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Jony Ive Poaches Lead iPhone Designer to Work on OpenAI Hardware Device

Tang Tan, Apple’s lead designer for the iPhone and Apple Watch, is stepping down to join Jony Ive’s hardware firm LoveFrom, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman on Wednesday. Tan is the latest Apple designer to join Ive, which is assembling an Avengers-like team with Sam Altman to create the next era of hardware devices running on OpenAI’s cutting-edge software.

Tan will join the ranks of Jony Ive, the legendary Apple designer that Steve Jobs called his “spiritual partner at Apple.” However, it appears Ive has a new visionary partner: Sam Altman. Ive was Apple’s Chief Designer for over 20 years, leading the design process for the company’s most iconic products such as the iMac, the iPhone, the Apple Watch, and even the brand’s iconic packaging.

Now, Ive is reportedly working with Altman on an AI-enabled piece of hardware, first reported by The Information in September, and he’s scooping up the best and brightest talent from Apple to build it. Tan will reportedly head up the project’s hardware engineering. Bloomberg reports that more than 20 former Apple employees have joined Ive’s LoveFrom, and Altman previously tried to secure a multi-billion dollar investment for his project.

So what are Jony Ive, Sam Altman, Tang Tan, and LoveFrom building? We don’t know what yet, and it sounds like they don’t either, but it will reportedly run on OpenAI’s software. The company is said to be in the early stages of hashing out concepts and hiring the best talent. Ive is a design purist, with a focus on simplicity that ushered Apple through its most successful stretch as a company.

Tan’s departure represents the latest in Apple’s exodus of talent. The company has almost certainly fallen behind in artificial intelligence, at least in terms of what’s been made public, and is playing catch-up with Google, Microsoft, and the rest of Big Tech. Roughly 14 members of Ive’s team have left Apple since 2019, reports Gurman. The company’s brain drain comes as Apple Watches are being removed from shelves nationwide, and Apple fights claims of stealing key technology used in the popular device.

LoveFrom currently describes itself as a “creative collective” on its website, made up of designers, architects, musicians, engineers, and more. The minimal website of Jony Ive’s design firm notes the company is “obsessed with the traditions of creating and making” and is suspiciously end-capped with the phrase “love and fury.”

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