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Apple goes with minimalist vision

| Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

As Jony Ive worked on early iPhone designs before and since its 2007 introduction, he regularly held meetings in his design studio to get input from top Apple Inc. executives — except one: Scott Forstall.

Even as Forstall oversaw the group responsible for the software that would run the iPhone, he didn't participate in the meetings, according to people with knowledge of the matter who requested anonymity because the meetings were private. Ive and Forstall were rarely in same room, the people said.

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook made a choice between the two men this week, forcing out Forstall and leaving Ive in charge of the look and function of the software running everything from the iPod Touch to the top-of-the-line Mac. Ive will be free to impart his minimalist aesthetic on familiar services such as the iPhone operating system while making commands more compatible from one product to the next. He will probably move away from using icons that look like real-world products, such as Post-It Notes and leather-bound contact books.

Still, with a background mainly in hardware, Ive could struggle to adapt to the demands of managing software interfaces, which are typically revamped once a year and undergo many smaller changes in between, said former colleagues such as Brett Halle.

“This makes a lot of sense, in terms of getting consistency of the user experience,” said Halle, a 21-year Apple veteran who worked on operating systems before his departure in March. “I'm concerned only as to whether he has enough experience to understand the complexity of the software side of this.”

Clashes between Forstall and other senior managers since co-founder Steve Jobs' death a year ago made it harder for teams to work together, threatening Apple's ability to keep producing the kinds of electronics that made it the most valuable company.

Jobs was able to keep the executives' long-simmering tension under control. Cook made the final decision to revamp management after Forstall refused to sign a public apology for the mishandling of mapping software, sources said.

Ive, 45, takes on the role Jobs held of setting Apple's design vision, with responsibility for a group within Apple called Human Interface, which had been run by Forstall before he was pushed out. Ive shares the attention to detail and perfectionistic zeal that characterized both Jobs and Forstall.

Yet he contrasts with Forstall in key ways. Forstall was a polished presenter who enjoyed the limelight at Apple keynotes. Ive made rare appearances, preferring instead to appear in videos about the making of the product of the day.

Forstall was also the most divisive member of Apple's executive team, people who worked with him told Bloomberg Businessweek last year.

Supporters admire Forstall's ability to manage massive technical complexity while pushing his team to innovate. Critics said he was overly concerned with empire building and pushing through favored features while blocking other teams' ideas. British-born Ive is known for his deliberate choice of words, and for crediting team members while minimizing his own role.

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