This must be a first. PetaPixel reports that Ive will be designing a very limited edition Leica camera.
I don't recall Apple every loaning out key team-members like this. Ever.
This is for a charity event, and it does involve Bono, so all of the "just this one time" flags are flying, but, this is very unusual.
If I were paranoid, I'd say Ive was looking for greener pastures. There was kerfuffle last year that Ive really wanted to leave Apple and move back home to the UK, so that his children could go to school there. Of course, this May, when he was knighted, he said he's staying put.
Apple doesn't let stuff like this happen without thinking it through. Friends who work there have reported that they can't speak at any public event as an Apple employee without clearance from marketing. This is calculated. More than likely, this is Apple sacrificing a bit of Ive's time for a good cause, and a tax write-off.
Quite possibly, this is Apple and Ive saying to the rest of the industry, "well, we've lapped you enough times we're going to take a break now."