Fashion or tech? The product at the heart of Ive’s decision to leave Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly isn’t that hands-on when it comes to the product design process and  when he was  his decisions didn’t seem to quite match up with the vision of Chief Design Lead Jony Ive. In a week when we saw the departure of Apple stalwart Ive announced, it seems Cook’s lack of interest and differing visions may have partly contributed to his exit.

Tim Cook has been the primary public face of Apple as its CEO since the passing of Steve Jobs. Cook has his own – some may say more businessman-like – style as opposed to the unique and enigmatic persona of Steve Jobs. 

It seems the differences between Jobs and Cook may have caused some internal strife when it comes to how they interacted with Chief Design Office Jony Ive.

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According to WSJ, Ive’s departure has been coming for years and divides over the Apple Watch may have been a key catalyst in a growing rift. Those who work in Apple’s design studio state they rarely saw Tim Cook and he showed little interest in the product design process. Cook’s disinterest apparently disheartened Jony Ive.

Jony Ive reportedly grew more distant from the leadership at Apple as Tim Cook grew into his role. Ive – a protége of Jobs – became frustrated with the company’s pivot to a more operations-focused outfit under Cook. A particular source of frustration for Ive was reportedly the Apple Watch.

Ive wanted Apple’s move into the wearables category to be more about a premium fashion accessory – akin to the company’s image as a provider of pricey status symbols. However, Cook and others in Apple saw the Apple Watch as more of a gadget – acting as an extension of the iPhone and its features.

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Ive began to take a more hands-off approach to the elite design team inside Apple – leaving the company’s design with a far less focused direction. In a bid to keep Ive happy, Cook gave the head of design a generous pay package – above that of other Apple executives. Cook’s tactics now seem to have fallen short. 

Jony Ive’s frustration wasn’t limited to the Apple CEO. Ive reportedly wasn’t happy with the growing number of directors with financial and operations backgrounds gaining prominent positions in the company – as opposed to those with a history with technology.

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