Apple’s design process highlighted in Time cover story

Apple’s design process highlighted in Time cover story 1

The October 24th edition of Time magazine features a cover story on Apple and how the company is different from others when it comes to designing new products. While Apple CEO Steve Jobs is featured on the cover holding the new fifth-generation iPod, most of the article is devoted to analyzing the design process at Apple. The cover story contains some choice quotes from a number of Apple executives, including Jobs, Jonathan Ive and Tony Fadell. A paid subscription is required to read the full article.

Time’s Lev Grossman says that there are two things going on inside Apple—collaboration and control. When it comes to a new product, it’s a joint effort—the company does not pass a product down the line, from team to team. “There aren’t discrete, sequential development stages,” explains Grossman. “Instead, it’s simultaneous and organic. Products get worked on in parallel by all departments at once—design, hardware, software—in endless rounds of interdisciplinary design reviews.”

Jobs compares Apple’s design process to other companies. “You know how you see a show car,” Jobs says, “and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory! What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, ‘Nah, we can’t do that. That’s impossible.’ And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, ‘We can’t build that!’ And it gets a lot worse.”

Time’s Grossman describes the “control” of Jobs: “Sure, Jobs is perfectly pleasant to be around. And he pays attention to what you’re saying, but if he disagrees with it… he’ll come storming back and hammer at you until you change your mind or at least shut up… In other words, Jobs is into control. In itself, that is of no real importance, except that in a lot of ways, Apple is an expression of Jobs’ personal ethos.”

Finally, Jobs talks of the new iPod’s potential. “There is no market today for portable video,” he says. “We’re going to sell millions of these to people who want to play their music, and video is going to come along for the ride. Anyone who wants to put out video content will put it out for this. And we’ll find out what happens.”

  1. good article… really good. I must say that I would really like to work at Apple. Sincerely, I have always hated the way big companies like Microsoft and Sony treat new ideas (putting them in a desk drawer just in case they ever feel like using them). And here is Jobs… and he likes using them imediately. that is really great!

  2. I still don’t see the market for portable video. Sure, it’s a nice bonus feature, and will have the techies buying it just for the sake of the technology. But think: who *really* will use this? It’s a tiny market compared to the market for portable audio.

    The whole ‘Ipod Photo’ thing kinda flopped, and I really can’t see portable video taking off, either. With music, you don’t have to watch anything, hence the ease of portability.

    Again, nice bonus, but will not be the main factor. If Apple shifts the iPod to a mainly video device, that will spell doom. Music has to always be the focus for it.

  3. yes, good analogy. people driving those ugly japanese cars don’t have style anyway. come on, a mustang is only 20.000 $ – life is short !

  4. Jobs has the right idea – its still a music player foremost, video capability is just another addition. Successive generations of iPods have improved features and functionality drawing more and more buyers with each iteration of the product. Ofcourse they get to test the video market along the way.

  5. Obviously Steve Jobs has never been involved in the production process of something as complicated as a real vehicle, which actually moves good and services at high speed and with exceptional safety. I am sure an ‘Apple Car’ would cost the same as a Lamborghini and have the performance of a Kia… it will also be available in any colour as long as it is white!

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