Steve Jobs' legacy 'hijacked,' says Apple's Jony Ive

Apple's chief design guru shares insight into what it was like to collaborate with Apple's co-founder.

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Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
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Apple designer Jonathan Ive and then-CEO Steve Jobs in 2002. Apple

Jony Ive has not seen the latest Steve Jobs movie, but Apple's design guru thinks it's bad anyway.

Especially worrisome for Jobs' longtime friend is the succession of movies made about Apple's co-founder. Ive says he is most concerned by the way a life's story can be "hijacked" by people who did not really know the man.

"We're celebrating Steve's life ... and I don't recognize this person at all," Ive said Wednesday. "He had these triumphs and tragedies, like most of us, and he's having his identity defined and described by a whole bunch of other people."

Ive shared his memories during a rare public appearance at Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit in San Francisco. While reflecting on the fourth anniversary of Jobs' death earlier this week, Ive said he was surprised that what he most remembers about Jobs is his focus.

"It was his very simple focus on trying to make something beautiful and great," he said. "And it really was simple. There wasn't this grand plan of winning or a very complicated agenda. The simplicity seemed almost childlike in its purity and its truth. That stands in such stark contrast in how he's frequently discussed at the moment."

Ive said that some ridiculous things have been written about Jobs by people who don't have an understanding of the process. Jobs could be a demanding boss, but "it doesn't mean you're an a**hole."

Jobs died October 5, 2011, at the age of 56 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. But he's remained in the public eye through several books and films that purport to portray his life, career and personality.

Ive's comments come two days after the revelation that Jobs' widow allegedly tried to prevent the new film, titled simply "Steve Jobs," from being made. Laurene Powell Jobs specifically objected to the scripting being based on Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography of Jobs -- a book that was roundly criticized by such Apple higher-ups as Ive and CEO Tim Cook.

Ive, the design guru responsible for the minimalist characteristics of several Apple products, shared his memories of collaborating on new products with Jobs, who he said had a "reverence" for the creative process. That process usually began in conversations rather than on a drawing board, Ive said.

"From nothing, you tentatively start to build something, but with words. He was fantastic at listening," Ive said. "The very best ideas come from the quiet voice. ... the most fabulous ideas come from a tentative suggestions."

For Ive, the process of creating new products at the tech titan is a terrifying one. One of the greatest challenges designers face is being comfortable living in the future, where there's a lot of ambiguity. But it's also important to be mindful of history, he said.

"There's a strange tendency to dismiss the now and history," he said.

He also said the process of creating something and not knowing its eventual outcome is unnerving.

"We're completely convinced in our own ineptitude," he said. "We somehow forget the complete and utter terror and trauma we go through every time.

"Torture doesn't begin to capture it right."