Apple design chief: 'Our goal isn't to make money'
Apple might be the world’s most valuable company, with a market capitalisation of $556bn (€453bn), but its design chief insists it is not in business for the money.
Sir Jonathan Ive, the man credited with shaping the iPad and iPhone and whose personal fortune is estimated at $130m, said today that Apple’s guiding principal was nothing to do with its balance sheet, instead it simply wanted to make “great products”.
“Our goal isn’t to make money. Our goal absolutely at Apple is not to make money. This may sound a little flippant, but it’s the truth,” said the British designer. “Our goal and what gets us excited is to try to make great products. We trust that if we are successful people will like them, and if we are operationally competent we will make revenue, but we are very clear about our goal.”
Although Apple’s growth slowed in the last quarter, the technology firm founded by Steve Jobs still delivered a 21pc increase in profits to $8.8bn. Sales climbed nearly a quarter to $35bn. Earlier this year, Tim Cook, its chief executive, told investors the company is throwing off more cash than it knows what to do with.
Even so, Apple is determined to make sure it reaps the financial rewards for its designs. Sir Jonathan’s comments came as a high-stakes patents battle with Samsung over claims that the rival technology firm copied its iPad and iPhone designs began in a Californian court on Monday.
Apple is suing Samsung for more than $2.5bn, to cover some $2bn profits it has allegedly made on the back of Apple’s intellectual property and the “hundreds of millions of dollars” Apple has lost as a result. Sir Jonathan, who grew up in Chingford, Essex, and studied in Brighton before joining Apple in 1992, attributed the California-based company’s success to its struggles in the mid-1990s, when it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in the face of competition from Microsoft.
“Apple was very close to bankruptcy and to irrelevance [but] you learn a lot about life through death, and I learnt a lot about vital corporations by experiencing a non-vital corporation,” he told the British Business conference. “You would have thought that, when what stands between you and bankruptcy is some money, your focus would be on making some money, but that was not [Steve Jobs’] preoccupation. His observation was that the products weren’t good enough and his resolve was, we need to make better products. That stood in stark contrast to the previous attempts to turn the company around.”
Apple is highly disciplined in “saying no” to products that are “competent” as opposed to “great”, he said. However, some of the products that have underpinned Apple’s success nearly didn’t see the light of day. Sir Jonathan said the company, which sold 26m iPhones in the last quarter, nearly abandoned the device because it couldn’t work out how to stop users from activating the touchscreen with their ears during calls.
His comments about design, and the difficulty of great design, could not have come at a more pertinent time for Apple. Its court battle with Samsung follows a succession of skirmishes in Britain, Germany and Australia, and is being hailed as the “patent battle of the century”.The fight began last year when Apple sued Samsung for “slavishly” copying its devices. Samsung counter-sued, claiming that Apple is trying to stifle competition so it can keep raking in “exorbitant” profits. The first day of the trial in San Jose, California, was taken up with picking the ten-person jury. District Judge Lucy Koh asked prospective jurors which brand of mobile phone they owned, with just one saying they did not own one at all. Opening arguments are due tomorrow in a case that is expected to last four weeks.