'How Technocrats Triumphed at Apple' skewered by readers

Tripp Mickle's “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul," was excerpted in Sunday's New York Times. It was not well received.

The top 5 "reader picks" among the 544 comments posted -- and moderated for civility -- as of Monday morning:

Poifan, Chicago: Ive was essential to the turnaround at Apple, but his obsession with style unchecked by the practical side started to become a problem. This article misses the MacBook fiasco of the 2010s that left the loved product with heavily defective keyboards, lack of ports and thermal issues all in the name of design thinness. The company has only recently fixed this. (512 recommend)

Marty, NY: @Rob I think the two best days for Apple were the day Jony Ive joined the company, and the day he left. He was ignoring Steve Jobs' dictum "design is not how it looks, but how it works" with his obsession with making devices thin - too thin often to be used comfortably. It's not a surprise that my iPhone 13 is a copy of my iPhone 5, and doesn't need a case to be held comfortably like my iPhone 6 did. He passed his 'sell by' date at Apple. To call apple stagnant is to ignore the push into health that Tim Cook has championed. Cook's push to make the watch more than just the fashion accessory that Ive envisioned has allowed it to be more than a passing trend. It ignores the huge success of the AirPods. And it completely ignores the implications of Apple silicon. Overnight, Apple threw Intel back on its heels with the M1 processor. And yes, while the services aren't as sexy as a new iPhone, they've allowed Apple to grow. That's the point of a corporation; to make money and grow. Jony Ive did incredible work at Apple. He is one of the great designers of the 20th - 21st century. But it was time for him to move on. (442)

Reader, Ithaca: Apple products are elegant and we own the entire ecosystem from watch to laptop. For me the most exciting change at Apple is an increasing fluidity and refinement in the software and connectivity. All of our devices work beautifully together, they recognize us, they play well with others. Design can be about the beauty of a device, the way an edge is beveled or rounded, the temperature to the touch of a metal or glass or leather surface, but increasingly it’s about the way it melds to the mind as well. These are subtle but fabulous transformations in how products are created, and perhaps new and younger designers are best suited to making them. I look forward to a new generation of star designers at Apple. (300)

Aaron K., St. Paul: The post-Ive Apple seems to be largely shedding "design anorexia", an obsession of form over function and an obsession with thinness. The company suffered a whole lost generation of junky MacBook designs with defective keyboards with butterfly switches, as well as anemic battery life in many of its products. Many creative professionals started to abandon Apple for years of neglecting their requirements for high performance hardware. Happily, the company seems to have its mojo back. (266)

David, Danbury, NC: Many of us cheered when Ive left Apple. We want functional computers, not ever-thinner computers held together with glue or phones that are so sleek that they squirt right out of your hands. We like "clutter," because it's clutter that allows us to monitor and control and get work out of our computers. It's Apple's advanced engineering that matters. (233)

My take: Tough crowd. The book is currently the No. 1 bestselling title among "Business Professional's Biographies" on Amazon. The Audible version drops tomorrow.

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  1. David Emery said:
    Of course, this all helps sell the book 🙁 🙁

    May 2, 2022
  2. Greg Lippert said:
    I never believe a word out of Tripps mouth. He always has an axe to grind.

    May 2, 2022
  3. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. Jony Ive did incredible work at Apple. He is one of the great designers of the 20th – 21st century. But it was time for him to move on.” ……. Oh, how fast the mighty fall!

    “…. and perhaps new and younger designers are best suited to making them.” ……..Oh, how quickly the shining star flames out!

    “…. (We want) clutter that allows us to monitor and control and get work out of our computers.” ….. kick the bum in the a## on his way out the door.

    When you are at the top of your game, knighted by the queen, hailed in America as the premier designer driving forcefully at the helm of the most successful company on earth, how does one know he is in decline? Leave the company and you soon find out.

    Your recognized power and success may very well cover up the fact you are in decline. Jony was consumed with hubris. Accolades abound and showered him. Jony sets-off in pursuit of more in an undisciplined fashioned on his own without Steve his omnipresent companion exhibiting little heed to the risks and perils that his chosen course presents. Finally, Jony is taken off his job and assigned a new title: Chief Designer; grasping for salvation!

    In the late stages of decline the fallen must get back to a calm, clear-headed and focused approach if you want to reverse the the decline. Jony chose not to do so. Jony slithered into the final stage of recognized decline: capitulation to irrelevance.

    What has Jony done since leaving Apple? Must had been Steve Jobs all along. Oh how quickly the mighty fall! Oh how quickly we forget!

    Oh how quickly we forget!

    May 2, 2022
  4. Fred Stein said:
    Sadly people will read this book and think they know something.

    May 2, 2022
  5. Neal Guttenberg said:
    Ive was better when Jobs was there to temper some of his design decisions. After Jobs died, it does seem like form took precedence over function. From what I have heard about it, it sounds like this book started with a point of view and then pushed whatever “facts” were available to support that point of view. With that in mind, I don’t think I will be reading this book.

    May 2, 2022
    • David Emery said:
      Unfortunately, that’s the state of “journalism” today. And often it’s the combination of “this is what I believe” and “I know pushing that belief will bring in the clicks.”

      May 2, 2022
  6. Daniel Epstein said:
    Probably should read the review of the book in the NY Times! (Mickle’s current employer) by Clay Shirky. You will see that the reviewer doesn’t agree with the author Tripp Mickle about the conclusions one might draw from this story. Here is a taste!
    “In the epilogue, Mickle drops his reporter’s detachment to apportion responsibility for the firm’s failure to launch another transformative product. Cook is blamed for being aloof and unknowable, a bad partner for Ive, “an artist who wanted to bring empathy to every product.” Ive is also dinged for taking on “responsibility for software design and the management burdens that he soon came to disdain.” By the end, the sense that the two missed a chance to create a worthy successor to the iPhone is palpable.

    It’s also hooey, and the best evidence for that is the previous 400 pages. It’s true that after Jobs died, Apple didn’t produce another device as important as the iPhone, but Apple didn’t produce another device that important before he died either. “

    May 2, 2022

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