Apple's succession conundrum looms large

Last month, when the rumour mill started turning with whispers of Apple's design head, Jonathan Ive, mulling a move back to the UK, it highlighted just how critical the designer is to Apple's business. Aside from Steve Jobs, he is perhaps the most important of Apple's employees. "The boy done good" originally studied at a Newcastle polytechnic, but just what is Ive like as a person? The UK's Daily Mail has a fascinating profile of the designer. Leander Kahney, from Cult of Mac, describes him as "looking like a bit of a skinhead, but actually one of the nicest, politest guys you'll ever meet and very softly spoken."

The story goes that not long after Steve Jobs rejoined the company in 1997 following the purchase of NeXT, he was touring various Apple departments when he found Ive mulling away over various designs which had never previously seen the light of day under the old management. Jobs decided that the designers should be at the core of the development of Apple's products ahead of other considerations, and should not have been shoved aside across the street from Apple's campus. The outcome was the now iconic designs of Apple's multi coloured iMac G3 and the first generation iPod in 2001. These designs were so influential that they are now in design museums.

The question remains, however, that if Apple is such a people centric business (which in and of itself is not a bad thing), could it survive without Jobs and Ive? Many of the products that have made Apple the 2nd largest company in the world would not have seen the light of day if it had not been for Ive's revolutionary designs. It would not have been a commercial reality either had it not been for Jobs putting product design at the centre of the business. The issue for Apple is that success has one major pitfall when you place the leaders of their fields at the heart of your business: What happens when these people are no longer part of it? With long term question marks over Jobs's health and, as we reported last month, rumours of Ive considering his future in the long term with the company, there are some interesting times ahead in the next few years for the company.

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True, at the time the iPod was announced several other MP3 players ran rings around it performance and feature wise.. Apple has always been good at making people think that Apple is the big inventor while what hey in fact do is sell you whatever they think they can.

Apple is a marketing brand first and a technoligical second. It has been that for years and certainly eversince the Mac became a clever freeBSD machine with a cute skin.. And when it was time for the world to see one of their most important software titles , Logic, would in fact advance to the next release on windows first (like photoshop and other before it) they simply bought the product and made it Mac only. Like I said, marketing first..

There are very few people who can walk on a stage, announce a product that is overpriced and underfeatured, and sell it by the boatloads. Steve Jobs has that allure to people. He *is* Apple. And you'll see when whomever is next; whether it be Ive or somebody else -- that the reception for the next generation of Apple products isn't as fondly received.

You can't train somebody to do what Jobs' did. He looked at a piece of garbage and saw potential. That's how the iPod came to be. You can't teach that skill. You have to have it. And right now, it's *hard* to know that somebody has that skill.

Shadrack said,
You lost me when you said the iPod was garbage...
You don't think the iPod looked like anything CLOSE to what it looked like at ship date, do you? It was an IDEA, something garbled together and done by a handful of people, and Steve Jobs saw the POTENTIAL in that and made it pretty, elegant, and marketed it properly. How do you teach somebody to look at a bunch of circuit boards and pre-production unpolished software to say, "That's going to be the next big idea!"

You can't.

I think people put too much weight in the success of Apple on too few people. It may make for sensational journalism that injects some FUD into the investors making them sell... not sure what else it is good for.

No offense to anyone, but a large part of Apple's success is marketing -- frankly, would the same product designs have been as well received, perhaps thought revolutionary if some company like Asus brought it to market 1st? It's not all that different from the fashion industry driving what's going to be hot next year or season.

That's not saying anything bad about Apple [or Apple fans/users] at all, nor is it discounting Jobs or Ive... But just like the Olympics, or any big athletic competition &/or any major sport, you have several top performers, & it's Apple's marketing brilliance that's reflected when fans think that pair is irreplaceable. The hard part is convincing everyone that any replacement is as good or better. Jobs could pull it off, if he set aside his ego & really wanted to, but it would be tricky -- choose someone already inside Apple & you risk destroying the current storyline.

empty said,

Only if he has wifi!!

You say that as if "wifi" is some uncommon thing that he or other people are unlikely to have.

Fid said,

You say that as if "wifi" is some uncommon thing that he or other people are unlikely to have.

correction: he says that as if it is a punch line to a joke that shouldn't be taken seriously

Northgrove said,

What is the joke?

An Apple user and an Android user walk in to a bar, the Android user makes a video call to girlfriend and then places an order at the bar. The barman says "same for your friend?" and the Android user says
Empty

Only if he has wifi!!

Badum tsh..... Thank you very much I won't be here all night

mulligan2k said,

correction: he says that as if it is a punch line to a joke that shouldn't be taken seriously

Apologies... I just always assumed jokes were supposed to be funny!

Fid said,

Apologies... I just always assumed jokes were supposed to be funny!

Jokes are not always meant to be funny but to poke fun at the obvious.

From the source: " recent conjecture that he is preparing to walk away from Apple to relocate to his beautiful Grade II-listed mansion in Somerset so his children can be educated in the UK (false - he is not, and the property is now standing empty)"

giga said,
From the source: " recent conjecture that he is preparing to walk away from Apple to relocate to his beautiful Grade II-listed mansion in Somerset so his children can be educated in the UK (false - he is not, and the property is now standing empty)"

Yeah I read that the other day, so the whole "is Ive going?" issue is no longer an issue - he isn't.

with jobs' health problems they have probably planned his succession ages ago and so this is redundant
if it is to be Ive they will make him an offer and try desperately to keep him
or it is someone else
either way they have probably planned who it is already and Ive moving back to UK wont make much difference