On Wednesday, Steve Jobs announced his resignation from his position as CEO of Apple. Some people found the news surprising, others didn’t. Some have reminisced over his particular accomplishments, and some have recounted their interactions with him. Today, I had a discussion about the future of Apple with my Inktel colleagues, Michael Olivero and Alex Buznego, to discuss the matter.
We had three talking points:
- It goes without saying that Steve Jobs radically transformed both Apple and the consumer electronics industry. We all agreed.
- Will Apple be okay without Steve in the immediate future? Absolutely. Apple’s product roadmap is planned years in advance, and Steve left behind a solid company culture.
- Will apple be okay without Steve in 5, 10 or 15 years? Here we disagreed.
Michael is convinced that Steve’s legacy will be enough to keep Apple up to par with the standards he set for the industry. In particular, Michael believes that:
Steve Jobs not only transformed Apple through his day-to-day leadership and charisma. Steve left in place a set of processes and standards that will guide Apple for years to come. He imbued the company culture with his innovative DNA, and culture doesn’t change overnight.
I’m skeptical. To disagree is to overlook the value of his leadership and charisma.
How can you say the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) will be the same without Jobs and his black cashmir sweater? There’s going to be something missing for everyone.
Apple products won’t receive the same level of scrutiny. Vic Gundotra, Senior VP of Social Business at Google, posted an anecdote last night that demonstrates Steve’s obsession with details. The attention Steve gave to each and every aspect of Apple products are what made the brand so consistent, expressive and timeless.
It’s one thing to say you work for Steve Jobs and to feel that inspiration and leadership on a daily basis. It is a completely different thing to have that missing. It is completely different to say you work for the company Steve Jobs merely founded. That is a huge difference! There’s no question about it. Alex even noted, “It’s a company culture and mindset based so heavily on his charisma and style, there’s no question they are going to miss it.”
Moreover, Steve was an innovator in a way that very few people are capable of matching. Remember when Bill Gates left Microsoft? Microsoft was already in a slump, but since Steve Ballmer, the only talking point they have had is the Kinect. Google went stale towards the end of Eric Schmidt’s leadership, but they feel like a startup again under Larry Page. Apple without Steve Jobs is like Microsoft in 2011 or Google in 2010.
Tim Cook is a rigorous businessman. He got Apple out of manufacturing and improved its profit margins. He even filled in for Steve a few times. However, he does not have Steve’s iconic look, presence or innovative spirit. He will be a great CEO, but Steve Jobs was much more than a great CEO. He was a visionary who transformed Apple, the industry and millions of lives.