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Ive: Apple isn't in it for money, but for great products

updated 11:16 pm EDT, Mon July 30, 2012

Says quality products drive popularity, echoes Jobs

Apple's lead designer and Senior VP of Industrial Design, Sir Jonathan Ive, made comments at the British Embassy's Creative Summit on Monday that channeled those of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Ive said that the force driving the company -- and which distinguishes it from its competitors -- is that making money isn't the primary goal that shapes new products or ideas. Making great products, said Ive, is Apple's single-minded purpose.

"We're really pleased with our revenues," he said, "but our goal isn't to make money. It sounds a little flippant, but it's the truth." Ive noted that Jobs was able to turn Apple around in 1997 where others had failed by emphasizing great products rather than doing anything to turn up a profit. The company makes money, he argued, because Apple is successful at making both new and beautiful products. "If we are operationally competent [and have great products], we will make money," he added.

The sentiment is similar to thoughts expressed by Jobs in the earliest days of Apple, when he became a multi-millionaire after Apple went public. When asked how he felt about being rich, Jobs said that the money didn't matter to him that much because he "never did it for the money. The most important thing was what we were going to enable people to do with these products we were making."

Jobs later echoed that sentiment in early talks with then Google CEO Eric Schmidt over his contention that the Android OS had been largely stolen from Apple and other technologies. He told Schmidt that Apple wasn't interested in getting paid for the work that Jobs felt was stolen, but would fight the search giant to force it to "invent their own stuff." Current CEO Tim Cook has likewise demonstrated a steely determination to get competitors to compete against Apple fairly and use their own ideas rather than create knock-offs of Apple products -- such as the plethora of clearly MacBook Air-inspired ultraportables and iPad-like tablets.

Ive also tackled the subject of design itself, again citing one of his influences, former Braun designer Dieter Rams. "Really great design is hard," he said. "Good is the enemy of great ... innovation is really hard." He called design a "prerequisite" for any product and thus refuted the notion that the design was "important," since this implied that in some cases you could do without it. You can make products "carelessly, thoughtlessly," Ive said, adding that such efforts are "valueless." Or you can design a product, even one that is to be mass-produced, "and invest so many years of care and have so many people so driven" to make the product the best it can be "beyond any functional imperative that there is incredible value."

Many products outside or preceding Apple's sphere of influence, from certain kinds of cars to classic but ordinary household objects have maintained a presence and high regard in the public consciousness long beyond their shelf life -- including many of Rams' designs from Braun, as an example, or the domed Volkswagen Beetle. Apple's astonishing success from the late 90s onwards has been credited largely to the combination of Jobs' focus on building great products and Ive's ability to sculpt elegant yet practical casings that, at their best, fuse the technology inside and the outward appearance into a single functional unit that is as much a work of art as a commercial success.

Ive once again reiterated the discipline that Jobs insisted on at Apple and which he says has been key to the company's steady rise in popularity: "We say no to a lot of things that we want to do and are intrigued by ... so that we only work on a manageable amount of products and can invest an incredible amount of care on each of them." He described his excitement at the whole creative process, from a "barely-formed thought" to a prototype that "a table of people can ... start to understand it; it becomes inclusive and it galvanizes and points to a direction for effort."

Ive finished his talk by once again echoing Jobs, this time on the topic of market research. "It will guarantee mediocrity," he said, "and will only work out whether you are going to offend anyone." Ive has been quoted elsewhere as saying that the projects he and his team are working on now are some of "the most important and the best work" they've ever done.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. Blairmc

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-02-03

    Not because of the money?

    So why is an Apple iPhone bumper £26 for a little bit of plastic and silicone?

  1. cvbcvb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-03-03

    If they’re not in it for the money then build the products in the US...

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    Originally Posted by BlairmcView Post

    Not because of the money?
    So why is an Apple iPhone bumper £26 for a little bit of plastic and silicone?



    Because people will pay it. Just because Apple can and does make money does not mean it's their primary goal.

    Originally Posted by cvbcvbView Post

    If they’re not in it for the money then build the products in the US...



    1. As they've explained already, it's more than employee wages. It's the ability to get that many workers, source the components locally, and get the employees to work shifts flexible enough for them.

    2. Apple sells products all over the world - why the just the US? Why not Europe, like they used to?

    There's no conflict here. Apple's goal is to make the best products. That doesn't mean Apple should forgo the profits.

    If someone were to say to you "I love my job - being happy at work is my primary goal" would you say "why don't you work for free then?" That would be ridiculous. As it is ridiculous to suggest Apple should forgo earning money.

  1. dankothehun

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-23-09

    The headline doesn't match what Ive said. He said that the primary goal/purpose is to make great products. That doesn't mean that they don't want to make money. It's simply not what drives them. This reflects Apple's purpose since Steve returned to Apple. Keep in mind that public companies also have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders. In other words, as a corporation, they are legally obligated to be as profitable as possible as well.

  1. dankothehun

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-23-09

    cvbcvb: By your logic, all Chrysler manufacturing should move to Italy. All Honda manufacturing should move to Japan (nearly 100% of all Hondas are built in US). Anheiser-Busch should move to Europe. Go visit the employees of those companies and tell them that manufacturing only belongs in the country of the home office of the company. Good luck with that.

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Let me add to that title, Ive: Apple isn't in it for the money, but for great products.... that limit users so we can eventually make it all about money!

    There, you heard it die-hard crApple fans. Don't cry just yet, they are just getting their new engine started with the Retina MBP!

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    blahblahbber sounds to me like he's jealous he can't afford one. :)

  1. cvbcvb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-03-03

    No Dank, my logic is that Apple moved their manufacturing overseas so they could MAKE MORE MONEY...

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Originally Posted by chas_mView Post

    blahblahbber sounds to me like he's jealous he can't afford one. :)

    Maybe.... just maybe I am not the idiot that buys into this version, which omits "wifi" ac.... How about you?. What I can afford is good value. I can afford a $7k Road bike, is that alright with you? Or maybe, just maybe my IR BGA service will be the one that repairs yours one day... so yeeeah.... I dare to afford it..

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by cvbcvbView Post

    No Dank, my logic is that Apple moved their manufacturing overseas so they could MAKE MORE MONEY...


    Actually, they did it because of that (exactly like every single other company in the industry), but the welcome side-effect was that they could MAKE MORE PRODUCTS.

    The sheer scale and flexibility of manufacturing the iDevices Apple sells, with short-term production ramp-up, is simply impossible outside of the infrastructure that China has spent the past thirty years uncompromisingly creating. Apple is among the companies looking around the globe for alternatives (starting in Brazil), but China is literally decades ahead of the rest of the world in regards to tech manufacturing at the massive scale-level.

    And considering that Apple is the only company having trouble making enough products to sell (rather than vice versa), it doesn't look like they have any real options at the moment.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by blahblahbberView Post

    [QUOTE=chas_m;4181066]blahblahbber sounds to me like he's jealous he can't afford one. :)

    Maybe.... just maybe I am not the idiot that buys into this version, which omits "wifi" ac.... How about you?. What I can afford is good value. I can afford a $7k Road bike, is that alright with you? Or maybe, just maybe my IR BGA service will be the one that repairs yours one day... so yeeeah.... I dare to afford it..[/quote]

    So you're saying you're rich enough to afford spending your time trolling a Mac Internet news site?

    Good on ya! :thumbsup:

  1. dankothehun

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-23-09

    Originally Posted by blahblahbberView Post

    Let me add to that title, Ive: Apple isn't in it for the money, but for great products.... that limit users so we can eventually make it all about money!
    There, you heard it die-hard crApple fans. Don't cry just yet, they are just getting their new engine started with the Retina MBP!



    And you read MacNN why? I'm not sure how Apple "limits" users. I can do everything on my phone that it was designed to do. It's amazing to me how people complain about the iPhone's ecosystem. If those people don't like the it, they are free to use the WIDE OPEN systems that existed before the iPhone. Oh wait...there were NONE. Apple was the first to even get the functionality of the phone out of the carriers hands. Android OS wasn't even supposed to be a touch OS.

    Let's take a look at the rest of the computer manufacturers and see how they transformed industry. Apple made popular to all people (not just those in industry), the GUI, 3 1/2 floppy, the laser printer, the mouse, the notebook, touch interface, a smart phone that anyone could develop for, the tablet, UNIX (OS X and iOS are far and away have the largest installed Unix user base).

    What did the rest of the industry do? Dell...nothing. Asus...nothing. HTC. Nothing. HP has innovated I'm sure. Sony...in computer industry I'm sure they're responsible for something. Gateway....nothing.

    Which means most of the industry is just copying what Apple makes popular.

    Where were all you whiners when the best "smartphone" was Blackberry with its ultra-closed system. Nowhere. All I ever heard was how great blackberry was how people can't live without it. Where were you whiners for the last 30 years who put Windows (which didn't have a single open source component for a long time) on 90% of all the computers in the world. Where are you whiners who have been playing your 100% closed game systems.

    The only people who care about "openness" are hackers and developers. One day you will realize that the 99% doesn't care.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    I'm a happy iPhone user, but for the sake of accuracy, Apple does limit users.

    What the poster you were responding to doesn't acknowledge though is that there is some sort of catch to every vendor. With Microsoft it is general technological lethargicness, lack of vision, expensive/complex licensing of some products, etc. With Google/Android it is that the carriers do not permit you to run the latest Android version, general clunkiness at times, and the fact that Google makes its money via data mining which is off-putting to some people.

    Apple limits users in having a Mac app store that doesn't permit application demos, discounted upgrades from previous versions, or apps that feature some code that Apple deems unworthy (such as code that provides integrations with other apps), and an iOS app store that is limiting enough to inspire an entire jailbreaking community. They limit users in not having an affordable and/or tower, in non-configurable UI changes, etc.

    The Apple "our way or the highway" approach is pretty well documented. Yes, you can make the argument that Apple's decisions have not been abnormal across the industry, that they introduce reasonable compromises, that there exists reasonable technical rationale for many of these decisions, etc. I'm not arguing for or against any of these points, I'm sure saying that living inside Apple's bubble is what goes with the territory of being into Apple gear. Some people welcome the bubble, some people don't. I like the bubble until I don't, then I get particularly grouchy about it because I'm pretty self-centered about my computing attitudes. I'm not the only one.

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