Fans of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and anyone following the stock had a moment of surprise early on Monday morning. For a short period, the executive profile for Senior Vice President of Design Jonathan Ive disappeared from Apple’s press website, prompting a surge of speculation that Ive had either quit or been fired. The last time the media noticed that an executive bio had been taken down, the executive it was attached to, former SVP of Technologies Bob Mansfield, had stepped off the leadership team.
Ive’s profile has since been reinstated, and Apple Insider noted early on that the landing page for his profile had never been taken down, just its thumbnail on the executive team page. When other executives left the team, their profiles had been totally removed from the web, yielding a 404 error. Unless the removal was a Freudian slip on the part of one of some well-informed developer at Apple, this suggests that the error was simply a technical glitch. Apple’s public relations team has confirmed that the company was updating its executive profiles page when Ive’s profile disappeared.
So the disappearance was a false alarm, but the media’s knee-jerk reaction wasn’t totally unjustified. Ive oversees industrial design at Apple and is responsible for a lot of what makes Apple products attractive, iconic, and intuitive. In an interview with biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs said that Ive “understands what we do at our core better than anyone. If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it’s Jony.”
Ives’ relationship with Jobs and his resonance with the founder’s vision is essential for Apple. Since Jobs passed away in October 2011, the company has been criticized for its apparent lack of inspiration. The company’s flagship devices — the iPhone, the iPad, and the Mac — are still selling like hotcakes, but Apple hasn’t released a category-defining new product since the iPad. An iWatch and an iTV are on the horizon, somewhere, but until the company delivers, investors are unlikely to give the company the kind of love it received in September 2012, when shares brushed up against $700.
When a new product is released, its success will really hinge on the quality of Ive’s work. If he and his team aren’t able to do for television or wearable tech what the iPhone did for smartphones, then Apple is simply another technology company with another product competing with alternatives in the marketplace. This does not remove the company from the pantheon of the tech titans, but it does take it down a notch.