Apple’s chief designer, Jonathan Ive, has been knighted in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list, principally for his work in industrial design and championing British talent abroad. Ive already received a CBE in 2006, among other awards.
The British Consul General in San Francisco, Priya Guha, said that Mr Ive “epitomises the strengths of British design and innovation”.
In response Ive said: “I am keenly aware that I benefit from a wonderful tradition in the UK of designing and making. To be recognized with this honour is absolutely thrilling and I am both humbled and sincerely grateful.”
The former north-east Londoner is known as the mastermind behind Apple’s hardware, from the iPod the iPhone to the Macbook Air. A graduate of design at Newcastle Polytechnic he moved to California to join Apple in 1992 and led Apple’s design team since 1996.
He holds 596 design and utility patents, more than Steve Jobs did, who reached 317.
But New Year’s honours are often political in nature. The Queen is not the one who draws up the list but the “Nominations Team of the Honours and Appointments Secretariat” – basically a mix on Number 10 and Buckinngham Palace officials. The list is then heavily gone over, mainly by Number 10.
New Year’s Honours are frequently used to make political points. Steve Jobs was once rumoured to be in line for a knighthood under Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but the story goes that he was refused because he wouldn’t turn up to make a speech in the UK.
But it’s clear that 2011 was a year which the UK government trumpeted the rise of tech startups and entrepreneurs in its official “Tech City” policy and its economic stance, particular it’s recent Autumn economic statement which is poised to kick-start the Angel investment market in the UK.
So what better signal to send than to laud one of the architects of Apple’s success as a global tech powerhouse?
Source: Arise SIR Jonathan Ive
Steve Jobs’ attention to the finest of details is well known throughout the tech world, the latest testament to that is Google VP Vic Gundotra’s recollection of his phone call with Jobs in 2008 about an imperfection in the Google logo on the iPhone when pinned to the homescreen.
Another example of Jobs’ immense attention to the finer aspects of product design and everything else is Apple’s patents, 313Â out of which list Jobs as an inventor.
These patents cover a broad range of products including Desktop Computers, iPods, iOS devices, product packaging, powerÂ adaptorsÂ and even the glass staircases you would find in Apple stores.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates has 9 patents to his name while Google’s Larry and Sergey have a dozen patents, which is nowhere near Steve’s 313.
Some of the filings date back to the 1980s, when Apple was a relatively young company, which was about to challenge the might of IBM, and in the future a lot of other companies as well. We have a look at some of Jobs’ most remarkable patent applications, some of which made their way into the consumer market while some stay buried inside Apple’s offices.
Jobs’ First Patent Filing – The Design For A Personal Computer
This patent covers the design of the Apple I, the company’s first product which was hand built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, whichÂ soldÂ for $666.66 because Woz liked repeating digits. The patent claim reads “The ornamental design for a personal computer, substantially as shown”. To get an idea of how complicated the process of getting the Apple-I to work as compared to present day computers was, have a look at the Apple-I manualÂ (PDF link), which also features the earliest Apple logo with Newton sitting under an Apple tree.
This device, which was unshered in by the famous “1984″ commercial, was the first successful computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface. The patent however doesn’t say anything about the GUI, it instead talks about the all-in-one design of the computer which can be found even in today’s iMac models.
This patent was filed on behalf of NeXT Computer Inc., which later went on to merge with Apple. The patent, filed in 1991, describesÂ theÂ concept of a dock found in modern day operating systems like OS X and iOS. Although the idea of a dock may seem trivial right now, twenty years ago it wasn’t all that common. The patent has various flowcharts describing different tasks like launching applications, rearranging icons and adding new applications to the dock.
Steve Jobs’ desire forÂ perfectionÂ showed not just in software but even in accessory design. The iPad 2 smart cover, USB cables and power adapters are all examples of excellent design. (In some cases however the priority given to design makes the product more vulnerable to wear and tear, for example iPhone and iPod cables.)
Apple has multiple power adapter patents to its credit, each of which illustrate a different kind of design. The first patent filing showed a circular adapter, which later changed into a rectangular avatar and finally became the roundrect Magsafe adapters we all know of.
This was Jobs’ way ofÂ revolutionising the music industry. First a device, then a digital store both with a large number of users forced music companies to sell their songs for a dollar resulting in a win for customers. Steve’s name appears on 85 iPod patents, most of them dealing with the design of the product.
A number of patents filed in 2005 give us a glimpse into the iPhone’s birth stages. The patent applications nowhere explicitly mention the iPhone, but familiar UI elements like table views, battery indicators and page indicators make an appearance in the images. One of these filings also reveal that at one point of time Apple envisioned an iPod clickwheel style of phone as well.
iPhone UI And Hardware Design
Numerous iPhone patents have been filed by Apple since its launch, perhaps foreseeing that it would have to battle out other hardware manufacturers in the future. An interesting image found in one of these patents, embedded above shows a trial option in a mockup of the AppStore.
Like Apple’s products, its stores have beenÂ constantÂ subjects of admiration. Turns out the glass staircases found in many Apple Stores has also been patented, with one of its inventors being Jobs himself.
Jobs has been named an inventor in more than 300 other patents pertaining to iPod headsets, packaging, laptops, displays and keyboards. While products like the “Clickwheel phone” didn’t hit the shelves, many of these inventions were and still are critical to Apple’s success. As New York Times points out,Â Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design guru, shares more than 200 patents with Jobs hinting that Steve and Ive share the same designÂ instincts.
The New York Times has a nice interactive feature on Steve’s patents, hit the source link to have a look at it.
At today’s iPad 2 press event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage, surprising attendees. Jobs, who has been on medical leave since early January, unsurprisingly received a standing ovation. He told the audience, “We’ve been working on this project for a while, and I just didn’t want to miss this.”
Apple and Jobs announced that he would be taking medical leave on January, with COO Tim Cook taking over the day to day operations for the company. While it’s been unclear what Jobs’ health issues are, his previous medical history includes Pancreatic cancer as well as a liver transplant. In 2004, Jobs contracted Pancreatic Cancer, which he beat. Then Jobs underwent a liver transplant in 2009, and also made a full recovery.
Jobs is usually a fixture at Apple product events and announcement but it was unclear if he would make it to this one considering the recent turn of events in his personal life. It was assumed that either Cook or Apple’s head of design Jonathan Ive would be presenting today but it’s great to see Jobs back in action and on stage.
Leave it to those ambitious, young grad students to show us the objects of our desire that we didn’t even realize we desired. Thanks to Jordi Parra, an Interaction Design student at the Umeå Institute of Design in Sweden, we now have a futuristic new music player that lets you listen to Spotify from the comfort of your living room. (Only if your living room is in Europe, however, as Spotify is not yet available in the U.S.)
At first glance, the player — which Parra made as part of his final design project in collaboration with Spotify — looks like a digital lovechild of Jonathan Ive and the brilliant Swedes at Ikea. Perhaps the coolest feature of the product’s design is its inclusion of 192 LED nodes, which display volume levels, battery life, and Internet connectivity on the device’s face. Not too shabby for a degree project!
How does this bad boy work? The player uses radio frequency identification (or RFID) technology: place one of the colored RFID tags, which contain your playlists, onto the magnetized volume knob, and voila! As soon as the tag sticks to the knob, the antenna/Arduino in the player reads the tag and plays your hot jams. You stop those hot jams by simply removing the tag. Kinda cool, right?
In the case of Parra’s reader, the information is actually transmitted via magnetic induction using the player’s magnetic volume knob and an Arduino processing board to sense the tag and extract its contents. (Pictures of Parra’s Arduino and the player’s insides here if you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.)
How you go about encoding your playlists on the RFID tags is a little equivocal, but it sounds like this is done by connecting the player to a computer via USB. This should automatically call up Spotify and begin configuration. The RFID tags are read-write, so once the tag is connected to the player (while the player is connected to your computer), you can change your songs or link to a new playlist.
The player is sold with a unique serial number that will essentially register your device with Parra, though “register” may be a strong word in this case. The serial number allows Parra (and perhaps his future company) to track the player and its corresponding tags. Obviously, as you may have guessed, RFID technology has the potential for myriad security and privacy issues. (Think of the ad technology in Minority report that is essentially Philip K. Dick’s conjecture on RFID technology.) So, this will require some sensitivity on Parra’s part should the player end up being sold at market by Spotify.
Though the inner workings of the device works may sound a bit complex at first glance, the UI is sleek and simple. Use the two small buttons in the lower left corner of the speaker (as seen in the above image) to skip to the previous and next tracks in your queue. The adjacent magnetized knob holds your tags and controls volume. The slick packaging that would ship with the player will include 8 RFID tags (which incidentally look suspiciously like pogs), a USB cable, and a stand for the tags.
It seems that, thanks to collective consciousness (or the relative novelty of applying RFID tech to music players), a few other designers and firms have been developing their own RFID devices. You can check out IDEO’s retro (whoa! Cassettes! Turntables!) player here. Or this guy’s squeezebox here.
You can also check out Jordi Parra’s blog for a stroll through the product’s development.
On Friday the WSJ published an article entitled “Apple’s Jobs Calls Shots From Home” which depicted the Apple CEO as still having a generous hand in the day to day going ons of the company despite being on medical leave. Jobs involvement comes as no surprise, as Jobs himself said in the statement announcing his absence, “I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.”
Along with proof that Jobs has kept his word, the WSJ has somehow tapped into the motherlode of people familiar with Apple this week, publishing reports on multiple product developments, from the existence of a cheaper iPhone nano, to the possibility of MobileMe being available for free as well as the chance it might be turned into cloud-based storage for iTunes media. The WSJ also hints that Steve Jobs has returned to campus specifically to focus on these and other upcoming projects, including the new iPad.
As speculation as to what the reported Jobs appearances may mean nears fever pitch, we have confirmed that he indeed has been making the rounds, and that he isn’t on campus for any one reason according to a source. In any case, the sight of Jobs returning to work instills hope at both Cupertino and beyond. On Friday, the same day as the WSJ story, I received the following email from an Apple employee, with their take on what their former CEO’s reappearance may mean.
The note was so eloquent and timeless it bears republishing here.
Double rainbows, and what they mean
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things.”
—Apple Think Different ad campaign
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple as Interim CEO, he worked with Chiat Day to create an ad campaign to answer: “Who is Apple, and what is it we stand for? Where do fit in this world?” The Think Different campaign featured Jobs’s personal heroes: Einstein, Gandhi, Picasso, and others. Yet looking at the campaign today, it feels like it applies as much to Steve Jobs himself as it does to the people he featured.
For that reason, when Steve Jobs sent an email on January 17 of this year to Apple employees announcing that he was taking an indefinite medical leave of absence, there was a sadness that, perhaps, the tech community had limited time to spend with someone who, like him or hate him, was “crazy enough to think he could change the world”.
While the financial markets didn’t reflect a sense of panic or sorrow (Apple’s stock price is higher today than when the news was announced on January 17) many people in Silicon Valley felt that the indefinite leave implied that Steve Jobs was moving out of day to day work and essentially retiring from Apple, never to return.
It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise when reports began surfacing that Steve Jobs was spotted back on Apple’s campus only 2 weeks after his announcement. The Wall Street Journal ran a story on February 11 that not only was Steve Jobs “taking business meetings at home and on the phone” he had also “been seen on Apple’s Cupertino campus”. Reports have surfaced on other websites that Steve Jobs has in fact been on campus frequently, meeting with executives and having his lunch meetings in the cafeteria with SVP of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive. For many who have seen Steve Jobs at Apple recently, this is a “double rainbow” moment: a mixture of awe, excitement, and confusion.
So what does it mean?
Financially, these reports will likely do little to move Apple’s stock price, just as the original announcement had a muted response. But this isn’t about stock price. It’s also not about computers, phones, operating systems, App stores, or televisions. It’s about community. And knowing that someone that has been a part of that community for decades is still there: browsing lunch options in the cafeteria, walking around with his coworkers and doing his best to contribute something meaningful.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary,” Steve Jobs said in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.
It feels appropriate to take a moment now to reflect on those words, our community, and our time here.
The mobile market has had an unusually exciting past couple of weeks, with news of the Nokia and Microsoft partnership and HP launching a suite of devices based around its newly acquired webOs making headlines. But bold moves by competitors haven’t shaken the market’s faith in Apple, as our tipster and the WSJ point out, Apple stock has risen 2.4% to $356.85 a share since Jobs announced his leave and COO Tim Cook took over on January 17th.
As my colleague MG Siegler touched on, this market optimism is parallel to what happened during Jobs’ six month leave in 2009. After an initial hit, Apple’s stock price bounced back due to a series of product updates including iPhone OS 3, the iPhone 3GS, and OS X Snow Leopard. If we can glean anything from the stream of media reports in the past couple of days, history is at least trying to repeat itself.
Alluding to a popular Internet meme where a man expresses extreme amounts of emotion over the sighting of a double rainbow, our Apple tipster refers to a Jobs appearance as “double rainbow” moment: “a mixture of awe, excitement, and confusion.” And whether we’re reading about it in an article or seeing Jobs himself unexpectedly lunching in the cafeteria, we’re all still left asking “What does it mean?”