It’s hard to parse what this means because nobody on the outside really has a good idea of what the title change two years ago meant. Jony Ive’s elevation to Chief Design Officer felt like the first steps to his retirement with Howarth and Dye taking up the posts of lead hardware and software design.
Yet, Apple never tipped its hand that Ive was on the way out. I expected Howarth and Dye to slowly start appearing in keynote presentation videos, in interviews, and new product marketing. Ive would slowly fade from relevance in Apple’s public relations before he left for real. That simply didn’t happen. If anything, Ive became even more intertwined into Apple’s public image. He has done countless interviews and photo shoots in the intervening years.
Now, the managerial changes have essentially been reversed to what they were pre-2015. Howarth and Dye have been meekly removed from the Apple Leadership page and Apple told Bloomberg in a statement that they report directly to Ive once more. Was this the plan all along, or was Ive originally planning to retire after Apple Park was done? With no evidence to consider, I tend to lean towards the latter explanation as otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered announcing a role switch-up in the first place.