Apple design chief: We don’t care about money (and that almost killed the iPhone)

Jul 30, 2012
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Apple design chief Jonathan Ive has insisted that the company is resolutely focused on product innovation not revenue, merely relying on being "operationally competent" to make money. Coming after the Cupertino firm announced $8.8bn in income in the last financial quarter, Ive said that Apple's goal is always "to try and make good products", the Telegraph reports, and that the he and the company "trust that if we are successful people will like them." That approach almost saw the iPhone canned before it launched, in fact.

"Our goal isn't to make money" Ive argued. "Our goal absolutely at Apple is not to make money. This may sound a little flippant but it's the truth." The designer - pivotal in creating the iPhone and iPad - credits Steve Jobs' and his unusual focus for that approach.

"Apple was very close to bankruptcy and to irrelevance ... You would have thought that, when what stands between you and bankruptcy is some money, your focus would be on making some money, but that was not [Jobs'] preoccupation" he explained. "His observation was that the products weren't good enough and his resolve was that we need to make better products."

Jobs' ethos could have scuppered the iPhone before it had a chance to shine, Ive says. Refusing to accept products there were "competent" in favor of holding out for "great," Apple struggled to get the face-detection system to work - recognizing when the iPhone was being used in a call, and thus deactivating the touchscreen.

"There were multiple times when we nearly shelved the phone because there were multiple problems" Ive said. "I hold the phone to my ear and my dear dials a number. The challenge is that you have to develop all sorts of ear shapes, chin shapes, skin color, hairdo ... it seemed insurmountable."

Apple sold 26m iPhones last quarter, less than the market expected. The company is expected to reveal the new iPhone 5 in the next few months, complete with a larger touchscreen and a newly redesigned casing. Meanwhile, a court case between Apple and Samsung opens today, in which the Cupertino firm alleges its Korean rival stole the design of the iPhone and iPad for its Android-based alternatives.


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