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Is Jony Ive's departure from Apple an opportunity for all?

Apple’s Design Chief Jony Ive announced last week that he was leaving Apple to set up LoveFrom, a new venture that will, of course, focus on product design. His first client will be his current employer Apple.

The announcement was made by The Financial Times’ Tim Bradshaw, who got the scoop after meetings with Ive and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Investors took the announcement with an element of surprise, but the expectation is that the company that he joined in 1996 has got a good product pipeline not just for current users, but new business markets.

The Wall Street Journal’s Tripp Mickle followed the scoop with further insight into the lead-up to Ive’s departure, confirming long-held rumours that the relationship between Tim Cook and Jony Ive was not as cordial as we would have expected.

When Jony arrived at Apple the company in 1996 the company was struggling. Founder Steve Jobs had just himself returned to Apple. The working relationship between them both allowed them to work off each other and instil a design-led focus that helped rescue and transform the company.

For both Ive and Jobs, design thinking was about creating an experience that meets user needs in an as simple and seamless manner as possible.

Product designers and user researchers were put at the centre of the product development process. Testing, learning and iterating products until they were ready for market.

This design and user first philosophy helped Apple to release iconic products such as the iMac, iPhone, iPad and various MacBook laptops. The software was also being designed to be as intuitive as possible.

As products became more aspirational, sales rose and allowed them to them compete in the very profitable business and services market, which led Apple to secure a valuation of a trillion dollars thanks to Tim Cook’s expertise in refining the supply chain and keeping tight control on profit-points.

With Jony’s LoveFrom firm established and with Apple as its first client, the question has to be asked as to the impact that he and his design philosophy will have over companies from many other industries that will commission him.

Companies from across a range of industries are being challenged by design-thinking start-ups funded with venture capital and corporate venture capital. Healthcare is one sector where tech companies are investing heavily, especially in the US where the healthcare system is broken and users (patients / the public) want services designed around them, their needs, behaviours and conditions.

Design-thinking worked at Apple because he worked with Jobs and at the time the tech sector was stagnant. Apple came in and not just disrupted that sector, but created products with new revenue streams.

Many firms will want to work with Ive and LoveFrom because of the Apple story and how he helped transform the company. But these companies, which have an eye over the shoulder at the disruptors, will need to go all in and adapt their philosophy, something that in itself is risky.

So, the question that we have is, with Ive now being available, will Apple, with its strong focus on building revenue from services, use LoveFrom and design as a trojan to get more organisations onto their services solutions?

If this hypothetical strategy is possible, then giving Ive a focus and opportunity via LoveFrom to again focus on design, but use his influence outside of Apple, well, this could be a win-win for Ive, Apple and many organisations that feel they need his influence to help deliver improved revenue via better product and process design. Firms that have reputation and perception issues might need to bring LoveFrom to help transform them and make themselves more appealing to consumer and businesses alike!

We will wait and see!

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