Outside of Steve Jobs, the reputation of many of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) leaders have taken a hit at one time or another over the past few years. Scott Forstall, who designed the original iOS, was fired after the debacle that was Apple Maps. Ron Johnson was credited with creating Apple's wildly successful retail stores but when he tried to turn around retailer J.C. Penney, he failed miserably and was fired. Even Tim Cook is coming under fire for waiting nearly eight months to launch a new product, as well as feeling the heat regarding Apple's tax strategies.
One man who hasn't been tarnished thus far is Jony Ive, the man behind design of Apple's best products. He's now responsible for the "look and feel" of the new iOS 7, and today may mark the biggest day in his career and a significant turning point for Apple.
Expectations are high
It's been a rough year so far for Apple. The company's stock is down 37.3% from its 52-week high and the most recent quarter's profit fell 18% from a year ago. Momentum isn't on Apple's side, and the innovation lead the company once enjoyed has vanished. That's what makes today's announcement so important for both Apple and Ive.
Instead of playing from the front, Apple is now responding to improving competitors. Samsung's Galaxy S4 is at the very least the equal to Apple's iPhone 5 and the Galaxy Note 3 is reportedly on its way next week. Nielsen recently reported that Google's Android operating system now powers 50% of new smartphones, double the share of iOS. To make matters worse, Microsoft's Windows 8 and its mobile versions for smartphones and tablets are gaining market share, even if it's small.
It's Apple's operating system that will either begin a turnaround for Apple or embolden those who think its best days are in the past. iOS hasn't been revamped since being launched in 2007, and a new look could excite consumers and investors alike. But there's risk for Apple and Ive. If iOS is a flop -- like Apple Maps was -- Apple could continue to lose share and the stock price may stay stuck where it is or even continue to fall.
More than the iPhone
Ive's redesign task has wide implications for the company and that's why today is so important. The iPhone will likely get most of the attention when iOS is updated, but it's about more than just the iPhone.The iPad runs iOS, too, and its integration with OSX and Apple TV are key to the Apple ecosystem. What Ive introduces today and how it works with Apple's other products will impact how Apple's stock performs, and that's why it's important for investors. If iOS 7 is a success, it may help cement the legacy of Ive as the best designer of our age.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.