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
42 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
42 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
42 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
42 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
42 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
42 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

iphone 14 pro max vs 13 max 2

Camera Comparison: iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:44 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce some major improvements in camera technology, adding a 48-megapixel lens and low-light improvements across all lenses with the new Photonic Engine. We've spent the last week working on an in-depth comparison that pits the new iPhone 14 Pro Max against the prior-generation iPhone 13 Pro Max to see just how much better the iPhone 14 Pro Max can be. Subscrib ...
tony blevins car

Apple Procurement VP Departs Company After Vulgar TikTok Comment

Thursday September 29, 2022 12:38 pm PDT by
Tony Blevins, Apple's vice president of procurement, is set to depart the company after he made a crude comment about his profession in a recent TikTok video, reports Bloomberg. Blevins was in a video by TikTok creator Daniel Mac, who was doing a series on the jobs of people he spotted with expensive cars. After seeing Blevins in an expensive Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Mac asked Blevins what ...
Dark Sky App Featured

Dark Sky Removed From iOS App Store Ahead of Upcoming Shutdown

Wednesday September 28, 2022 4:27 pm PDT by
The Dark Sky weather app that's owned by Apple is no longer available for download in the U.S. App Store, suggesting that it has been removed ahead of schedule. Apple acquired Dark Sky back in March 2020 and has since incorporated elements of the app into the Weather app available on the iPhone (and soon, the iPad). Dark Sky remained available for purchase as a standalone weather app...
adaptive transparency airpods pro

iOS 16.1 Beta Brings Adaptive Transparency to Original AirPods Pro

Thursday September 29, 2022 1:08 pm PDT by
The third beta of iOS 16.1 that was released earlier this week expands the Adaptive Transparency feature introduced with the second-generation AirPods Pro to the original AirPods Pro. As noted on Reddit, first-generation AirPods Pro owners who also have the AirPods beta software will now see an "Adaptive Transparency" toggle in the AirPods section of the Settings app. The 5A304A beta...
tim cook malala

Tim Cook: Not Too Long From Now, You'll Wonder How You Led Your Life Without AR

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:26 am PDT by
Speaking at Università Degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Naples, Italy, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that not too long from today, people will wonder how they led a life without augmented reality, stressing the "profound" impact it will have on the not so distant future. At the university, Cook was awarded an Honorary Degree in Innovation and International Management and also sat down for a...
iPhone 15 to Switch From Lightning to USB C in 2023 feature sans arrow

Kuo: iPhone 14 Pro Max Popularity Could Lead to More Differentiation Between iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

Wednesday September 28, 2022 10:22 am PDT by
Apple has seen high demand for the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, which could lead the company to further differentiate the next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple could add exclusive features to the iPhone 15 Pro Max in an effort to encourage more people to purchase the larger and more expensive device. Kuo last week said that Apple asked...
iOS 16 Wallpaper Spectrum Feature

Five Wallpaper Apps to Check Out for iOS 16's New Lock Screen Depth Effect

Thursday September 29, 2022 9:08 am PDT by
One of the biggest new features in iOS 16 is a completely redesigned iPhone Lock Screen. The new Lock Screen is entirely customizable, letting you change the colors and fonts, add widgets and new wallpapers, and more to make your iPhone uniquely yours. Of course, even before iOS 16, you could customize your Lock Screen with a wallpaper of your choice. iOS 16 takes the Lock Screen wallpaper...
apple watch ultra deuglify 1

Apple Watch Ultra User Mods Titanium Casing to 'Deuglify' Design

Tuesday September 27, 2022 8:05 am PDT by
An Apple Watch Ultra user has modified their new device's casing to add a brushed finish and remove the orange color of the Action Button in an effort to make it more visually appealing. The Apple Watch Ultra offers the first complete redesign of the Apple Watch since the product line's announcement in 2014, and while the design has been met with praise from many users, some have criticized...
mx mechanical keyboard logitech

Logitech Launches New 'Designed for Mac' Mice and Keyboards

Wednesday September 28, 2022 12:01 am PDT by
Logitech today announced the launch of several new mice and keyboards that have been developed for use with Apple's Macs, including Logitech's first mechanical keyboard that has been optimized for the Mac. The MX Mechanical Mini for Mac Keyboard has a keyboard layout designed for Macs, with tools to customize shortcuts with Logi Options+. The keyboard uses Tactile Quiet low-profile switches...
iphone 14 iphone 14 plus in hand feature

iPhone 14 Is Secretly Hiding a Beloved Mac Feature

Friday September 30, 2022 3:24 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models bring over a longstanding Mac feature, but the setting to enable it is off by default. The feature, which is actually a new accessibility option, allows the iPhone to play a startup chime like the Mac. When enabled, the sound comes alongside a new shutdown chime. The Mac has featured a startup chime since 1987's Macintosh II, and the iconic "bong"...