With Jony Ive’s Successor, Apple Bets a Pragmatist Can Turn Prophet

Design has been central to Apple’s formula since Steve Jobs, with help from Mr. Ive, revived the company in the 1990s. Putting Mr. Williams in charge marks a departure for Apple: Never before has core product creation been directly managed by someone who ascended through the operating ranks—a staid domain of planning, procurement and logistics.

Apple didn’t make Mr. Williams available for this article, but people who have worked with him say he has been more visible in the product-development process than Mr. Cook. Mr. Williams has shown interest in products’ look and feel, they said, and helped steer the Apple Watch from being a fashion- and fitness-focused product tethered to the iPhone to one that boasts wireless connectivity and more health features, one of his priorities.

Still, 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.

Apple has sought to emphasize Mr. Williams’s involvement in product development, which encompasses research and development, as well as the business strategy behind bringing new products to life. His biography on Apple’s website was recently changed to read: “Jeff led the development of Apple Watch in close collaboration with the design team, and oversees the engineering teams responsible for Apple Watch.” Until late last month, that section read: “He also oversees the development of Apple Watch,” according to an archived version of the page.

Apple declined to comment on the change.

Some close Apple watchers say Mr. Williams’s new responsibility makes sense given the difficulty anyone outside the company’s executive team would face replacing Mr. Ive. His role entailed leading a team that helped conceptualize products and turn those ideas into elegant, functional physical forms, collaborating with software, hardware and operations divisions, said people familiar with the process.

Indeed, pressure is growing on Apple to find new product successes. Sales of the iPhone are sputtering, and strength in newer items including the watch and the AirPods wireless earbuds hasn’t made up the difference. In the latest quarter, sales in Apple’s wearables, home and accessories division—which also includes Apple TV and iPod and Beats products—totaled $5.1 billion. However, the total decline in iPhone revenue from a year earlier was $6.5 billion.

Apple Music and other services are growing quickly, but the company needs sustained hardware sales to keep the audience for that business growing.

“Phones have plateaued, so what’s the next vision?” said Sean Stannard-Stockton, president of Ensemble Capital of Burlingame, Calif., which sold its position in Apple in late 2018 after a decade as a top holding. “You could have looked at Jony and said: ‘He’s the soul of Steve Jobs.’ I just wonder about their ability to invent the future now.”

Mr. Williams will have a pair of deputies to help him with that effort, not to mention years steeped in the product culture that Mr. Jobs created. Apple last week named Mr. Ive’s former top lieutenant, Evans Hankey, as vice president of its legendary industrial design studio. Ms. Hankey, a product-design graduate from Stanford University, joined the industrial design team about 12 years ago and has managed the design studio for several years. She has shared in a host of product design patents over the years.

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Mr. Williams, who is 56 years old, also will oversee a team of software designers led by vice president of human interface design Alan Dye. A graphic designer who joined Apple’s marketing and communications team in 2006, Mr. Dye has largely led that team for more than five years.

An Apple spokesman declined to make Ms. Hankey and Mr. Dye available.

Mr. Williams, who received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at North Carolina State University, shares much with Mr. Cook. Both earned M.B.A.s at Duke University, and both previously worked at International Business Machines Corp. —a onetime Apple nemesis. Mr. Cook preceded Mr. Williams as Apple’s chief operating officer before his selection as Mr. Jobs’s successor as CEO in 2011.

Mr. Williams’s involvement in product development has grown over more than a decade. After Tony Fadell, co-creator of the iPod, left Apple in 2008, Mr. Jobs put Mr. Williams on a leadership team with Mr. Ive responsible for developing the iPhone 4, said a member of the team.

Some engineers and designers questioned how a supply-chain executive from IBM could replace Mr. Fadell, this person said, but Mr. Williams quieted doubters.

The iPhone 4 featured a glass back instead of the plastic used on past models. During a thermal-engineering meeting, Mr. Williams probed the engineers with questions about how new materials would affect device performance, this person said. He also picked up the prototype to evaluate how it felt. “It was impressive for a negotiator, and spreadsheet guy, and it just came naturally to him,” this person said.

Carolina Milanesi, a technology analyst with Creative Strategies, said Mr. Williams’s operations background could be an asset in his new role. “You need to have a balance between what is possible and what makes sense,” she said. “If everyone came at it from a design perspective, that may not lead to the best possible product.”

Trump Lies About Paul Manafort and “Tim Apple”: A Closer Look

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump lying about everything from Paul Manafort’s sentencing to a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Eric Prince argues that the Senate transcript of his testimony is wrong.

Damage Control at Facebook: 6 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation

In fall 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, was publicly declaring it a “crazy idea” that his company had played a role in deciding the election. But security experts at the company already knew otherwise.

They found signs as early as spring 2016 that Russian hackers were poking around the Facebook accounts of people linked to American presidential campaigns. Months later, they saw Russian-controlled accounts sharing information from hacked Democratic emails with reporters. Facebook accumulated evidence of Russian activity for over a year before executives opted to share what they knew with the public — and even their own board of directors.

In 2015, when the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump called for a ban of Muslim immigrants, Facebook employees and outside critics called on the company to punish Mr. Trump. Mr. Zuckerberg considered it — asking subordinates whether Mr. Trump had violated the company’s rules and whether his account should be suspended or the post removed.

But while Mr. Zuckerberg was personally offended, he deferred to subordinates who warned that penalizing Mr. Trump would set off a damaging backlash among Republicans.

Mr. Trump’s post remained up.

As criticism grew over Facebook’s belated admissions of Russian influence, the company launched a lobbying campaign — overseen by Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer — to combat critics and shift anger toward rival tech firms.

Facebook hired Senator Mark Warner’s former chief of staff to lobby him; Ms. Sandberg personally called Senator Amy Klobuchar to complain about her criticism. The company also deployed a public relations firm to push negative stories about its political critics and cast blame on companies like Google.

Those efforts included depicting the billionaire liberal donor George Soros as the force behind a broad anti-Facebook movement, and publishing stories praising Facebook and criticizing Google and Apple on a conservative news site.

Facebook faced worldwide outrage in March after The Times, The Observer of London and The Guardian published a joint investigation into how user data had been appropriated by Cambridge Analytica to profile American voters. But inside Facebook, executives thought they could contain the damage. The company installed a new chief of American lobbying to help quell the bipartisan anger in Congress, and it quietly shelved an internal communications campaign, called “We Get It,” meant to assure employees that the company was committed to getting back on track in 2018.

Sensing Facebook’s vulnerability, some rival tech firms in Silicon Valley sought to use the outcry to promote their own brands. After Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, quipped in an interview that his company did not traffic in personal data, Mr. Zuckerberg ordered his management team to use only Android phones. After all, he reasoned, the operating system had far more users than Apple’s.

Washington’s senior Democrat, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, raised more money from Facebook employees than any other member of Congress during the 2016 election cycle — and he was there when the company needed him.

This past summer, as Facebook’s troubles mounted, Mr. Schumer confronted Mr. Warner, who by then had emerged as Facebook’s most insistent inquisitor in Congress. Back off, Mr. Schumer told Mr. Warner, and look for ways to work with Facebook, not vilify it. Lobbyists for Facebook — which also employs Mr. Schumer’s daughter — were kept abreast of Mr. Schumer’s efforts.

 

Related:

What Facebook Knew and Tried to Hide (28 min audio)

What Facebook Knew and Tried to Hide

Even when the Facebook leaders understood the problem, they tried to hide it.

Right after the election Zuckerburg was dismissive of the idea that Fake News influenced the election.

People within the company thought he was out of touch.

At the time Facebook was under pressure.

Trump had won the election using social media, but Facebook was dismissive.

Facebook employees saw the tip of the iceberg .  They had been following Russian

Mark wanted to find a technical fix.

Sheryl was thinking about the legal risk and was wondering whether they would find out things they didn’t want to know.  Sheryl was thinking about what the consequences would be.

Sheryl yelled at the security team for investigating Russian interference without formal approval.

The leadership was concerned that Washington was controlled by conservatives who would have an adverse reaction to an investigation or efforts to curb this activity.  Conservatives already think Silicon Valley is a bunch of hippies.

There was pressure within Facebook not to publish anything linking activity back to Russia.  Sheryl(?) also signed off on a policy not to take down the Russian troll accounts.

Mark Zuckerburg was traveling the country, milking cows, and acting as though he wanted to run for President.

Sheryl Sandberg was running her own “Lean-In” brand.

Alex Stamos (Security Chief) briefs the audit committee and the board’s response is to yell at Mark(?) and Sheryl(?)

The leadership holds a big meeting and Sheryl yells at Alex Stamos for

  • not briefing her fully
  • admitting that they hadn’t fully got a grip on the situation
  • suggesting that Russia would likely do this again in the future

Alex has gotten in trouble in the past for being too transparent

The Cambridge Analytical Scandal illustrates:

  • The consequences of surveillance capitalism
  • The potential of Facebook to influence elections

Apple CEO Tim Cook castigates Facebook for their business model.

Facebook conducts an advertising campaign and privately goes on attack using the Washington PR opposition research campaign, which uses the NTK network which publishes propaganda.

Confronted with a Propaganda Scandal, they turn to a PR campaign to create their own Propaganda.

Attacks Apple and Tim Cook.  Attack George Soros, arguing the Facebook’s criticism was masterminded by George Soros.  In taking on Soros they are getting into the smear and conspiracy business.

 

Related:

Damage Control at Facebook: 6 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation