Tripp Mickle — After Steve: How Apple became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul

Malgré son sous-titre tapageur, After Steve échappe aux écueils qui condamnent tant de livres sur Apple. Ni Tim Cook ni Jony Ive n’ont répondu aux questions de Tripp Mickle, bien sûr, mais le reporter du New York Times exploite judicieusement ses dizaines d’entretiens et des centaines d’articles de la presse spécialisée. Là où d’autres convoquent des sources de troisième main, voire supputent en oubliant d’employer le conditionnel, Mickle se contente d’un silence honnête.

Autant dire qu’il se tait souvent : After Steve est un livre elliptique, trop allusif pour les profanes et trop vague pour les experts, ce qui m’interroge toujours sur le public de ce genre d’ouvrages qui semblent n’avoir d’autre intérêt que d’ajouter une ligne au CV de leur auteur. En montrant les névroses de Jony Ive et les hésitations de Tim Cook, c’est-à-dire les failles des humains qui font la machine, Mickle finit par prouver l’inverse de sa thèse. Mais il le fait mieux que n’importe quel livre sur le sujet paru depuis la mort de Steve Jobs.

Notes

Le control freak :

Control became part of Ive’s ethos. He began extending his influence beyond sketches and models to materials. He co-opted Forlenza, turning the operations executive into an extension of the design studio. Ive disliked the name of Forlenza’s operations team: Enclosures. One day in the studio with Forlenza, Ive went to a whiteboard with a red pen and scribbled a dozen alternatives on the board, finally underlining the term “manufacturing design,” combining it with the names of the teams he worked most closely with: industrial design and product design. The result was a triangle of design that would shape Apple’s products for years. The industrial designers defined how the product looked; the product designers determined how the components worked; and the manufacturing designers oversaw the way everything was assembled. Although product design reported to hardware and manufacturing design reported to operations, the leaders of both groups embraced the opportunity to work closely with the studio. They spent much of their time with Ive, who was quietly reshaping the company to put the design studio at the forefront of operations. With time, he would teach the group to think of themselves as craftsmen, an extension of him.

Le flegme britannique… jusqu’à un certain point :

Ive’s tangles with Rubinstein showed his willingness to play internal politics. Some colleagues considered him to be the most politically shrewd member of Apple’s leadership team. He earned a reputation on campus as a British gentleman, often opening and holding doors for colleagues, even years after he had become one of the company’s top executives. He had a generous spirit and endeared himself to colleagues by arranging the delivery of flowers or champagne to their hotel rooms during family vacations. A by-product of that kindness and generosity was greater loyalty across a company that worked to bring his designs to life. […] “Being a British gentleman can be a tool,” said Parsey, a Brit whom Ive had displaced as the number two of the design team. “It opens doors like you wouldn’t believe. That doesn’t mean that’s who you are. It’s a tool. Look at all the British classics, how they charm their way in, these guys are fucking pirates stealing countries.” […] Don’t talk to Jony unless spoken to.

Forstall avait raison :

Software chief Scott Forstall, another of Jobs’s favorites, raised concerns. The engineer behind the iPhone’s operating system worried that strapping a miniature computer to people’s wrists would distract them from everyday life. He feared that it would amplify an unintended consequence of the iPhone, a device so engrossing that it consumed attention, disrupted conversation, and endangered drivers. He fretted that a watch would worsen the interruptions in everyday life by moving notifications from people’s pockets and purses to their wrists. Though he didn’t rule out a watch, he said it should have capabilities beyond those already available on an iPhone. He preached caution.

La conception d’interfaces n’est pas une conception graphique :

Ive’s focus on visual styling vexed the software design team. Though they obsessed over colors and shapes, they prioritized how people interacted with the phone and often built demonstrations of the software they planned to introduce so they could experience how intuitive it would be for users and adjust as needed. Many of them believed that design was how the software behaved and thought that Ive was myopically focused on how it looked. Tensions emerged between the conflicting philosophies as he pushed to eliminate the dark borders around the buttons inside apps. Some members of the team thought those lines helped users quickly identify what button to press when they clicked through a screen. Without them, they worried, the buttons would blur indistinctly into the background, forcing users to search for where to click. At Ive’s direction, they shifted from demonstrating how an app worked to making paper printouts that showed how an app looked. They became more like graphic designers than software savants.

La poubelle à la poubelle :

When the Computer Launched months later, customer interest fell short of what Apple had hoped. After the initial sales of about twenty thousand units, orders plummeted, and the company wound up slashing production. It became known inside the company as “the failed trash can.”

De l’abus de bien social à Cupertino :

The camera design took more than nine months and required 561 different models before Ive was satisfied. Apple estimated that fifty-five engineers had spent a combined 2,100 hours on it. The company reused some of the manufacturing techniques in future Apple products, including the laser-etching process for MacBook speakers. Keats did the final assembly by hand and traveled to Germany to have Leica’s engineers ensure that the camera worked.

Un burn-out à 350 milliards :

Ive could feel his creative spirit dimming. Behind the scenes, he had spent much of the past three years engaged in corporate conflict. He had tussled over whether to develop a watch with former software chief Scott Forstall. He had then battled over which of its features to promote with chief marketer Phil Schiller. Concurrently, he had confronted rising concerns about costs as he selected construction materials for Apple Park. And he had been sapped by the additional responsibility of managing dozens of software designers. He navigated it all without the support and collaboration of Jobs, the creative partner whom he hadn’t fully mourned. The entirety of it left him feeling exhausted and lonely.

Une boutique Apple dans un bus sur les routes chinoises, parce que pourquoi pas :

In the midst of working on the stores, Ive consulted for Ahrendts on a project she had dreamed up to further Apple’s business in China. She wanted to introduce a fleet of buses that would become Apple Stores on wheels, traveling around the world’s most populous nation selling iPhones in cities and towns where the company didn’t have a store. The plan called for the buses to return each night to a depot where they could be cleaned before being dispatched again the next day. Some members of Ahrendts’s team scoffed at the absurdity of enlisting one of the world’s great designers to work on upscale Greyhound buses.

Les larmes de Jony :

To avoid looking as though they had just stepped out of a boxing ring, staff began walking around the building with their arms held out like zombies, hoping their fingers would hit the glass before their faces did. Apple rushed to address the issue by ordering miles of black stickers to apply around the building. Senior executives and members of Apple’s business strategy team, among the first to move into the new building, assisted maintenance staff in what employees called “an emergency sticker job.” The black dots stood out as the only visible imperfections in a space where indoors and outdoors blurred together, courtesy of the never-ending glass. Staff began calling the stickers “Jony’s tears.”

Le produit conçu par Cook ? La nouvelle Apple :

After years of being hounded by the same question—What’s the next new device?—Cook had finally delivered his answer: There isn’t one. His message hadn’t been aimed at Main Street; it was for Wall Street. He wanted investors to see that Apple was making a major shift. Rather than its products creating glory, Cook outlined a future in which Apple basked in the glory of others. He didn’t want to merely update the iPhone every year; he wanted people to pay Apple subscription fees for the movies they watched on that iPhone. He didn’t want to enable digital payments; he wanted Apple to be the processor of every transaction. And he didn’t want Apple to make the screen on which people read articles; he wanted to sell access to the magazines they read.