I’ve always believed that if Jony Ive leaves Apple sometime in the near future, the company will be in serious trouble. I said as much in a recent post. However, this Chapter 13 (Apple’s MVP) in Leander Kahney‘s – Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products, describes Jony Ive‘s importance to the company, in the absence of Steve Jobs, in a far better way than I ever can.
[Jony Ive] has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me. There’s no one who can tell him what to do, or to butt out. That’s the way I set it up.
Steve Jobs had surgery for a pancreatic tumor in July 2004. As he was recovering from his first bout with cancer, he asked to see two people. One was his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs; the other was Jony Ive.
After nearly eight years of working together almost daily, Jony and Jobs had a special and intimate relationship. The pair had been nearly inseparable, attending many of the same meetings, eating lunch together and spending afternoons at the studio going over future projects.
Jobs’s first surgery didn’t fully cure him and he later underwent a second round of surgery, taking a leave of absence from Apple to undergo a liver transplant in Memphis, Tennessee, in May 2009. Jobs flew home on his private jet with his wife, where he was met by Jony and Tim Cook at San Jose Airport. The question of Apple’s future was very much in the air, as the announcement of Jobs’s leave had led many in the press to predict that Apple was doomed without him. It seemed to be the consensus of the punditocracy that the fate of Apple rested solely on Jobs’s shoulders.
Jony drove Jobs home from the airport and confided on the journey that he was disturbed by newspaper opinion pieces that staked Apple’s survival to Jobs.
“I’m really hurt,” Jony told Jobs. He was worried about Jobs’s health, and the health of the company they both loved. As Jony told Jobs’s biographer Walter Isaacson, the perception that Jobs was the engine of Apple’s innovation was damaging, he said. “That makes us vulnerable as a company,” Jony said.
That Jony’s ego wasn’t always sublimated to Jobs’s and to Apple is hardly surprising. On another occasion, Jony also complained about Jobs’s habit of stealing his ideas. “He will go through a process of looking at my ideas and say, ‘That’s no good. That’s not very good. I like that one,’” Jony told Isaacson. “And later I will be sitting in the audience and he will be talking about it as if it was his idea. I pay maniacal attention to where an idea comes from, and I even keep notebooks filled with my ideas. So it hurts when he takes credit for one of my designs.