Feature Article

April 11, 2014

Comings & Goings: Creator of the iPhone User Interface Leaves Apple After Clash with Jony Ive

The Apple rumor mill is churning again, and the latest tidbit to roll out of the mill is that iPhone interface creator Greg Christie is leaving the company. This comes after a supposed falling out with Jonathan Ive. I think that it is safe to say that since Tim Cook became Apple’s CEO that there have been a lot of shakeups within the company. Most of the shakeups involve the separation between hardware and software.

When Scott Forstall left Apple, the company’s lead hardware designer Jony Ive assumed a greater role, providing leadership and direction for Apple’s Human Interface (HI) group. These duties were added on top of his longtime role as the leader of Industrial Design.

Christie has been Apple’s human interface design chief for a very long time. He has been a part of Apple and the technology industry long enough to have worked on the first Newton and the transition of Mac OS to OS X and its Aqua interface in the early 2000s.

A 9to5Mac blog posting this week mentioned that “the design shake-up at Apple will result in Christie soon leaving the company, with all software designers now working directly under Ive with the rest of his industrial design team instead of within Federighi’s engineering group. Sources say that Christie’s upcoming departure is significant and stems from a falling out with Ive.”

In the past, Christie has worked intensely with Ive, as well as the late Steve Jobs. The falling out between these two apparently stems from disputes concerning designs to iOS 7. The departure was first reported by 9to5Mac, who also pointed toward a design team shake-up spearheaded by Ive.

According to 9to5Mac, “When Ive tasked Apple’s Human Interface team with redesigning iOS 7 to include an entirely new look, Christie and Ive reportedly clashed over design direction, after which Ive is said to have circumvented Christie’s leadership of the team during the new operating system’s development.”

9to5Mac also states that Christie’s upcoming leave from Apple will mark one of the most significant design exits in several years. It will represent a complete changing of the guard for Apple’s software design style.

Over a two year period we will have seen both Scott Forstall and Christie leave Apple. This means that Ive will have secured his position at Apple as the central product design decision maker for the foreseeable future.  It is said that Ive is set to “completely subsume” Apple’s software design group soon.

Subsume is a verb that comes from the Latin words sub, which means “from below,” and sumere, which means “take.” So subsume means “to take from below,” like a sneak attack by some kind of deep-sea creature.  The definitions of subsume is to include or place within something larger or more comprehensive, to encompass as a subordinate or component element.

An official statement from Apple reads: “Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple. 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.”

Apple has been involved in quite a few patent infringement lawsuits from several of companies, most notably, Samsung. Christie has been a regular fixture in court regarding patents and designs about the iPhone interface. In fact, it appears that Christie also has hundreds of Apple patents in his name.

Christie’s name is on the famous slide-to-unlock patent and he has also been credited with at least one more invention, both of which are now being asserted against Samsung in the second California trial. Since it is unclear at this time if Christie plans to join another company or retire from the industry completely, it is also unclear as to what will happen with these patents.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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