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Brunner left in 1996 and suggested that Ive take over the post, even though Ive was only 29. When Jobs returned from his exile and became interim CEO in 1997, he named Ive as senior vice president of industrial design.

With Jobs again at the helm and Ive as his style guru, Apple refocused around design and produced a hit that got the company back on track. Apple shook up the personal computer industry in 1998 with the candy-colored all-in-one iMac desktop, the original models shaped like a futuristic TV.

Unlike previous product attempts, the iMac concept was immediately embraced by the top decision makers at Apple, and the design went through very few revisions.

“We knew we had it when we saw it, and with Jobs‘ support we were able to make it happen,” Ive said in 1999.

At a time when most computers were boxy and largely black, beige or gray, the iMac was bulbous and flashy. People snapped up 150,000 of them in the first weekend following its release. Apple sold 800,000 iMacs by the end of the year.

The iMac changed the way consumers thought about personal computers and about Apple itself. It gave Apple a vital boost that helped it usher in a new era of consumer electronics that were quirky, fun and colorful. The marketing team even teased consumers by encouraging them at one point to collect all five _ strawberry, blueberry, grape, tangerine and lime.

With Ive in charge of design, Apple then bought out the first iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. In recent years, the company has largely dropped the bright color palette (though you can still find it on some iPods) in favor of black, white and silver hues. Yet they retained simplicity that made them approachable to everyone _ from the tech geek to Grandma _ as well as the curves, shiny surfaces and expensive appearance.

As a result, Apple’s products are more popular than ever, allowing the company to surpass rival Microsoft Corp. last year as the most valuable technology company in the world.

“He wasn’t responsible for them, but they definitely couldn’t have done them without him,” said Leander Kahney, who has written about Apple in several books and on his “Cult of Mac” blog.

Ive and Jobs have worked hand in hand and, in many respects, have contributed to each other’s success. Ive has always been in contact with Jobs and speaks the same language as him, Antonelli said, and they clearly have chemistry.

Don Norman, who worked at Apple in the `90s as vice president of the company’s advanced technology group, said that while Ive had good design ideas “sitting on the shelves,” he needed Jobs to get those designs off the shelves.

“Jony has always been Jony _ brilliant,” Norman said. “What he needed was a Steve Jobs to say, `Make this happen.’”

Now, the test will be whether Cook can continue to keep that focus at Apple and encourage Ive to continue creating hits.

In a sense, the challenge won’t be as difficult as it had been in the 1990s. Now that Apple has developed a style, it can build on it rather than try to reimagine it with each new product.

And that, Norman says, is now in Apple’s DNA.

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