Jony Ive was almost fired by Steve Jobs.

"Will design for food." Photo: Apple

Steve Jobs planned to boot Jony Ive out of Apple the very first time he met him, according to an explosive new revelation from the forthcoming biography Becoming Steve Jobs.

“He came over to the studio, I think, essentially to fire me,” Ive told the book’s authors, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, in an interview.

The reason for the possible firing was nothing personal, but rather the fact that Jobs had started talking with Hartmut Esslinger, the founder of Frog Design, who had previously worked at Apple and NeXT, about giving him his old job back.

Fast Company claims that Esslinger was the designer of the original Mac, although that isn’t actually correct (that would have been Jerry Manock). Instead, the German-born Esslinger was the creator of the “Snow White” design language used for Apple products during the 1980s, beginning with the Apple IIc. No doubt endearing him to Jobs was the fact that Esslinger broke his contract with Apple to follow Jobs to NeXT, where he worked on the NeXT Computer’s instantly recognizable pitch-black magnesium cube form factor.

Since Jobs’ return to Apple meant bringing aboard a lot of his former NeXT colleagues, it makes sense that he would have considered ditching Ive, who joined the company in 1992, during Jobs’ wilderness years. Not mentioned in the book excerpt is the fact that Jobs also offered Ive’s design job to Richard Sapper, who designed IBM’s ThinkPad, only to be turned down because Sapper didn’t want to work for a “tiny, tiny company.”

The possibility of a dismissal wasn’t lost on Ive. As revealed in a recent New Yorker profile, Ive carried a resignation letter with him for his first meeting with Jobs, during which the returning Apple co-founder told him, “Fuck, you’ve not been very effective, have you?”

As everyone knows, Ive not only wound up staying at Apple, but formed an incredibly close bromance/working partnership with his boss.

“You know Jony. He’s kind of a cherub,” Jobs told one of the authors of Becoming Steve Jobs, during an earlier magazine interview. “I liked him right away. And I could tell after that first meeting that [former Apple CEO Gil Amelio] had wasted his talent.”

Apple’s special gold isn’t so special after all.

apple-watch-edition

All week, it’s been reported that Apple is using a “new gold” in the gold Apple Watch Edition. Apple has patented a new process to create a “metal matrix composite” by mixing gold with ceramic particles.

The composite supposedly allows Apple to save on the amount of gold it uses, while making the substance super-hard and adding other amazing properties.

But according to Atakan Peker, a materials scientist and one of the co-inventors of Liquidmetal, which Apple holds an exclusive license on, it’s extremely unlikely Apple is using any kind of “new gold” for its watches.

He knows this because Jony Ive says so.

In the video above, produced by Apple to highlight its gold process, Ive explains how the watch body is made. He describes quite clearly that the gold is an alloy of silver, copper and palladium, not a composite.

Ive then describes how the alloy is cast into ingots, rolled and formed into billets, and machined to form the Apple Watch Edition’s case, buckle and Digital Crown.

The process makes no mention of ceramics, composites or any non-standard techniques. “There is nothing particularly new here,” said Peker. “These are known methods of production for gold parts.”

Peker is familiar with creating new metallurgic processes. As a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology in 1993, Peker co-invented Liquidmetal alloys with engineering professor Bill Johnson. Liquidmetal alloys have an atomic structure that is more like glass than metal. They are super-strong, scratch-proof, corrosion-resistant, extremely flexible and very light. They have been used for golf clubs, tennis rackets, skis, watches and cellphones.

Apple holds an exclusive license to use Liquidmetal in consumer electronics, but the company’s plans for the substance remain unknown. So far, Apple used Liquidmetal to make the SIM card ejector tool that shipped with early iPhones, but doesn’t appear to have used it since.

If Apple was using any kind of new gold for the Apple Watch, Ive’s video would show a very different process. It would show the cases being made from a composite material, not an alloy.

An alloy is created by melting different metals together (as shown in Ive’s video). The composite in Apple’s patent is created by mixing powders of gold and ceramic together, sintering and then heating them. The materials are bonded but don’t mix. By definition, a composite is a material made of distinct parts.

In fact, Peker said it’s unlikely that Apple’s composite gold will ever be used to make a watch.

“It is a smart idea,” he said, “but it will not make into a jewelry-quality watch case. Combining very soft with very hard ceramic particles is a nightmare for cosmetics and finish. It is almost impossible to get jewelry-quality polish and finish.”

In addition, the patented composite would feel very light. It “will not be perceived as genuine gold,” he said. “One attribute of gold is the feeling of being heavy. When you make it very light, people will not take it as genuine gold.”

Sara Shaughnessy, a jewelry designer with RedStart Design in San Francisco, and a Stanford mechanical engineering postgrad, agreed that the ceramic/gold composite wouldn’t be good for a watch.

“For jewelry, it would be a very limiting material,” she said. “You definitely won’t be able to treat it like a normal 18-karat gold.”

Shaughnessy said the material couldn’t be melted, cast, soldered or formed. It would have to pressed into its given shape and then polished. “And even the polishing might be different then normal gold with its unusual hardness,” she said.

“It’s a material best used in very specific applications,” she added.

Watchmaking probably isn’t one of them.

Feast your eyes on the gorgeous new Retina MacBook.

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“We set out to completely reinvent the notebook,” Tim Cook told the crowd during today’s Apple event. “And we did it.”

Apple introduced it’s biggest redesign of the MacBook since the original MacBook Air was released in 2007. The new notebook comes weighing in at just 2 pounds and 13.1mm thick, despite boasting a Retina display with a 2,304-by-1,440 resolution.

The thinness of the new MacBook isn’t the only thing that’s impressive. There’s a new Taptic TouchPad, thin keyboard and USB C. Plus, Apple invented new terraced batteries to squeeze juice into every cranny of the all-metal housing, giving you 10 hours of use on a single charge.

“This is our vision for the future of the notebook,” Cook said.

Watch Jony Ive gush about the new MacBook in this Apple film:

A new butterfly mechanism was invented for the keyboard keys to make them thinner and more accurate. Apple packed four Force Touch sensors underneath the TrackPad. Now it recognizes variations of pressure, opening up new contextual menus.

For the first time ever, Apple is making the MacBook available in three colors: silver, space gray and gold. Because it’s the first fanless MacBook ever, Apple went with ultra-efficient Intel Core M processors with speeds of 1.1Ghz or 1.2Ghz if you upgrade to the $1,599.99 model.

At $1,299, you’ll get 256GB of storage and 8GB of memory, while the upgraded units carry a 512GB SSD with the same amount of RAM. The new MacBook will ship April 10.

Jony Ive dishes on what it was like to design Apple Watch.

The world's most famous designer, Jony Ive. Photo: Apple

If Jony Ive sometimes missed out on getting his rightful credit while Steve Jobs was steering the ship at Apple, that same accusation can’t be made today. Following on from the recent superb New Yorkerprofile about Ive and the Apple Watch, Apple’s superstar design guru is the recipient of another profile (complete with interview), this time with the Financial Times.

The story’s not nearly as in-depth as the 10,000-word New Yorker piece, but it still has a few interesting observations about Ive’s approach to technology and the unique design challenges of working on the Apple Watch — including why the Apple Watch was a very different prospect for Ive than working on the iPhone.

Ive talks about the “thousands” of hours it took to bring the device to market, with Ive noting that:

“Even now, when the design of the Apple Watch is incredibly mature and has gone through thousands and thousands of hours of evaluation and testing, we’re still working and improving. You are trying to keep everything fluid for as long as possible because everything is so interconnected. The best products are those where you have optimised each attribute while being very conscious of other parts of the product’s performance.”

On the topic of sales — a subject that is currently driving analysts into a frenzy — Ive says that, “I’m much more concerned about how we can make [the Apple Watch] as good as possible than how many we’ll sell. We’re brutally self-critical and go through countless iterations of each product.”

Ive also makes gives a brief insight into why the iPhone still needs daily charging, noting that he’d rather give us a device that is light and thin, as a heavier iPhone would be less “compelling.” We still don’t have an exact answer on how long the Apple Watch’s battery will last (it most likely requires daily charging), but it doesn’t seem a stretch to think the same philosophy was applied there.

Describing this triumph of design over spec-heavy engineering, Ive says that, “It’s easy to forget this now, but back in the 1990s the preoccupation was with technology. The conversation was about chip speed and hard-drive size. We moved that on to include: ‘What colour do I want?’”

One of the most interesting insights Ive makes is about the difference between designing an iPhone, which requires a conscious effort to look at, and an Apple Watch, which is based around quick glances. Ive comments that:

“One of the things that struck mewas how often I’d look at my watch and have to look again quite soon afterwards, because I hadn’t actually comprehended what the time was. If I had looked at something on my phone, because of the investment involved in taking it out of my pocket or my bag, I would certainly pay attention. I quite like this sense of almost being careless and just glancing. I think for certain things the wrist is the perfect place for this technology.”

Finally he describes the difference between working on the original iPhone and the Apple Watch:

“It was different with the phone – all of us working on the first iPhone were driven by an absolute disdain for the cellphones we were using at the time. That’s not the case here. We’re a group of people who love our watches. So we’re working on something, yet have a high regard for what currently exists.”

12 things we learned from the New Yorker’s profile of Jony Ive.

The world's most famous designer, Jony Ive. Photo: Apple

In what may be the longest magazine feature yet dedicated to Apple’s industrial design guru, the New Yorker has just published a sprawling 16,000 word profile of Jony Ive — taking readers from his early meetings with Steve Jobs up to the present day.

It’s jam-packed with fascinating tidbits about Ive, his secretive design studio, and Apple’s past and future. While I’d thoroughly recommend reading the whole article, here are the details that really leaped out:

Ive gets some unusual gifts.

Some of Ive’s colleagues gave him a seven-inch Playmobil likeness of himself for Christmas. It wears sunglasses and carries an off-white Valextra briefcase. A photo of its face is Ive’s iPhone lock screen image.

Ive is a car nut.

Possibly not a new revelation, but interesting given the recent reports of an Apple Car. “There are some shocking cars on the road,” Ive says in the article. “One person’s car is another person’s scenery.” Seeing a car he dislikes on the road he says, “It is baffling, isn’t it? It’s just nothing, isn’t it? It’s just insipid.” (The car in question is a Toyota Echo.)

The Apple Watch was Ive’s baby.

“I asked Jeff Williams, the senior vice-president, if the Apple Watch seemed more purely Ive’s than previous company products,” the New Yorker’s reporter writes. “After a silence of twenty-five seconds, during which Apple made fifty thousand dollars in profit, he said, ‘Yes.’” The article also acknowledges that Ive B.F.F. Marc Newson worked on the project from the start, and his name will appear on the patents.

The iPhone 6 Plus could have been even bigger.

Ive thought about making it 5.7-inches, but then concluded that was too big. He eventually settled on 5.5-inches.

Ive is still British at heart.

He has a Banksy picture of the Queen with a chimpanzee’s face in his office, while the design studio constantly plays “Euro douchepop.”

Ive has an impressive Rolodex of celebrity friends.

Do the names Chris Martin, Stephen Fry, J.J. Abrams, Yo-Yo Ma and Bono mean anything to you? They certainly do to Jony.

Ive came up with some ideas for the new Star Wars movie.

No details on exactly what they are, but they relate to the lightsabers in the new movies. “I thought it would be interesting if it were less precise, and just a little bit more spitty,” Ive said, noting a redesigned lightsaber could be “more analog and more primitive, and I think, in that way, somehow more ominous.”

Given his friendship with J.J. Abrams, he’s certainly got the right person’s ear to get his ideas listened to.

Ive hated the Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs biography.

Ive says he hasn’t read it all, but has read enough to dislike the famous Jobs biography for its apparent inaccuracies. “My regard couldn’t be any lower,” he says, contemptuously.

Ive knows how to fly in style.

After Steve Jobs’ death, Ive bought his former boss’ twenty-seat Gulfstream GV.

Ive and Jobs got on like a house on-fire.

On his first meeting with Steve: “I can’t really remember that happening really ever before, meeting somebody when it’s just like that. It was the most bizarre thing, where we were both perhaps a little — a little bit odd. We weren’t used to clicking.” At Jobs’ memorial, Ive called him “my closest and my most loyal friend.”

…Which isn’t to say that Jobs couldn’t be cutting.

“Fuck, you’ve not been very effective, have you?” was Steve Jobs’ conclusion when he first saw Ive’s design studio at Apple, after rejoining the company. He also accused Ive of being vain, because Ive cared too much what people thought of him.

Ive is f*cking motivated.

He has a rather profane motivational poster in his office, created by Brian Buirge and Jason Bacher at the studio “Good Fucking Design Advice.”

It reads: “Believe in your f*cking self. Stay up all f*cking night. Work outside of your f*cking habits. Know when to f*cking speak up. F*cking collaborate. Don’t f*cking procrastinate. Get over your f*cking self. Keep f*cking learning. Form follows f*cking function. A computer is a Lite-Brite for bad f*cking ideas. Find f*cking inspiration everywhere. F*cking network. Educate your f*cking client. Trust your f*cking gut. Ask for f*cking help. Make it f*cking sustainable. Question f*cking everything. Have a f*cking concept. Learn to take some f*cking criticism. Make me f*cking care. Use f*cking spell check. Do your f*cking research. Sketch more f*cking ideas. The problem contains the f*cking solution. Think about all the f*cking possibilities.”

Few people could argue Ive hasn’t taken that advice on board.

Jony Ive says Apple Watch will include Fitbit-like silent alarm clock feature to wake you up.

watch

This past week, Apple design head Jony Ive spoke about a range of topics, including the Apple Watch, at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. Ive noted that the development of the Watch was more difficult than the iPhone because of the historical precedence of wrist-worn timepieces. In more interesting news, Ive told the crowd that the Apple Watch will have a cool alarm clock feature that can silently wake up the wearer:

And because it’s a new product, he said there’s “a childlike awe and curiosity” about what the Apple Watch might do. As an example, he spoke about its alarm-clock function. “Just yesterday, somebody was saying, ‘Wow, do you know what I just did? I set the alarm in the morning, and it woke just me by tapping my wrist. It didn’t wake my wife or my baby,’” he recounted. “Isn’t that fantastic?”

We’ve known that the Apple Watch will (obviously) have an alarm clock feature, but it’s interesting to now hear that the alarm clock will wake up the user via the Taptic Engine vibrating sensors mostly designed for the Watch’s communications features. This silent alarm feature is not entirely new to the wearables industry as the popular Fitbit fitness tracker has had similar functionality for a couple of years.

Screenshot 2014-11-01 16.07.09

While some people will enjoy this feature, such as in the use case mentioned by Ive, it’s not entirely clear how much use it will have in the first-generation product. As Apple executives, including Tim Cook, have said, users of the Apple Watch will need to charge the device each night. If the Watch will be on the charging stand until you wake up in the morning, the silent alarm clock feature will probably not be so beneficial. On the bright side, the feature will be especially beneficial when Apple implements sleep tracking features in a future version of the device.

Jony Ive reflects on design, Apple Watch in Vogue.

Jony Ive

Vogue’s new profile of Apple’s head of design is a great read, especially because of the details it includes about Jony Ive’s work and personal life. For instance, Ive is in love with the “k-chit” noise the Apple Watch band makes it when it clasps.

The interview took place in a white room on Apple’s campus, which is fitting considering that Ive is always shrouded in white during his product design videos. Touching on the company’s secretive design studio, Vogue notes, “Ive’s wife, Heather Pegg, has never been—he doesn’t even tell her what he’s working on—and his twin sons, like all but a few Apple employees, are not allowed in either.”

As also described in our own Leander Kahney’s Jony Ive biography, “work is conducted behind tinted windows, serenaded by the team’s beloved techno music, a must for the boss.”

“I find that when I write I need things to be quiet, but when I design, I can’t bear it if it’s quiet,” he says. Indeed, the design team is said to have followed an unwritten rule to move away from their work whenever the famously brusque Jobs entered the studio and turn up the volume so as to make his criticisms less audible, less likely to throw them off course.

Marc Newson and Jony Ive Photo: Vanity Fair

Ive appreciates working with physical objects, and he likes “drawing and making things—real things” with his ten-year-old boys. His wife, Heather Pegg, is a writer, which adds to the creative environment of home life.

It’s clear from Vogue’s profile that Ive and renowned designer/new Apple employee Marc Newson are really close friends. Ive even wears a pair of glasses designed by Newson.

“They’re a bit like non-identical twins separated at birth,” jokes Bono. They finish each other’s sentences. “They finish each other’s food,” adds Bono.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Vogue’s piece is its hands-on with the Apple Watch before it was announced.

“Feels nice, doesn’t it?” On my second visit to Cupertino, Ive has finally handed it over: the new Apple Watch. It is more watch than the computer geeks would ever have imagined, has more embedded software than in a Rolex wearer’s wildest dreams. When Ive shows it to me—weeks before the product’s exhaustive launch, hosted by new CEO Tim Cook—in a situation room that has us surrounded by guards, it feels like a matter of national security. Yet despite all the pressure, he really just wants you to touch it, to feel it, to experience it as a thing. And if you comment on, say, the weight of it, he nods. “Because it’s real materials,” he says proudly. Then he wants you to feel the connections, the magnets in the strap, the buckle, to witness the soft but solid snap, which he just loves as an interaction with design, a pure, tactile idea. “Isn’t that fantastic?”

Make sure to check out Vogue’s full profile for more.