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Jonathan Ive, Apple's Design Guru, On What Competitors Are Doing Wrong

Jonathan Ive Apple

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 03/12/2012 10:09 am Updated: 03/12/2012 5:05 pm

What are Apple's competitors doing wrong?

Apple's design guru Sir Jonathan Ive, the company's senior vice president of industrial design, has some thoughts on the matter, which he shared in an interview with the Evening Standard's Mark Prigg.

In the must-read Q&A with Ive, who is the mastermind behind the iconic appearance of the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad, Ive touches on the differences between London and Silicon Valley, how new products come about at Apple, why consumers have become obsessed with Apple products, how he measures success, and much, much more.

The release of the third generation iPad widened the gap between Apple and its competitors in the tablet market, and left many wondering why rivals had yet to catch up.

According to Slate writer Farhad Manjoo, the iPad is on course to do what Apple's iPod music player did: create an entirely new category of product and then dominate that category in such a way that competition basically falls by the wayside.

Manjoo writes:

[T]here’s a good chance I’ll run out of superlatives to describe Apple’s tremendous, astonishing, stupendous, unbelievable emerging position in the tablet market. But I think the overkill is justified, as I worry that Apple’s rivals haven’t adequately taken stock of the potential disaster that lies ahead of them.

According to Ive, one reason competitors have such a hard time matching Apple's success is because they are coming at their designs from the wrong direction.

Ive told the Evening Standard:

Most of our competitors are interested in doing something different, or want to appear new -- I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us -- a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better.

When Apple begins work on a new offering, Ive said, "Our goals are very simple — to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it."

By all accounts Ive and Apple's approach is working. According to market research firm iHS iSuppli, in 2011, the iPad, commanded over 60 percent of the tablet market share.

Sure, this number fell from 64 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to 57 percent in the fourth quarter, but according to iHS iSuppli this was not due to tablet rivals, but to the success of Apple's own iPhone 4S.

As iHS iSuppli writes in a press release, "The rollout of the iPhone 4S in October generated intense competition for Apple purchasers’ disposable income, doing more to limit iPad shipment growth than competition from the Kindle Fire and other media tablets."

It should be a scary state of affairs for competitors when Apple's main competition is itself.

Want more iPad? Check out how Apple's new iPad compares to the iPad 2, how it compares to Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 and whether the Twitterverse likes the new tablet or not. According to Apple, demand for the new iPad has been "off the charts."

Read the full interview with Ive here.

Flick through the slideshow (below) for a look back at Apple's most iconic products.

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  • 1. Apple I (1976)

    Apple's first product was a computer for hobbyists and engineers, made in small numbers. Steve Wozniak designed it, while Jobs orchestrated the funding and handled the marketing.

  • 2. Apple II (1977)

    One of the first successful personal computers, the Apple II was designed as a mass-market product rather than something for engineers or enthusiasts. It was still largely Wozniak's design. Several upgrades for the model followed, and the product line continued until 1993.

  • 3. Lisa (1983)

    Jobs' visit to Xerox Corp.'s research center in Palo Alto inspired him to start work on the first commercial computer with a graphical user interface, with icons, windows and a cursor controlled by a mouse. It was the foundation for today's computer interfaces, but the Lisa was too expensive to be a commercial success.

  • 4. Macintosh (1984)

    Like the Lisa, the Macintosh had a graphical user interface. It was also cheaper and faster and had the backing of a large advertising campaign behind it. People soon realized how useful the graphical interface was for design. That led "desktop publishing," accomplished with a Mac coupled to a laser printer, to soon become a sales driver.

  • 5. NeXT Computer (1989)

    After being forced out of Apple, Jobs started a company that built a powerful workstation computer. The company was never able to sell large numbers, but the computer was influential: The world's first Web browser was created on one. Its software also lives on as the basis for today's Macintosh and iPhone operating system.

  • 6. iMac (1998)

    When Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, the company was foundering, with an ever shrinking share of the PC market. The radical iMac was the first step in reversing the slide. It was strikingly designed as a bubble of blue plastic that enclosed both the monitor and the computer. Easy to set up, it captured the imagination just as people across the world were having their eyes opened to the benefits of the Internet and considering getting their first home computer.

  • 7. iPod (2001)

    It wasn't the first digital music player with a hard drive, but it was the first successful one. Apple's expansion into portable electronics has had vast ramifications. The iPod's success prepared the way for the iTunes music store and the iPhone.

  • 8. iTunes Store (2003)

    Before the iTunes store, buying digital music was a hassle, making piracy the more popular option. The store simplified the process and brought together tracks from all the major labels. The store became the largest music retailer in the U.S. in 2008.

  • 9. iPhone (2007)

    The iPhone did for the phone experience what the Macintosh did for personal computing - it made the power of a smartphone easy to harness. Apple is now the world's most profitable maker of phones, and the influence of the iPhone is evident in all smartphones.

  • 10. iPad (2010)

    Dozens of companies, including Apple, had created tablet computers before the iPad, but none caught on. The iPad finally cracked the code, creating a whole new category of computer practically by itself.