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Jony Ive leaving Apple signals the end of Steve Jobs era



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Tim Cook (left) and Jony Ive (right) look at Apple's new Mac Pro desktop computer announced in June.


James Martin / CNET
                                                

When Steve Jobs stepped down as Apple's CEO in August 2011, people said it was the end of an era. The departure of Apple design chief Jony Ive announced Thursday, is the latest sign of the new Apple.

For the past couple of decades, Apple has gone through one of the most dramatic resurgences in history. Its speech of dramatic rise during co-founder jobs, its decline and near death after his sister, and then its rebirth are the stuff of Silicon Valley legend.

Throughout that time, two names have been credited with driving that success : Jobs, who returned to lead Apple again in 1997, and his right-hand man, whose design ethos has fueled a generation of sleek, minimalist products like the iPhone .


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Ive and Jobs were close friends, bonding over frequent lunches and a similar sensibility to design. "We had the first meeting, in a quite shocking way, really did click," Ive said in a rare interview in 2017. "We just established an immediate understanding." That partnership helped turn Apple from near bankruptcy into a behemoth of industry, even before Jobs passed away in 2011.

The departure of Ive, whose soft, British voice introduced Apple hardware in countless sizzle rules, is the latest sign of major shifts within Apple. The company grew to become one of the world's most profitable and highly valued companies, worth nearly $ 1 trillion, on the back of the iPhone. But sales of the device have started to decline, and if anyone would love to have Apple's problems – more than $ 58 billion in sales and $ 11.5 billion in profits, counted in the quarter ended March 30 – it appears the age when hardware ruled everything has passed.

Apple has started openly discussing what's next.

The biggest sign of that change came at Apple's March event this year, when CEO Tim Cook discussed how the company was planning to launch a series of subscription services in the next year, including a magazine and news service () Apple News Plus ), a TV and documentary service ( Apple TV Plus ) and a gaming service ( Apple Arcade ). Only Apple News Plus, at $ 9.99 per month, has been released, though others are expected this fall. There was – gasp! – no hardware to be seen.

The new Apple under Cook has always been received, and fans would frequently fret over how much the company was changing. They criticized Apple's Maps fiasco in 2012, they decried the bending iPhone 6 in 2014, and they complained about the problematic new keyboards in Apple's laptops.

Jony Ive and Tim Cook looking at iPhones.


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But Ive been departure will be different, since he's signaled to continue working with Apple for years to come. His new design firm will have Apple as a primary client. And the company plans devices in advance, the next iPhone, iPad or headset we see on store shelves will still have his fingerprints on it, even if no longer has an Apple employee badge.

"While we think this development is perceived as a negative, we think any potential impact from Mr. Ive's departure should be manageable, "Evercore analyst Amit Daryanani wrote in a note to investors.

And all of this hullabaloo doesn't mean the iPhone is over or that Ive's legacy is sealed. After all, these services are so attached to the device that Oprah Winfrey, while on stage announcing her own offerings for Apple TV Plus, reminded viewers that the iPhone is "in billions of pockets, y'all." It does mean, however, that Apple is changing.

Apple thinks different

While Apple's push into services will be a high-profile bet for the company in the coming years, it's not the only one. Other projects Ive probably already contributed to include forthcoming new iPhones, like the one expected later this year with a new third back camera, as well as a new Apple Watch.

Apple's also working on a powerful wireless headset, people familiar with the matter customs CNET last year. The device, which has been designed to support augmented reality and virtual reality and is powered by Apple's own chips, is slated for 2020.

The iPhone maker also just acquired Drive.ai, a self-driving car startup that at one point was worth $ 200 million. The company has been reduced to working on self-driving technology, although some of the teams had been working on the project earlier this year.

Apple and Ive are unclear with their new one-foot-in-one-foot-out job. One thing for sure is that analysts and Apple watchers are all treating a soon-to-be-formed employee.

" wrote longtime Apple commentator John Gruber. "You're either at Apple or you're not. Ive been out."

Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives agreed. "Ive left a hole in the company and is clearly irreplaceable as it has been one of the most important figures at Apple throughout the past few decades," he wrote in a letter to investors. "His fingerprints are deeply woven within Apple's core DNA. The major question now going forward is around future product innovation with one of the key visionaries of the Apple brand gone." The story originally published at 5:00 a.m. PT

Update, 10:03 am.m. PT: To include additional background.

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