldwide fashion elite, it had — much more importantly — wowed Apple’s longtime customers, who saw Jobs not only as a CEO however the patron saint of their cult. “Some tattooed [Apple’s] corporate logo or promoting phrases onto their wrists,” writes Mickle. “Jobs assumed an almost messianic hold over them.” 

Ive’s product attracted a devotion all its own. By 2021, 100 million Apple Watches were sold, with estimates that by the tip of 2022, more people will own an Apple Watch than a Mac.

The technique of constructing the watch “had galvanized Apple’s workforce and given it purpose,” writes Mickle. “It shook its leadership out of their collective grief and challenged them to steer the corporate forward.”

After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul

Meanwhile, Ive, who spent most of his years at Apple within the shadows, left the corporate in 2019 to launch his own design firm, LoveFrom. In accordance with Mickle, “he’d grown weary of Apple’s bureaucracy.” The corporate had change into “a machine with a heart of stone,” with accountants given an even bigger voice within the decision-making.

Apple hasn’t floundered in Ive’s absence. As of 2022, it became the primary US company to hit $3 trillion in market value. Ive hasn’t been replaced by anyone with “as much power and influence,” writes Mickle, as his “commanding clout” could be inconceivable to duplicate. Though he’s still an adviser for the corporate, he has no real control, and the present Apple design team told Mickle that today they’re “subject to more cost pressures” than during Ive’s tenure.

That they had once “made products that had modified the world,” Ive’s former design team told Mickle. But today, Apple’s legacy is more about “making a f–kton of cash.”

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