Jonathan Ive: Apple's Next Project Is 'Most Important,' 'Best Work We've Done'

 @redletterdave on May 24 2012 2:27 PM

During his visit to England this week for his official knighting, Apple's senior VP of industrial design Jonathan Jony Ive, who was also Apple founder Steve Jobs' closest friend and confidant, was asked by The Telegraph what project he would like to be remembered by. Even though Ive is behind some of Apple's most courageous product designs, including the iPod, iPhone and the Sunflower iMac, the design guru actually said Apple's current project could be his finest hour.

It's a really tough [question, Ive said. A lot does seem to come back to the fact that what we're working on now feels like the most important and the best work we've done, and so it would be what we're working on right now, which of course I can't tell you about.

Nobody should be surprised by Ive's tight-lipped response. Apple is extremely secretive about its products in the pipeline: In fact, Ive only lets select employees inside the design studio, located on the ground floor of Two Infinite Loop in Cupertino, Calif., which is completely protected by tinted windows, and a heavy clad, locked door. The main room is filled with workstations, molding machines that can turn computer designs into foam models, and a robot-controlled spray-painting chamber to make the foam models look real. Ive described the room to Jobs' biographer, Walter Isaacson:

This great room is the one place in the company where you can look around and see everything we have in the works, Ive said. When Steve comes in, he will sit at one of these tables. If we're working on a new iPhone, for example, he might grab a stool and start playing with different models and feeling them in his hands, remarking on which ones he likes best. Then he will graze by the other tables, just him and me, to see where all the other products are heading. He can get a sense of the sweep of the whole company, the iPhone and iPad, the iMac and laptop and everything we're considering. That helps him see where the company is spending its energy and how things connect.

But any fan of Apple should be extremely excited by Ive's words. Jobs himself said that if he had an equal at his own company, it would be the British designer, who is virtually autonomous within Apple, reporting only to CEO Tim Cook.

The difference that Jony has made, not only at Apple but in the world, is huge, Jobs once told Isaacson. He is a wickedly intelligent person in all ways. He understands business concepts, marketing concepts. He picks up stuff just like that, click. He understands what we do at our core better than anyone. If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it's Jony.

What Could Apple's Next Great Product Product Be?

Considering how Apple recently released a new iPad and Apple TV device, it's likely that Apple's next project is either a new laptop, desktop, iPhone, or something else entirely -- maybe even a TV?

It does seem like the next product through the Apple pipeline is going to be a new heavily redesigned MacBook Pro laptop. Walt Mossberg, one of the most famous Apple insiders from The Wall Street Journal and an old friend of the late Jobs, advised potential buyers to hold off on buying a MacBook Pro, as most Apple insiders believe the advanced computers will be unveiled in June, just in time for the Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Francisco.

The new MacBook Pro laptops will likely be running the company's next Mac operating system, OS 10.8 Mountain Lion, and the computers are said to feature new Ivy Bridge quad-core processors from Intel, a new version of Thunderbolt, a HiDPI screen with a Retina Display-quality resolution, and a super-slim wedge profile similar to the MacBook Air laptops.

While the new MacBook Pros look to be the best laptops Apple has ever produced, something about Ive's comments makes it seem like this isn't the product he's talking about. For several reasons, Ive is likely talking about a new iPhone.

iPhone rumors have been running rampant for the past year, especially when fans felt duped that Apple released an iPhone 4S instead of an iPhone 5. But that minor setback hasn't stopped Apple fans from guessing and dreaming what could possibly be inside Apple's next-generation smartphone. If any of the company's recently-granted patents are included in the next iPhone, it could easily be the insanely great product that Ive is referring to, and one that would make Jobs proud.

The latest report on the next-gen iPhone, courtesy of 9 to 5 Mac, says Apple is reportedly testing multiple versions of its sixth-generation iPhone, and the displays are not only bigger, but sharper, too. While every iPhone released so far had a 3.5-inch screen, 9 to 5 Mac says all of the new prototypes measure at least 3.95 inches diagonally. This fits with previous reports that said Apple was working with new screens that measured at least 4 inches diagonally, and had been working with several screen manufacturers in Asia to make it happen, including LG Display, Sharp and Japan Display, a merger of Sony, Hitachi and Toshiba's mobile display businesses. 

Apple has patented several new features for iPhones, including 3D photography, advanced haptics, crack-proof glass, and a digital system for making payments and tracking one's financial accounts, called the iWallet. With several other possible features to look forward to, as well as upgrades for each of the features in the iPhone 4S (better camera, battery, network connectivity, etc.), the next iPhone looks to be the best one yet.

It makes the most sense that Ive is referring to an iPhone here. Only Ive would feel truly proud of a product that can fit so much technology into the palm of your hand, and this phone looks to come jam-packed with groundbreaking technology that few have ever dreamed of in a smartphone. Ive will never tell what he was referring to on that day in England, but we'll just have to wait a few more months --okay, maybe several -- until both of these products are released.

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