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Apple’s recent Q1 Earnings report showed two things: First, iPhone and iPad sales are up (surprise!), while overall Mac sales are down. Second, the company saw record sales. The posted revenue of US$54.4 billion and net profit of US$13.1 billion shows that revenue rose 17.7 percent from last year’s Q1 performance. “No technology company has ever reported these kind of results,” came from the proud voice of Tim Cook. So why does Forbes believe that despite this performance, VP Jony Ive should take over the throne?

We’ve All Thought About It…Is It Time?

While the report was written before the Q1 results…according to Forbes, despite supply chain expert and current Apple CEO Tim Cook’s decent job of managing Apple’s supply chain (especially in meeting demand for new models and dealing with bad publicity for worker death and injury), he has yet to demonstrate that he can create a big new revenue source.

timcookTim Cook

Among other harsh duties as CEO, Cook proved that among other pitfalls, he can manage a botched product (Apple Maps) by not only taking some of the blame, but also laying down an iron fist to manage (read: fire) those responsible. However we are yet to see any groundbreaking new product from Cook’s reign–including a new and updated Apple Maps app worthy of it’s name. The fact that Google’s updated Maps app was one of the most downloaded apps ever when it was released is still a bad stain on Apple’s reputation—not to mention the aging iOS interface coming into competition with the new and slick Windows 8 phone and Surface Pro interfaces.

When one steps back to look at Steve Jobs versus Tim Cook in the CEO chair, it will be obvious that Steve Jobs’ (Grey New Balance!) shoes are quite possibly one of the hardest-ever to fill. Considering that Jobs developed category-killing after category-killing product, it makes you wonder that despite Cook’s ability to ‘maintain’ what was Jobs’ legacy, might it be time to put all your company’s marbles into one basket that’s devoted to developing another category-killing product—under somebody who has that vision?

stevejonyBest Pals

According to Forbes’ report, the one person who can fill those shoes is Sir Jony Ive–Jobs’ category-killing product design partner in crime:

“It’s unclear whether Ive has the skills to manage Apple, but the company’s competitive advantage has always been design — with supply chain playing an important, but secondary role.”

While innovation often does fuel the success of any given tech company, at what expense will it be to Apple’s design department if Ive suddenly has to wear multiple hats? He has already taken on two jobs–his existing VP of industrial design and the recently added interface component, which arguably is a whole other beast to tackle—so will adding yet another job come at a high cost to the design department?

Probably not:

Mark Parker’s Nike : Fueled by Innovation

parkerofficeMark Parker in his Nike WHQ Office

One example of how this structure has worked is Nike and their designer-turned CEO Mark Parker. Mark was one of the earliest employees of Nike (it could be argued that Ive was one of the earliest at Apple–assuming Jobs’ second run at the company) and had his hand in multiple projects as the company grew–effectively keeping his feet wet across all departments during the time Phil Knight was CEO.

KanyeMarkParker2Mark Parker Designing a Shoe with Kanye West

During this time, Mark was involved with some of Nike’s most iconic and innovative designs that came out of it’s Beaverton, Oregon headquarters. Perhaps the most memorable is Parker’s own design for the Nike Air concept. Nike Air is one of the most recognizable features on any Nike shoe….and it became a category-killing product in it’s own right.

Did this experience of developing killer products help position Parker to lead the company and has it sacrificed the design department at Nike? According to design and style blogs, celebrity culture, and annual investor reports…it only did the company good. By standing at the top of the throne as a former designer with a designer’s problem-solving brain and eye for detail, Parker is able to drive Nike with design-first ethos, regardless of how left-brain-punching any given task is at hand…a fairly simple concept in a world of aging and overly-complicated, innovation-killing existing business structures.

What do you think? Is it too early or too much to push Ive into the CEO seat? Is Cook doing a fine job? How will they approach developing and pushing another category-killing product?

Filed under: DESIGN NEWS

  • Adam

    I’d personally rather see Ive focusing on design and UX, not all of the other things a CEO needs to think about. His strength isn’t politics anyway. There are examples of great designers-turned-CEO, but these are the exception, not the rule, and I would argue that their success as a CEO is largely unrelated to their success as a designer. Some of the best designers I know are terrible leaders, and vise-verse.

  • Dave Moore

    Amen. Jobs left a pretty good team in place when he stepped down as CEO. Have there been a few problems? Yes, but there always are when corporate leadership changes. While Apple has not introduced a new, life changing product since Cook took over, the company is continuing to refine existing products and making big money. Leave Cook alone.

  • Jobs left Ive in a place of ultimate authority over design (and now UI was added) and as long as Cook doesn’t feel the need to change that I think they have a pretty solid looking future with them staying in their current positions.

  • ion

    “Too little too late.” Apple has a history of incremental upgrades, yet, most people incorrectly believe that apple is an innovator and a design leader, even after it is factually proven that Apple is just repackaging existing design and technology.

    Apple needs to go all in on something that will change the world and not apologize for dragging people kicking and screaming into the future, there needs to be an innovative technology that creates such a huge divide in intelligence and intellectual ability that you adopt the technology and ascend or go seek assistance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edQNjJZFdLU

    “Make Room! Make Room!” here comes google glass.

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