A new profile on Apple's exiting design chief Jony Ive, the man behind many of the company's most successful products, paints a fuller picture of what led to his departure.
But amid all the talk of a gradual decline in Ive's presence in Cupertino, as well as reports of disillusionment with the company's direction, a tidbit in the report hits on one of our favorite topics: Apple's rumored smartglasses.
Many people know that it was the late Steve Jobs who brought the company from near bankruptcy back to success after previously being ousted from the company, which he co-founded. But only true Apple nerds are aware that Ive was an integral part of the company's design story from as far back as the original iMac in the '90s.
Ive's design hand also drove the looks behind the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, all the products that set up Apple to be one of the richest companies on the planet.
Although the new report mostly just reinforces what most of the tech world learned last week — that Ive has had one foot out of the door for years since Jobs' death — the Wall Street Journal spent over a year speaking to "people who worked with Mr. Ive" and "people close to the company" to uncover the details around his departure.
The story frames Ive as mostly disengaged due to his becoming "frustrated inside a more operations-focused company led by chief executive Tim Cook." More specifically, the report claims that "people in the design studio rarely saw Mr. Cook, who they say showed little interest in the product development process—a fact that dispirited Mr. Ive."
Overall, the report casts Apple as a company with past hits, but possibly in decline, pointing to the mixed success of the Apple Watch, which Ive wanted to promote as a fashion accessory rather than as a mere iPhone assistant, as other Apple executives envisioned. This part is vital, primarily because the Apple Watch was the company's first wearable, and its development trajectory informs any future wearable moves the company might make.
And that brings us to augmented reality. Deep into the report, after numerous snippets of hard to acquire information from Apple insiders, the report states:
"The design team has been working on augmented reality glasses that would give users visual displays of messages and maps. It continues work on annual updates to Apple's existing products."
That passage doesn't include the word "rumor." Instead, it refers to the smartglasses product as matter-of-factly as one might mention the next iPhone model. Of course, that passage doesn't serve as ultimate confirmation that the product is really coming, but it's yet another signal in a long string of clues that indicate Apple is indeed preparing to release its own pair of AR smartglasses. In March, a report surfaced from (historically reliable) Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that claimed that Apple would begin its smartglasses production later this year.
We saw the same rumor cycle with the Apple Watch, which was once dismissed by many as mere rumor, since Apple had not yet waded into the wearable device market. Now, as the rumors around Apple smartglasses come to a slow boil, Ive's exit from Apple has inadvertently given us an additional indicator that points to the arrival of Apple's next wearable.
The only question now is just how involved, or not, Ive's new design firm, LoveFrom, will be in what will surely be Apple's biggest challenge to date — getting consumers to see the entire world through the lens of Apple.