Is Tim Cook backing away from the legacy of Jony Ive?

If this means the return of MagSafe on the MacBook, I’m all for it.

From friend-of-the-blog Alan Levy:

The various podcasters I listen to on Apple are often reluctant to directly lay the blame for [killing MagSafe] and many other design issues on Jony Ive but I have found the pattern to be so clearly defined that its unavoidable and indicative of two things:

1. That Ive’s quest for design perfection went past clean and useful to just clean. To name just the most recent and obvious: Thin at the expense of everything else, MacBook 1 with almost no ports, the TV remote, the butterfly keyboard to eliminate just that extra small amount of height/make the key travel more uniform and perhaps the elimination of MagSafe in favor of wire free portables as mentioned above, and finally the monochromatic choice in shells–aluminum, gray, or dark gray. All these design decisions made products sleeker but often less useful and yet Apple, which holds Useful And Simple as its core value, made and kept those decisions through multiple design iterations. Why? The answer is revealed in how many of those decisions are being reversed now and that  brings me to my second point.

2.  Under Tim Cook, Apple moves deliberately but slowly. Cook couldn’t get rid of Ive summarily–Ive had too much standing and power.  So Tim gave him more responsibility and created a situation where Ive decided to step away. A great jujitsu move if actually the case–these are all presumptions on my part. And then years after Ive left you start to see the changes because Apple, an aircraft carrier of a company, can’t and won’t turn on a dime. So we are seeing these changes when it’s almost so long after Ive’s departure that the changes may not seem related to it. But Apple moves slowly and deliberately. Ive’s departure and these design reversals all have happened with a minimum of bad PR–another sign of Tim Cook’s very effective deliberate but slow management strategy. That’s why we’ll see, sooner or later, the return of Magsafe, the likely elimination of the TouchBar, a greater introduction of color into the line up, a de-emphasis on thin-ness over all other attributes, better front-facing cameras, and a diversification of manufacturing away from China–all decisions made a year ago or more that will take more time to be revealed—because being good at supply chain management doesn’t have to apply just to supplies.

My take: Levy has taken me up on my offer to repurpose long comments as posts. (No promises.) He warns that until I fix the settings, WordPress may swallow and erase comments longer than 1,500 characters. For now, best to make a copy of your work before you hit send.

17 Comments

  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    Jony’s days were numbered following the passing of Steve. Jony’s stylistic design prevailed over engineering as long as Steve was around because Steve had a love for design commensurate with Jony’s passion for design. Tim’s focus is that of running a successful company and getting the products totally satisfactory for end users. I’m sure Jony wanted no different, but his passion for design blurred his vision to work with engineers to reach consensus on what was practical.

    While Tim Cook respected deeply Jony’s contributions to Apple, there is little doubt in my mind Tim breathe a sigh of relief when Jony exited. As Alan denoted accurately, Tim was most astute and sophisticated in his managerial relationship with Jony who never had to deal with a managerial relationship under Steve. Tim recognized the need to facilitate an appropriate exit for Jony and I believe placing Jony in charge of all design over the construction of the Apple campus was simply brilliant. That move helped Jony adjust to his leaving Apple and giving him a meaningful project during his adjustment. Jony also still had purview over the Design studio where he could wade in and out as he pleased.

    Continue….

    2
    May 29, 2021
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    Continued….

    The viability and strength of any organization is seeing the entity never missing a beat when someone vital to its operations leaves. Apple never missed a beat with the passing of Steve and the exiting of Jony. One doesn’t hear much of Jony these days or see his designs glowingly lauded publicly. Jony needed Apple more than Apple needed Jony. Apple needed Steve Jobs, but no longer.

    Alan lost me, though, about “a greater introduction of color into the line-up.” There was a multiplicity of color beginning with the Power Macintosh G3 and especially with the iMac flavors from 1998-2003.

    Good write-up by Alan. I enjoyed his article.

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    May 29, 2021
  3. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    I don’t think the past supply chain consolidation strategy into PRC is part of Jony Ive’s legacy.

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    May 29, 2021
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Romeo A Esparrago: “…. I don’t think the past supply chain consolidation strategy into PRC is part of Jony Ive’s legacy.”

      You are correct. I have read explicitly where Apple and other companies whose supply chain mainly was in China realized after COVID-19 that diversifying the supply chain among multiple countries was a necessity. In fact, Tim Cook prior to the pandemic already was diversifying Apple’s supply chain. COVID just expedited the diversification process more.

      4
      May 29, 2021
      • Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
        Thanks, Jerry! 🙂

        2
        May 30, 2021
  4. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    Philip, you can keep cursing Tim & Jony forever for rolling out those Non-Magsafe cables you keep tripping over & damaging things but until MagSafe comes back for you, do something to keep safe. Like maybe my wife’s ElecJet USB-C to MagSafe dongle & legacy MagSafe power adapter.

    I’ll keep cursing COVID forever & having to wear masks …
    but I still wear masks.

    5
    May 29, 2021
  5. Alessandro Luethi said:
    I agree with Gregg, let the limit go! But at the same time I’d like to see comments promoted to posts, if they are interesting like this one. And in case I never told, thanks PED for your valuable service!

    3
    May 29, 2021
  6. Alan Levy said:
    Thanks for all the comments and kind words. Two clarifications: Jerry, I believe that first introduction of color was due to Ive and further I believe it was a genius move that helped save the company. Even the initial move to aluminum and related casings/colors was great design. My point was that the continued use was yet another example where Ive’s focus on cleanness (sleekness, authenticity, etc.) overrode all other considerations. Romeo, I wasn’t trying to say that the consolidation of supply into PRC was related to Ive; my understanding was that consolidation into PRC was actually largely influenced by Cook. I brought it up because I I believe the dispersion out is and will be a slow and deliberate strategy that is already in process.

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    May 29, 2021
    • Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
      Gotcha, thanks, Alan! 🙂

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      May 30, 2021
  7. Bart Yee said:
    IMO, the simple reasons for concentration into PRC for major Apple manufacturing / assembly (via subcontractors Foxconn, Wistron, Pegatron, etc.) was because:
    1) proven ability to do quality work
    2) large enough factories and low, lower, lowest costs labor pool to handle production demands
    3) production flexibility (re: worker downsizing) when demand slacks or seasonality
    4) willingness to train, house, and keep lines moving during high demand periods like introduction quarters.
    5) remember that when Cook secured the iPhone production in the early 2010’s, the smartphone business was growing exponentially and competition for labor, assembly, and product quality / quantity was intense. China was aiming high for low cost assembly work as another way to grow their economy and increase high tech exposure (and copying I might add, right behind Samsung).
    6) concentration of other PRC assemblies and supplies regionally or even locally to increase efficient production.

    That is all why US iPhone production was never a cost effective or efficient production option, even as it is today. That ALL smartphone makers have pursued China production and ALL have fled / diversified to other low cost centers (Vietnam, India, etc.) as China costs have risen isn’t surprising at all. The Pandemic illustrated how dependency on only one supply country became risky.

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    May 29, 2021
    • Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
      Thanks, Bart. I’m guessing Tim has also had a strategy to disperse Mfg long before COVID and before that, the Tariffs. Those two events may have just been additional accelerants to de-risk a supply chain Tim knew was heavy in both risk and benefits. Opinion & guess. 🙂

      3
      May 30, 2021
  8. Jonny T said:
    1,500 word limit. Remove it. Any posts that receive, say 10 likes, get their own post. I don’t always have time to wade through all the posts, but would like top posts to be highlighted in some way. This could be it…?

    1
    May 30, 2021
  9. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    @Alan, @Jerry, @Bart
    U made me think more. Tying it back to Jony, if he drove the “Thin” thing, perhaps Mfg became so much harder that the economic benefits outweighed risk of keeping everything in 1 country or expense of moving to other countries w/higher labor, etc costs.

    Maybe Jony’s was more form than design-for-Mfg/repairability, leading to compressed space designs, requiring more Apple owned capital equipment offset by cheaper labor? E.g. maybe thicker AppleTV remote or iPad or iPhone makes it less expensive to manufacture in VietNam or India?
    I don’t know…

    3
    May 30, 2021
    • Alan Levy said:
      Really appreciate the conversation here. My understanding is that the Shenzhen ecosystem (basically the Chinese version of America’s industrial heartland or Germany’s Ruhr region where economic advantages are concentrated into a geographic area) drove Cook’s and other’s decision to locate their manufacturing there. Also, I agree it is certainly possible that Apple decided to diversify manufacturing long before recent events.

      1
      May 30, 2021

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