According to sources close with Apple, Human Interface Vice President Greg Christie, has been ousted following friction with Senior Vice President Jony Ive. That means Ive will be Apple’s software and design monarch, and have complete control over both interface and design going forward. Christie formally lead Apple’s software design group, separate from the company’s industrial designers. With Christie reportedly gone, both teams will now report directly to Ive.
Disagreements with Ive and Christie reportedly began during the development of iOS 7, with the two clashing over the overall design direction. Clearly Ive’s influence won over; sources claim Ive “circumvented Christie’s leadership” of the Human Interface team as development for the redesigned iOS was going on. Apple is reportedly going to introduce a big redesign in the next update to OS X, so perhaps the two clashed over that as well.
Christie has been instrumental to the early success of Apple’s iPhone, so his departure is certainly significant in that regard. However, with iOS having been stagnant from a design standpoint for many years, a change had to come sooner or later. The tension within Apple’s hierarchy is unfortunate, but the mobile market has evolved in the past few years, and perhaps the urgency from Christie to change wasn’t there, which is why he clashed with Ive (that’s speculation on my part).
Christie’s exit is significant on the level of Scott Forstall, who was in charge of creating iOS in the original iPhone. With Christie out, Ive has an enormous presence within Apple under Tim Cook, leading the charge for a more minimal and “unapologetically plastic” future. In the Steve Jobs era, there was a divide between software and hardware, but now that Ive is in complete control, there’s potential for even more synergy between the two. Of course, this is still a rumor at this point.
We’re not expecting huge changes to come when iOS 8 is (possibly) announced at WWDC this summer. But OS X could be a completely different story. We might not see an Ive-ified Apple in the immediate future, but his presence at the company will put him at the forefront of every design decision going forward.
The Financial Times, via MacRumors, received a response from Apple confirming Christie’s departure. Christie, according to Apple, had been “planning to retire later this year,” though no Ive politics are mentioned.