Why Apple Is Better Without Jony Ive
Ive’s mobile products were a revelation, but his larger computers left a lot to be desired
Jony Ive released some pretty bad computers. Pretty products with bad functionality. Under his leadership, MacBooks became so thin you couldn’t type and the Mac Pro became so small it couldn’t work. Since his departure, those products are suddenly usable again.
This is not to discount the many great things Ive worked on. The original iMac, the iPod, and of course, the iPhone are all his work. Even after Steve Jobs’s death, he ushered in the Apple Watch and AirPods, both excellent products, thoughtfully designed with a clear evolutionary path.
His record on traditional computers, however, is terrible. It was as if the category bored him; as if he kept making computers smaller in the hopes that they would disappear.
The Ive-era laptops
When Jobs pulled a MacBook Air out of a manila envelope in 2008, it was magic. Ive tried to bring that thin magic to its entire laptop line and in the process broke thousands of keyboards. The result was three generations of lost laptops. Until 2019, a 2015-era MacBook was the best Apple laptop you could buy.
The keyboard and hinge are the only moving parts on a modern laptop. These mechanical components just have to work or the whole machine doesn’t work. This is the functionality that the butterfly keyboard mechanism managed to break.
The core innovation was replacing an X-shaped scissor mechanism with a Y-shaped butterfly. This seems to make sense and supposedly feels good, but it just wasn’t practical. Any tiny particle of dust or grit could jam the keys, requiring a user to replace the whole top assembly — keyboard, touchpad, speakers, etc. Perhaps not a frequent problem, but catastrophic when it happened.