New Profile Delves Into Background of Jony Ive Successor Jeff Williams

jeff williams headshot When Jony Ive announced that he is leaving Apple to start his own design firm, Apple confirmed that chief operating officer Jeff Williams is set to oversee many of the product design responsibilities previously held by Ive. In a new profile today by The Wall Street Journal, Williams' history at Apple is highlighted, including his potential as a future successor to CEO Tim Cook.

According to people who work closely with Williams, he has been "more visible" in the development of Apple products than Cook. Williams has displayed interest in the look and feel of certain products, and helped pivot the Apple Watch away from its fashion-focused launch to one predominantly concerned with health and fitness features that can be achieved without a connected iPhone.

Additionally, Williams was on the product development team that was responsible for the ‌iPhone‌ 4, and his contributions reportedly "quieted doubters" within Apple about his ability to contribute to the design stage. One unnamed source described Williams' knowledge in a thermal-engineering meeting: "It was impressive for a negotiator, and spreadsheet guy, and it just came naturally to him."

Yet, some people wonder if Williams' executive skills are enough to lead Apple product design, and live up to Ive's legacy.

Mr. Williams is an operations executive at his core, the people said, and his skills at logistics and planning make him more implementer than inventor. “He sees where we are, not where we need to be in years to come,” said a former colleague, who also praised Mr. Williams’s leadership, versatility and encyclopedic memory.

Apple chose to promote from within instead of finding outside blood to replace Ive, which analyst Bob O'Donnell said would have been almost impossible anyway. "What they're doing is saying, 'let's reallocate how we think about this and put someone else overseeing a few young designers to give them leeway.' It’s time for fresh blood. The last few iPhones have looked really similar."

Many of WSJ's sources wondered about Apple's future and what its next major product invention will be, and how that will be achieved without Ive's leadership. "You could have looked at Jony and said: 'He's the soul of Steve Jobs,'" said Ensemble Capital president Sean Stannard-Stockton. "I just wonder about their ability to invent the future now."

Ive is set to leave Apple sometime later this year.

Top Rated Comments

macduke Avatar
61 months ago
Jony was promoted to this position around the time he was starting to wind down his time at Apple. When you’re at that high level you’re mostly involved in meetings and less with design. It’s probably why he kept doing outside design work for charity projects in his spare time. Jony’s role changed to something different and was probably paid a lot more. He could then save up to start his own company.

Jeff isn’t replacing Jony the designer, but Jony the manager. And I thought from what I read, Jony was the one that wanted the Apple Watch to be an expensive fashion item, and Jeff wanted it to be more practical to help people get healthy and be more affordable. It seems like in the end Jeff won, and the Apple Watch has been a runaway success (aside from App Store issues, which they are finally sorting out with native, unified apps and such).

If this is true that Jeff’s influence within Apple has been growing, then that could be why we are beginning to see a return to more practicality. I look at things like iPadOS and being able to access files on drives, iOS design improvements over the flat/thin design aesthetic to reign that in, or even things like the more powerful 2018 Mac Mini or the power and affordability combo found in the 2019 iMac (which I own), and I see promise. And while the Mac Pro is expensive and made for very high end users, the fact that a lot of the parts can be upgraded by the end user is welcome compared to the trashcan. If anything, I think Jeff understands better than Jony that design isn’t just how it looks, but how it works.

So if he can reign in crap like the horrible MacBook Pro keyboards (rumored redesign later this year), then I consider that an absolute win. He still has the design team that Jony lead, and they learned from one of the best. But Jony was missing his balance in Steve, and I feel like he probably got too arrogant and didn’t feel like anyone at Apple should be able to reign him in.
Score: 57 Votes (Like | Disagree)
batmccoy Avatar
61 months ago
Obviously Jony Ive worked closely with Jobs. We've all heard the stories, but I disagree that Ive would be considered the "soul" of Steve Jobs. Whoever was responsible for the watch leaning towards fashion...and the changing of the iPhone interface to super thin, super simple, buttonless crap...doesn't fully understand the usability and interface design required for computer based products. If anything, Scott Forstall was the (apparent) embodiment of Jobs.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
newyorksole Avatar
61 months ago
Wait, this bloke is replacing Jony? He’s got less charisma than a cardboard cutout version of himself.
I wouldn’t say Jony had “charisma”. He has a British accent and uses a lot of fluff to describe basic things.

I never heard him speak and said “wow that guy is charismatic”.

He’s pretty mundane. Rarely smiles.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jsameds Avatar
61 months ago
Wait, this bloke is replacing Jony? He’s got less charisma than a cardboard cutout version of himself.
Does his charisma determine how well he designs things?
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
61 months ago
Wait, this bloke is replacing Jony? He’s got less charisma than a cardboard cutout version of himself.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
now i see it Avatar
61 months ago
I personally have never been a fan of almost all of Ive's designs. Sure for the most part they were successful but he placed waaaaaay too much emphasis on appearance over function. Way too much emphasis on cramming stuff into the smallest enclosure possible, with glue, tape and solder. Add to that the company's policy of forbidding 3rd party repairs of devices which for the most part are unnecessarily difficult to get in to, and my only thought is thank goodness Ive is no longer working at that company any more.

As for Williams, maybe he'll cut some slack with the other designers to let them bring their (likely better) concepts to prototype stage. I have a suspicion that when Ive was there, it was his way or the highway.

Apple products have almost become a parody of themselves and the roadmap Ive left behind, if that road was to be followed, would only have "painted themselves into a design corner"

All hail Williams. I hope he can turn this around.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID Single Camera Hole

Six Reasons to Wait for Next Year's iPhone 17

Thursday February 22, 2024 4:20 am PST by
Apple's iPhone development roadmap runs several years into the future and the company is continually working with suppliers on several successive iPhone models concurrently, which is why we sometimes get rumored feature leaks so far ahead of launch. The iPhone 17 series is no different, and already we have some idea of what to expect from Apple's 2025 smartphone lineup. If you plan to skip...
General Apps Messages

iOS 17.4 to Add This 'Groundbreaking' New Messaging Feature

Friday February 23, 2024 5:05 am PST by
With iOS 17.4, set to arrive in March 2024, Apple is bringing a new cryptographic security feature to iMessage called PQ3. This "groundbreaking" and "state-of-the-art" protocol provides "extensive defenses against even highly sophisticated quantum attacks," according to Apple. Let's break down what that means. Apple's iMessage service already supports end-to-end encryption, but security...
iPhone Notch

Apple Explored These Notch and Dynamic Island Designs for iPhones

Friday February 23, 2024 2:05 pm PST by
With the iPhone 14 Pro models in 2022, Apple introduced the Dynamic Island, which can morph and expand to display system alerts, sports scores, and a variety of other information. The feature makes the space surrounding the front camera and Face ID sensors useful compared to the notch on older iPhone models. Apple explored a variety of ideas for the iPhone's notch area over the years before...
New Macs iPads iOS 17 4

What to Expect at Potential Apple Event in March: iPads, Macs, and More

Friday February 23, 2024 8:35 am PST by
Apple often holds its first media event of the year in March, so the company could be just weeks away from announcing new products. Below, we have outlined what to expect from a potential Apple Event this March. Past Apple Events in March Apple has held five events in March since 2015:Monday, March 9, 2015 Monday, March 21, 2016 Tuesday, March 27, 2018 Monday, March 25, 2019 Tuesday,...
iOS 17

iOS 17.4 Coming Soon With These New Features for Your iPhone

Monday February 26, 2024 6:08 am PST by
In a press release last month, Apple confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March, and the update includes several new features and changes for the iPhone. Key new features in iOS 17.4 include major App Store changes in the EU, Apple Podcasts transcripts, and an iMessage security upgrade. The update also adds new emoji and includes preparations for the launch of next-generation CarPlay...
iOS 17

When Will Apple Release iOS 17.4 for iPhones?

Friday February 23, 2024 11:56 am PST by
Apple has been beta testing iOS 17.4 for nearly a month now. Below, we explain when the update is likely to be released to all users. In its press release announcing major App Store changes in the EU, which were implemented in response to new regulations under the EU's Digital Markets Act, Apple confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released at some point in March:Developers can learn about these...