Greg Christie, who has been at Apple since 1996 and was integral to the team of software engineers who produced the first iPhone, is set to leave Apple, amid rumours of a falling-out with design chief Jony Ive.
Christie was most recently in the news courtesy of his time on the witness stand during the current court battle between Apple and Samsung over patents. He was also interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and NPR about that early period, revealing some surprising influences on the iPhone’s development, such as the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as the album that “would best demonstrate the phone’s ‘cover-flow’ feature for scrolling through images”.
At the Samsung versus Apple court case, Christie recalled how then-senior vice president of iOS Software Scott Forstall had approached him in 2006 and asked him to become involved with the team working on the iPhone. “We started to discuss it a bit further. It was a pretty general description at the time, but it would be touch-based, have a large screen for a phone, but a very small screen for a desktop computer, and my team should start working on designs for it.”
Of course, Forstall famously parted ways with the company after less than stellar third quarter results in 2012 and widespread criticism of the Maps app, which debuted under his tenure. His responsibilities were then divided between Jonathan ‘Jony’ Ive, Craig Federighi, Eddy Cue and Bob Mansfield.
Now it seems the first of those, Ive, has had a difference of opinion with one of the chief designers handpicked by Forstall to work on iOS software.
Christie has his name on hundreds of Apple patents, but is perhaps most famous for being behind the ‘slide to lock’ feature, the subject of much attention recently, as one of the five patents under the spotlight at the Samsung patent infringement trial. He has been reporting to Craig Federighi but has had to deal with Ive during design meetings.
9to5Mac reports that Christie’s departure will lead to increased control of software design by Ive. “After adding human interface design direction to his responsibilities in 2012, Ive will soon completely subsume Apple’s software design group, wresting control away from long-time human interface design chief Christie, according to sources briefed on the matter,” says the site, adding, “when Ive tasked Apple’s Human Interface team with redesigning iOS 7 to include an entirely new look, Christie and Ive reportedly clashed over design direction, after which Ive is said to have circumvented Christie’s leadership of the team during the new operating system’s development.”
It is not known when exactly Christie will leave the company or what he will do after his departure. On forums like MacRumors, there were many gags of the “Mr Christie, Samsung on line 2″ ilk.
Christie has not responded to requests for comments, though Apple’s PR department issued a statement to Financial Times reporter Tim Bradshaw, which attempted to play down the idea of a rift between Ive and Christie. “Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple. He has made vital contributions to Apple products across the board, and built a world-class Human Interface team which has worked closely with Jony for many years.”