Apple Announces Departure of Influential Software Designer

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Longtime Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) employee and original iPhone software designer Greg Christie will be retiring from the company later this year, reports Financial Times. Christie is one of Apple’s lead user interface designers and has been with the company for almost two decades. The news of Christie’s departure was first reported by 9to5Mac and was later confirmed in a statement released by Apple.

“Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple,” said Apple in a statement given to Financial Times. “He has made vital contributions to Apple products across the board, and built a world-class Human Interface team which has worked closely with Jony for many years.”

Christie’s departure was precipitated by a conflict between the veteran software designer and Apple senior vice president of design Jony Ive, according to 9to5Mac’s sources. Ive took charge of Apple’s human interface design after former software design leader Scott Forstall was ousted in 2012 over Apple’s problematic Maps app launch. Ive led the team that radically redesigned Apple’s iOS 7 and removed many of the skeuomorphic design elements that had long been a part of the mobile operating system. Before Ive took over human interface design for Apple’s software, he was primarily known for his successful hardware designs, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

According to 9to5Mac’s unnamed insider sources, Christie clashed with Ive over iOS 7’s new minimalist appearance. However, Apple’s statement emphasized that Christie had collaborated closely with Ive and that his retirement had been planned for some time. Insider sources cited by TechCrunch also affirmed that Christie’s retirement was unrelated to any disagreement with Ive.

As noted by Financial Times, Christie’s work was essential to the development of Apple’s iPhone and he is named as one of the inventors on the patent that covers the so-called “slide-to-unlock” feature used on the iPhone. The “slide-to-unlock” patent is one of five software patents that Apple has claimed Samsung’s products are infringing on in the patent-infringement trial that is currently taking place in a federal court in California. Christie also provided testimony about the Cupertino-based company’s patents in the current trial.

Although there are conflicting rumors about the reasons for Christie’s departure, most Apple watchers agree that the longtime employee had an important influence on the appearance of Apple’s software for many years. Christie recently spoke with NPR about the years of painstaking work it took to develop the iPhone. “The early demos of the phone were like sketches,” Christie told NPR. “They were like idea fragments. I don’t have the right words to describe it. It wasn’t like this was a complete phone call experience — it wasn’t end to end on anything.”

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