告别艾夫的苹果如何摆脱“iPhone瘾”?

英国《金融时报》 社评
2019.07.01 12:00

乔纳森•艾夫爵士(Sir Jonathan Ive)将永远被誉为帮助一家挣扎中的电脑公司扭转颓势、最终成为世界上首家万亿美元企业的那个设计师。苹果公司(Apple)首席设计官离职去成立一家新的设计公司,标志着工业设计史翻开新的一页。出生于英国、2012年被封为爵士的艾夫,帮助苹果成为一家围绕创新设计打造起来的设备制造商。该公司将需要保持他的创造性方法,即使它正在转型,减轻其对iPhone作为主要创收来源的依赖度。

艾夫在1992年加入苹果,不久后,该公司遇到财务困难。史蒂夫•乔布斯(Steve Jobs)在1997年的回归帮助逆转了下坡路。两人之间的深厚友谊和创意合作伙伴关系,是苹果融合形式与功能、软件和硬件的核心关键。对于他最著名的发明iPhone,艾夫借鉴了德国博朗公司(Braun)前首席设计师迪特•拉姆斯(Dieter Rams)的风格。现代主义外观紧扣其主要产品创新——多点触控屏幕。苹果并没有发明智能手机,但它孕育了智能手机经久不衰的美感。

尚不清楚艾夫与苹果之间的未来关系将会如何。尽管如此,他辞去首席设计官一职之际,三分之二营收来自iPhone销售的该公司面临的不确定性正在增加。几个主要市场遭遇放缓:在中国,上个季度的销售额比2018年同期下降近22%。用户升级速度比过去慢,他们批评高昂价格以及新款产品比上一代产品升级有限。还有来自其他制造商的激烈竞争。过去10年里,谷歌(Google)、华为(Huawei)和其他科技公司都消化了艾夫在2007年画出的极简主义线条,提供售价更低、配置更高的智能手机。

在6月上旬的苹果开发者大会上,苹果公司通过不发布新款硬件产品——除了一款面向专业人士、形似“奶酪刨丝器”的6000美元电脑工作站——来暗示其希望戒掉自己的iPhone瘾。对消费者而言,服务成为此次大会的焦点。其中包括新的Apple TV+流媒体服务——Netflix和Disney+的竞争对手——以及一款名为Apple Arcade的游戏订阅套餐。对该公司来说,未来意味着只有iPhone是不够的。苹果将不得不向用户销售一个生态系统,包括app、虚拟助理等等,其竞争对手谷歌和亚马逊(Amazon)已在这些领域打开局面。

苹果应该注意竞争对手所构成的威胁。然而,它更大的问题可能是内部重塑及其对创新的影响。尚不清楚新的设计团队会否具有相同的影响力。艾夫一直以来是直接与首席执行官合作的,而他的继任者将向首席运营官汇报。这种安排本身并不注定失败:苹果的设计师与软件工程师之间开展跨学科的团队合作。然而,该公司应该谨慎,确保它不在精简公司架构的同时扼杀未来的产品。

艾夫加入苹果时,后者是一家市场份额较小、用户基础有限的美国公司。部分归功于他的设计能力,他留下了一个全球庞然大物,尽管在经历了持续10年、由iPhone推动的美好时光之后,这个巨擘的未来变得更加阴云密布。他的设计帮助苹果成为一家领先的大型科技公司。

没有艾夫,在苹果进行创新也许是令人生畏的任务。但是,新鲜思维和新鲜血液可能有利于一家企业。苹果在20世纪90年代就经历了这样的扭转。凭借历史教训和强大财力,该公司处于能够另辟蹊径的有利地位。

译者/和风

原文:Leader_Ive departs Apple as it plots its future course

By The editorial board

Jony Ive will be always be hailed as the designer who helped turn a struggling computer company into the world’s first trillion-dollar business. The departure of Apple’s chief design officer to found a new design company signifies the turn of a page in the history of industrial design. The British-born Ive, knighted in 2012, helped turn Apple into a producer of devices built around innovative design. The company will need to maintain his creative approach, even as it pivots away from relying on iPhones as its primary money-spinner.

Sir Jonathan joined Apple in 1992, shortly before it ran into financial difficulties. Steve Jobs’s return in 1997 helped reverse that descent. The deep friendship and creative partnership between the two was central to Apple’s fusing of form and functionality, software and hardware. Sir Jonathan drew on former Braun chief designer Dieter Rams for his most famous invention, the iPhone. Modernist looks were intimately linked to its main product innovation, the multitouch screen. Apple did not invent the smartphone, but it produced its enduring aesthetic.

The future relationship between Sir Jonathan and Apple remains unclear. Nevertheless, his loss as chief design officer comes at a time of growing uncertainty for the company, which derives two-thirds of its revenues from iPhone sales. Key markets have suffered a slowdown: in China, sales fell by nearly 22 per cent in the last quarter compared to 2018. Users are upgrading more slowly than in the past, criticising high costs and the incremental upgrades between generations. There is also stiff competition from other manufacturers. Over the past decade, Google, Huawei and other technology companies have converged on the minimalist lines Sir Jonathan drew in 2007, offering lower-cost and higher-specification phones.

At its developers’ conference this month, Apple hinted at its desire to break its iPhone addiction by the lack of hardware — bar a $6,000 “cheese grater” workstation aimed at professionals — on show. For consumers, services took centre stage. These included the new Apple TV+ streaming service — a rival to Netflix and Disney+ — and a games subscription package called Apple Arcade. The company faces a future in which the iPhone is not enough. Apple will have to sell users an ecosystem including apps, virtual assistants and more, where rivals Google and Amazon have already made inroads.

Apple should be mindful of the threat from competitors. Its bigger problem may be internal reshaping, however, and its impact on innovation. It is unclear whether the new design team will have the same clout. While Sir Jonathan worked directly with the chief executive, his successor will report to the chief operating officer. This is not doomed to failure: Apple runs on cross-disciplinary teamwork between designers and software engineers. It should be wary, however, that it does not stifle future products while streamlining the corporate structure.

Sir Jonathan joined Apple when it was a US company with a small market share and a limited user base. Thanks in part to his design skills he leaves it a global behemoth, though one with a clouded future after a decade of iPhone-fuelled good times. His designs helped turn Apple into a Big Tech leader.

Without Sir Jonathan, innovation at Apple may seem daunting. But fresh thinking and new blood can do a company good. Apple underwent just such a transformation in the 1990s. Armed with lessons from history and a mighty war chest, the company is well placed to think differently.

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