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Power behind the throne: Jony Ive.

Power behind the throne: Jony Ive.

Apple has briefly peeled back its cloak of secrecy to give an unprecedented look at the brains trust and processes behind its all-conquering creative design team.

The details are revealed in a 16,000 word New Yorker profile of Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice-president of design.

London-born Ive is the creative genius behind all of Apple’s product hits from the iMac in 1998 to the soon-to-be released Apple Watch.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook (left) and Jony Ive at the launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook (left) and Jony Ive at the launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012. Photo: Getty Images

Ive was originally just the hardware design guy, but his new boss, Apple chief executive Tim Cook, extended his sphere of influence in 2012 to cover the look and feel of Apple’s software.

To borrow a job title from the hit TV series Game of Thrones, the appointment cemented Ive as Apple’s Hand of the King – or Hand of the Cook, to be exact – the power behind the throne who is at times even more powerful than the king.

In addition to Ive and his team of designers, writer Ian Parker was given exclusive access to Apple’s design lab, an area that’s even off limits to many Apple employees.

Sir Jonathan Ive (left) with his knighthood, and his friend Australian designer Marc Newson with his Commander of the British Empire, following a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2012.

Sir Jonathan Ive (left) with his knighthood, and his friend Australian designer Marc Newson with his Commander of the British Empire, following a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2012. Photo: Getty Images

The article confirms the “bromance” between Jobs and Ive that began almost from their first meeting in 1997, when Jobs returned from a decade-long exile to retake command of the company he co-founded 20 years earlier.

Ive recalls how they clicked at their very first meeting, even though Ive was carrying a letter of resignation in his pocket and Jobs was courting someone else for the role.

Parker suggests that relationship with Ive’s current boss, Tim Cook, while warm is a totally different dynamic.

“If Jobs and Ive had a father-son dynamic, Ive and Cook seem like respectful cousins,” Parker writes.

Here are some highlights from the article, which you can read in full here.

On Apple’s design studio and the culture of excellence

  • Apple’s instructions to its (mainly Chinese) manufacturers include “a tool’s tracking path, speed, and appropriate level of lubricant”.
  • When an Apple designer walks in to a meeting it is “like being in church when the priest walks in”, according to a former engineering intern.
  • Team members are expected to work 12 hours a day and are not permitted to discuss their work with friends.
  • To find the best designers, Apple employs three recruiters to identify job candidates.
  • Since 2000, only two designers have left the studio, one because of ill health. About one new designer a year joins the group.

Jony Ive, left, with Apple's then senior vice-president of engineering, Jon Rubinstein,with iMac personal computers in 1999.

Jony Ive, left, with Apple’s then senior vice-president of engineering, Jon Rubinstein,with iMac personal computers in 1999

  • One of the designers, Hugo Verweij, is a Dutch sound designer who was running a website selling “minimalist ringtones” before he was hired.
  • Another designer, Jody Akana, specialises in colour. Only colour.
  • The worktables in the design studio inspired the benches found in the Apple stores.
  • Apple has built a fully functional 1800 square metre cafeteria as a miniature prototype for a larger facility that is to be built in its new space-age campus.

On Australian designer Marc Newson, the Australian-born designer and close friend who joined Apple last year as a London-based employee

  • Ive said he and Newson could “incite ourselves to a sort of fever pitch” over poorly designed products that had been “developed to a schedule, to a cost” or “developed to be different, not better”.
  • The pair are car lovers – Ive owns a Bentley Mulsanne and an Aston Martin DB 4 –  who feel underwhelmed with most modern cars. “There are some shocking cars on the road,” Ive said. “One person’s car is another person’s scenery.”
  • Newson and Ive share an “economic similarity”. “Neither of us came from particularly privileged backgrounds,” Newson said. “A lot of what I’ve done has been an effort to try to have the things that I didn’t own when I was a child.”
  • Ive denied that Newson’s appointment was a way for him to plan his departure from Apple.

On the Apple Watch

  • Ive says the Apple Watch was conceived “close to Steve’s [Jobs’s] death”.
  • The Apple Watch resembles one of the watches from Marc Newson’s own Ikepod watch company, and the 1904 Cartier Santos.
  • In-store, the watches will be displayed in a glass-topped cabinet, “accessible to staff from below, via a descending, motorised flap, like the ramp at the rear of a cargo plane”.
  • The watches’ fitness achievement icons, or virtual medals, will have a “a mid-century Olympic Games” feel.

On design advice to others

  • The lightsabres in JJ Abrams’ upcoming movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens reflect Ive’s suggestions about the design. “I thought it would be interesting if it were less precise, and just a little bit more spitty,” Ive told his interviewer.
  • Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve’s widow, has consulted Ive about spectacle frames, crockery, and the proper height of kitchen benchtops. “He’s so good on proportion and dimension,” she told The New Yorker.
  • ooo

Henry Sapiecha

Cloud computing is uniquely susceptible to the perils of myths due to the nature, confusion and hype surrounding it, says David Mitchell Smith, Gartner vice president and fellow.

Myths are sometimes harmless but they do have an effect on how we approach solutions and can impede innovation, he states in a recent research paper. “Many myths are rooted in fear and misunderstanding. They can drive decisions and strategies based on fear and this leads to oversimplifications and mantras that are the real dangers.”

Even with a mostly agreed on formal definition, multiple perspectives and agendas still conspire to mystify the subject ever more. Add the incessant hype and there can be a resultant confusion that permeates IT (and beyond) today, he says.

He lists some of the most “dangerous and misleading” cloud myths.

Myth 1: The cloud is always about money

The most prevalent myth about the cloud is that it always saves money, he states.

While prices are dropping, especially for infrastructure as a service (IaaS), not all cloud service pricing is coming down (for example, most software as a service [SaaS]). Assuming that the cloud always saves money can lead to career-limiting promises. Saving money may end up one of the benefits, but it should not be taken for granted.

Myth 2: You have to be cloud to be good

This is the manifestation of rampant “cloud washing.” Some cloud washing is accidental and a result of legitimate confusion, but some is also based on a mistaken mantra (fed by hype) that something cannot be “good” unless it is cloud. IT organisations are also increasingly calling many things cloud as part of their efforts to gain funding and meet nebulous cloud demands and strategies. The resultant myth is that people are falling into the trap of believing that if something is good it has to be cloud.

Myth 3: Cloud should be used for everything

Related to Myth 2, he says this refers to the belief that the actual characteristics of the cloud are applicable to, or desirable for, everything. Clearly, there are some use cases where there is a great fit, however, not all applications and workloads benefit from the cloud. Unless there are cost savings, moving a legacy application that doesn’t change is not a good candidate.

Myth 4: “The CEO said so” is a cloud strategy

When asked about what their cloud strategy is, many companies don’t have one and the default is often (stated or not) that they are just doing what their CEO wants. This is not a cloud strategy. A cloud strategy begins by identifying business goals and mapping potential benefits of the cloud to them, while mitigating the potential drawbacks. Cloud should be thought of as a means to an end. The end must be specified first.

Myth 5: We need one cloud strategy or vendor

Cloud computing is not one thing and a cloud strategy has to be based on this reality. Cloud services are broad and span multiple levels (IaaS, SaaS), models (“lift and shift”, cloud native), scope (internal, external) and applications. A cloud strategy should be based on aligning business goals with potential benefits. Those goals and benefits are different in various use cases and should be the driving force for businesses, rather than any attempts to standardize on one offering or strategy.

Myth 6: Cloud is less secure than on-premises capabilities

Cloud computing is perceived as less secure. This is more of a trust issue than based on any reasonable analysis of actual security capabilities. To date, there have been very few security breaches in the public cloud — most breaches continue to involve on-premises data centre environments. While cloud providers should have to demonstrate their capabilities, once they have done so there is no reason to believe their offerings cannot be secure.

Assuming that the cloud always saves money can lead to career-limiting promises.

David Mitchell Smith, Gartner

Myth 7: Cloud Is not for mission-critical use

Cloud computing is not all or nothing. It is being adopted in steps and in specific cases. Therefore, it is not surprising that early use cases are mainly not for mission-critical systems. However, many organisations have progressed beyond early use cases and experimentation and are utilising the cloud for mission-critical workloads. There are also many enterprises (not just small startups any more) that are “born in the cloud” and run their business (clearly mission-critical) completely in the cloud.

Myth 8: Cloud = data centre

Most cloud decisions are not (and should not be) about completely shutting down data centres and moving everything to the cloud. Nor should a cloud strategy be equated with a data centre strategy. Neither should it be done in a vacuum — there should be data centre space for things not in the cloud and, if things are moved out of the data centre, there are implications. But they are not the same thing. In general, data centre outsourcing, data centre modernisation and data centre strategies are not synonymous with the cloud.

Myth 9: Migrating to the cloud means you automatically get all cloud characteristics

Don’t assume that “migrating to the cloud” means that the characteristics of the cloud are automatically inherited from lower levels (like IaaS), . Cloud attributes are not transitive. Distinguish between applications hosted in the cloud from cloud services. There are “half steps” to the cloud that have some benefits (there is no need to buy hardware, for example) and these can be valuable. However, they do not provide the same outcomes.

Myth 10: Virtualisation = private cloud

Virtualisation is a commonly used enabling technology for cloud computing. However, it is not the only way to implement cloud computing. Not only is it not necessary, it is not sufficient either. Even if virtualisation is used (and used well), the result is not cloud computing. This is most relevant in private cloud discussions where highly virtualised, automated environments are common and, in many cases, are exactly what is needed. Unfortunately, these are often erroneously described as “private cloud”.

In light of these, he says, CIOs should never assume everyone has the same understanding, view, expectations or even definition of cloud computing.

Avoid “one size fits all” and overly simplistic answers to complex situations,” he states. The cloud is not one thing.

He likewise advises: “Maintain sight of business goals and align the potential benefits (and drawbacks) of cloud computing with them.”


Henry Sapiecha