With Retirement of Christie, Ive Will Continue His Expansion Into Software
April 9, 2014 6:14 p.m. ET
Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, will be expanding his role at the company. Roger Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technologies, discusses what that means for Apple on Lunch Break. Photo: Getty Images.
In an internal email, Apple said Greg Christie, who led the company's "human interface" team that designs software for its products, is retiring, according to people who have seen the email.
Mr. Christie's group will report to Mr. Ive, who is Apple's senior vice president of design, according to the email. The team previously reported to Craig Federighi, Apple's software chief.
Apple's Inner Circle
"Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple," said a company spokesman. "He has made vital contributions to Apple products across the board, and built a world-class human interface team which has worked closely with [Jonathan] for many years."
Mr. Christie, an 18-year Apple veteran, is one of its most senior software designers and played a key role in designing the software for the iPhone. Mr. Christie testified for Apple last week in its patent-infringement suit against Samsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE +0.66% Just before the trial, he was featured in a Wall Street Journal article about the creation of the iPhone.
His departure from the company comes as Mr. Ive, revered for orchestrating the design of Apple's hardware, has expanded his role into software. Mr. Ive played a central role in redesigning iOS 7, the latest version of its iPhone and iPad software. That version moved away from "skeuomorphism"—a design philosophy of recreating real-world objects, such as wood or felt, in digital forms that users find familiar. Mr. Ive has called the new minimalist look of iOS 7 "an important new direction," although reviews have been mixed.
Next to Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, Mr. Ive is the company's most recognizable executive. A confidant of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs who regularly appears in videos for new products, Mr. Ive is seen as a torchbearer for Apple's design sensibility.
Mr. Christie's departure was first reported by Apple enthusiast website 9to5Mac. A person familiar with the matter said Messrs. Christie and Ive sometimes struggled to agree on software-design decisions.
Mr. Christie joined Apple in 1996 to work on the Newton, the company's short-lived personal digital assistant that had a touch screen and a stylus. He also worked extensively on the Mac's operating system before being roped into the early development team for the iPhone.
He is listed as an inventor on nearly 100 Apple patents. On Tuesday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Mr. Christie a patent for a way to unlock a phone on a touch-screen display. He has 31 more applications pending with the patent office.
He is listed as one of the inventors in the "slide to unlock" patent, one of the five features that Apple is accusing Samsung of infringing upon in the current lawsuit. On the stand, Mr. Christie detailed how the iPhone came to dominate his life for the 2½ years before its release in 2007.
"From 2005 through to the announcement in January and sale in June 2007, it was pretty much nonstop. You had to be prepared to discuss what you were working on at any time of the day, any day of the week, any week of the month," Mr. Christie testified.