When Apple announced that design chief Sir Jony Ive was on his way out of Apple after almost 30 years, it was also confirmed that Jeff Williams would be taking his place of sorts. Already Chief Operating Officer, Williams will now be in charge of product design. But that’s left many uneasy. The Wall Street Journal has shared information on Williams’ history within Apple.
As some inside and outside of Apple have said, Williams may actually be a legitimate successor for CEO Tim Cook when he steps aside. Williams is more visible during the product development cycle than Cook. In fact, recent murmurings have Cook almost completely out of the loop on products until just prior to their announcement. With Williams, that seems to very much not be the case.
Many of the people talking with the WSJ say that Williams was involved in the development of the iPhone 4 and was also an important factor in Apple’s decision to pivot the Apple Watch from a fashion accessory to one more suited to health and fitness monitoring. Ive famously wanted the Apple Watch to compete with Swiss watches, even leading to the costly Apple Watch Edition, which dutifully flopped due to its $17,000 asking price.
While there seems little doubt in Williams’ abilities as a key part of the Apple machine, some do still have concerns about whether he is suited to something so design oriented, however.
Mr. Williams is an operations executive at his core, the people said, and his skills at logistics and planning make him more implementer than inventor. “He sees where we are, not where we need to be in years to come,” said a former colleague, who also praised Mr. Williams’s leadership, versatility and encyclopedic memory.
With Ive set to leave Apple before the end of the year, there is one thing that the WSJ piece makes clear. Williams is likely to come to the fore in the coming months and years. Expect to see him pushed forward more often, no doubt much more than Ive ever was, especially if he is indeed being groomed as a potential Cook successor.
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