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Jony's Long Goodbye

How could he hope to reinvigorate a workforce stunned and disoriented by the loss of their mercurial, touchy, moody but magnetic leader? The one man band had lost its one man.

But since Jobs’s death Apple’s fortunes have not gone into decline. In fact the growth graph has climbed ever more steeply. The figures are simply incredible.

(via The Telegraph)

Now, why would Stephen Fry start this article reminding us that Jobs leaving Apple wasn’t the end, that in fact the transition to Tim Cook turned out well for Apple?

Just as the February New Yorker article served to introduce us to Richard Howarth, and the Wired piece in April introduced us to Alan Dye[1], all three of these pieces have served as a preparation for the eventual retirement of Jony Ive from Apple. This is one, long, calculated PR move. And it’s being executed flawlessly.

And that shouldn’t surprise us. This is simply what a top-level executive leaving the world’s largest corporation looks like. A person such as Jony Ive can’t just retire from Apple one day. He or she must transition, over the course of a year or more, so as to cushion the impact on the stock price, public perception, etc.

Start by making it look like a “promotion.” Then spend the next several months talking up the accomplishments of his replacements. (I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing Howarth and Dye featured in upcoming design videos and/or appearing on stage at Apple keynotes.)

By the time Jony actually leaves Apple (in a year or two, most likely), we’ll all be relatively comfortable with the idea of Richard Howarth and Alan Dye running the design of the company. Just as the vigilant among us knew that Tim Cook was going to handle things just fine once Jobs was gone.

Will some part of that old Apple magic be gone without Jony? Of course. But this is inevitable. Sooner or later, the theory that a company’s culture can outlive its leaders needs to be tested. And tested. And tested yet again.[2]

Meanwhile Jony will spend the rest of his time at Apple extracting himself further and further from the products and diving into the bigger challenges of retail, work environment, and so on. His legacy. His long-term impact. Can you blame him? If you were Jony Ive, would you really want to spend the next six months working on yet another even thinner iPad?

  1. Credit goes to Ben Thompson for the Howarth/Dye insight, from this morning’s member’s-only daily update. If you’re not a member, you should consider it.  ↩
  2. If Apple is still humming along when none of the executive team members from the Jobs era are still around, then we’ll know that the company can truly endure. I suspect it will be.  ↩