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Can Apple survive without its lead designer?
The design mind behind the iPod, the iPad, and other iconic devices might be leaving Silicon Valley. How badly would his exit hurt Apple?
 
Lead Apple designer, Jonathan Ive, pictured here with one of his early Mac designs and Steve Jobs in an undated photo, may be leaving the company.
Lead Apple designer, Jonathan Ive, pictured here with one of his early Mac designs and Steve Jobs in an undated photo, may be leaving the company.
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The Apple rumor mills are churning after a Sunday Times story suggested that Jonathan Ive, the design wizard who's masterminded the look of every major Apple product since 1996, might be leaving the company and returning to his native England, where he'd prefer to send his kids to school. Reportedly, an option grant Ive received in 2008 is now worth $30 million. But Apple executives apparently don't like the idea of Ive working remotely, and according to one source, have told him "he would not be able to sustain his position with them." Apple has no comment, leaving chroniclers of the company to wonder: Would losing Ive be a catastrophe? (Meet Jonathan Ive)

No need to panic: This story is pure rumor, says Giles Turnbull at Time. But an Ives departure would "not necessarily" be such a bad thing. It's worth remembering that "Ive is not the entire Apple design department." He's spent a decade influencing and directing a design team. When Steve Jobs recently departed Apple for health reasons, "Tim Cook was there" to continue his legacy. Similarly, Ive must have groomed successors.

It's not that simple: Ive is "a singular design genius" who may be irreplaceable, says Erik Sherman at BNET. If Apple lost both Jobs and their name-brand designer, it would be "a very different — and difficult — situation." But it may be inevitable. Ive is said to be "practically symbiotic with Jobs." If the rumors that Jobs has terminal cancer are true, Ive may have decided that staying will be too "painful."
"Is Apple's design deity leaving? No more iMacs, iPhones, and iPads?"

No, Apple will be fine: "The whole notion that Apple as a company depends on just two individuals is utterly ridiculous," says Jonny Evans at Computerworld. In some sense, all the hullabaloo over their status at the company is a "celebrity cult thing." In a 2007 interview, Ive himself said that collaboration, not top-down authority, is the modus operandi at Apple — meaning that losing one person in a team would not be the end of the world.
"Rumor: Apple to Jony Ive: 'Your career, or your kids'"

 

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