iPod Godfather explains Apple’s secret design sauce

Tony Fadell on iPhone keyboard

Tony Fadell needs no introduction. The brains behind the Nest thermostat, this former Apple engineer also helped engineer the iPod music player and led the development of the first eighteen iterations of the iPhone. He recently talked Apple, Steve Jobs and secrecy inside the walls of Apple’s Cupertino HQ.

He also commented on Forstall’s departure in an interview with BBC and told Bloomberg that he is “not that dumb” to compete directly with his former employer. And now, Fadell at the Bloomberg Design conference this week once more tried to explain Apple’s secret sauce which results in the sexy gadgets people lust after. He also explained the difference between designing products at Apple and Phillips, here are some highlights…

Katie Fehrenbacher of GigaOM compiled Fadell’s talking points.

The key difference between other companies and Apple, Fadell said, is that Apple ships the stuff that had made it past a certain milestone. At Phillips, he says, the company would kill 90 percent of project that were close to shipping. Apple has a point of view – that is. a story to tell, and a specific customer envisioned for the product.

When you’re in a culture that has a point of view, and drives to launch everything it does, you know you’re on the hook and you better bring your best game every time.

Contrast this to Phillips:

Nine times out of ten, or 99 times out of 100, they would kill the project, either at the beginning, the middle or right before the product was supposed to be shipped.

This was happening a lot during management changes when the new top dogs wouldn’t understand what the product was so they would just axe it.

Katie writes:

Such a culture means that designers don’t do their best work and just go through the motions of creating a product. Why put your best work into a project that is just going to be tossed in the dustbin?

Of course, Apple doesn’t always get it right (hint: the Macintosh cube), but at least the company has the balls to bring out the product and take a beating if it proves unsuccessful.