I, apparently in agreement with Apple's investors today, have a little trouble with the notion that Steve Jobs stepping down will have no effect on Apple's success.
I'm afraid the Apple faithful are playing a little fast and loose with logic on this one. Let me see if we have this straight...
1) Steve Jobs was absolutely and almost singularly responsible for Apple's meteoric rise over the last 14 years. His vision, his taste, his standards, his business acumen, all of it - has driven Apple past competitor after competitor to become the most valuable company in the world. [By the way, I agree.]
2) Steve Jobs is also completely unnecessary for Apple's continued success. [Hmmmm]
I think I can agree with Gruber's wisdom in choosing to prognosticate no further than a month. What made Apple remarkable is going away today. From here on out Apple will be as likely as the next company to blunder in the marketplace by playing it safe. You will not see Tim Cook do anything half as insane/brilliant as Jobs was capable of.
Do you think that Steve Jobs was the entirety of Apple's QA and decision-making process? Far too much good stuff has come out of Apple in the past decade for Steve to get sole credit. While Jobs obviously had the power to veto any bad idea, he didn't have the time to veto every bad idea, or to suggest every good idea. He can only micro-manage some of the things some of the time.
He built and trained a system that, even with Steve still running it, is obviously capable of making good decisions without him. He may have been the primary motivator for the development of the iPad and iPhone, but he didn't create OpenCL, libdispatch, CoreAnimation, and Automatic Reference Counting. He didn't invent the unibody construction process or Gorilla Glass or LightPeak or multi-touch, and he's obviously not the only person at Apple who can recognize their value and figure out how to use them to make a better product. If that were the case, he would have been a huge bottleneck and Apple would never be able to ship more than one product a year.
You're confusing leading by example with doing it all yourself.
Over the last 5-8 years or so there's been a formula to what made Jobs such a successful leader of Apple. Smaller, faster, focus on human usability, make it look nice, control the supply chain so you can build it cheap and make lots of money, let your competitors make the mistakes and swoop in with your own product with what you learn from their failures, don't bother building cheap low margin junk, etc. It's almost a science at this point. Like any good scientist Jobs surely has a lot of disciples within Apple who will carry that tradition on and move it forward. Astronomy didn't die with Newton did it? Apple will undoubtably change but if they continue to follow the values that Jobs has drilled into them for the last decade they should be fine. Success is the best teacher after all.
Since they've had some time to prepare for this transition I would expect that Jobs put much focus and intensity into thinking about how you move forward without him. That shift in focus may be a large part of why he stepped down last year. If he's been working on a new product then it's not a new iPad or Mac but instead it's how you build Apple to last another 20 or 30 years.
You've basically said what he did has been/is condensed down into a basic formula which anyone given enough exposure can repeat. If business were that simple, we wouldn't need book after book written about everything: new methodologies, strategies, innovation, management, etc.
I just don't think we understand people that well yet, let alone that we are able to copy them so effectively. Is the analogy of astronomy to Newton a good one? No. Business isn't anywhere close to being a science like Astronomy. Other people can observe and repeatedly make tests that further our understanding of space. Can you do that to a person, especially after they are gone? Nope.
Sure, Apple will exist for a long while to come, it will probably follow a lot of the principles/ethos of Steve Jobs, but will it be as successful without Steve Jobs actually making those decisions? We'll see.
I think that what Steve Jobs has done with Apple is able to be condensed down into a basic formula which anyone given enough exposure can repeat. Just because it's repeatable doesn't mean that it's easy to do, though.
The problem is that you can't repeat it if you're going to do it by half-measures. Apple succeeds because it applies its formula 100%; others fail to follow Apple's example because they do "all BUT" some aspect or another.
That said, if another organization wants to do what Apple does, they will have to make some adjustments to acknowledge their reality -- but you really can't do part of what Apple does and say that Apple's process isn't repeatable.
Fair points. The timing happens to work out pretty well that we're just now in the period where SmartPhones and tablets are becoming mature consumer products so Apple can ride the formula for many years to come. It will get a lot harder when it's time to make the next big leap forward.
Problem is, technology outpaces longterm planning exponentially. Apple laying out a plan for 20-30 years would actually work against them as they would be planning, in large part, based on current, or foreseen technology and cost. It's a little like when a movie director attempts to predict the future.
You just can't cut Jobs as a catalyst only. His mind is welded to the myriad of changing variables in technology and no plan is going to be able to emulate that.
Try to do it better. It's inevitable that competitors are going to copy. I'm not sure Jobs could have stopped that either. Apple has some huge strategic advantages and big war chest which definitely helps.
Unless they can "start implementing" tens of billions of dollars sitting around to use for pre-purchasing heavily discounted parts for their devices to drive profit margins high as a kite and low as a rock for competitors, I don't think there's much to worry about.
It’s not that Steve Jobs is unnecessary; it’s that Apple will continue to make Apple-like products without Steve running the show day-to-day because his philosophy is so much a part of how Apple functions now.
In lots of ways, his work is done; certainly the product managers and C-level folks get what differentiates Apple from everyone else and that’s not changing because Steve Jobs’ title has changed.
The point of Gruber’s article is that Steve has been gone for large chunks of time already and Apple keeps cranking along—he’s been on medical leave for over 8 months now—and Apple hasn’t missed a beat. Not even close.
The roles Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have been in for almost all of 2011 have been formalized, with Cook being named CEO and Jobs now Chairman of the board.
So, no, I don’t see upcoming blunders or missteps. Tim Cook isn’t Steve Jobs, but remember that Apple wouldn’t be where they are today without Tim Cook either. He fixed Apple’s manufacturing and supply chain issues that plagued Apple for years prior to his arrival from Compaq. Without Tim Cook, there’s no way Apple could crank out the tens of millions of iOS devices that are just taken for granted nowadays.
Jobs' resignation comes as a surprise to no one, Jobs least of all. That is, this has been a long time coming and it seems safe to reason that Jobs has made it his primary duty over the last five years to ensure that an Apple without him will continue to thrive. And, as his letter makes a point of noting, he will continue on as the Chairman of the board and as "an Apple employee"--his final act, passing Apple on to others, is not yet complete.
He was the most important man in tech in 1978 and he is in 2011. The legacy he leaves is not just that of beautiful objects and sensational business intuition, but the generations of people he inspired. My first computer was a Mac, and it was love at first touch. Since that first moment I have always been profoundly fascinated with consumer electronics and computers in particular. I'm sure that I have kin, even among the haters.
And call me a fanboy, but any man who can relentlessly carve a path for passionately crafted objects in the face of largely monotonous, analytics; well, I'm glad he stuck to it.
The culture will change... it'll be slow and people won't notice it while it's happening. Then one day, you look back and go "man this is different."
It can change for the better... or it can change for the worse. There is no question that it will change.
I've always found it fascinating at how large companies, armies, or anything else really have a way of taking on the personality of their leadership. It's why CEO's make so much money. I hope that this will be a change for the better.
And in both cases, the transition was right before the industry-wide dot-com bust, and in both cases, the company is still huge and profitable and nearly a monopoly. So Apple's probably not doomed. They just might stop being the source of the next big thing. Apple's exponential growth has to end sometime, and somebody's going to be unlucky enough to be CEO at that time.
The difference is while apple has made a ton of money, they don't have the dominant control of a market the way a company like MS did when Gates stepped down. Monetarily sure they're stupid successful but it's still quite easy to leave most of their platforms, the biggest exception probably being iTunes due to people being used to using it to manage their music, no matter how shitty the app is.
I don't think he meant truth in terms of marketing (although I'm hard-pressed to think of a case where Apple has outright lied in their ads, but maybe in a release) but truth as design fundamental.
Based on the context of that sentence I would say Gruber meant it more in the way of "truth to materials" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_to_materials) in which Apple's design is reductive and efficient to the user. No ornament beyond the materials that construct the product.
I see you are trying to draw attention away from the fact that Apple has on repeated occations shown to be dishonest, disengenious and outright misrepresenting competitors by presenting information in ways they knew to be wrong.
I see you do that and I wonder why on earth anyone would be so loyal to a corporation that they would be willing to drag their own credibility down to defend the credibility of a corporation which in they have no vested interest. It baffles me and makes no sense.
That aside, let's get back to what you said:
I don't think he meant truth in terms of marketing ...snip... but truth as design fundamental.
Can you elaborate on what you think this is supposed to mean, apart from being a divertion away from the fact that Apple, more than any other company currently out there, manipulates and lies to their audience and to sustain their image as "different"?
I disagree. His reason for bringing up that this was predictable was not to say that he saw it coming, but that the change has been going on for a while. His most important point: Tim Cook wasn’t named “CEO” until today, but he’s been the chief executive at the company since Jobs started this — his third — medical leave back in January, and probably even before that. Whatever Steve’s role is going forward, it’s only different in title than what it has been, in effect, for some time.
Reading around the web an hour ago, looking for confirmation of the then-minutes-old news that Jesus had resigned as prince of the apostles, I repeatedly encountered and bridled each time at use of the adjective “shocking” to describe the announcement. But my initial resentment was unwarranted. This is not out of nowhere, it’s not even unexpected. We could all see this was coming — but it is a shock.
I saw that headline and my nervous system took a jolt.
The thing to keep in mind is this: Christianity tomorrow, a week from now, and next month is the exact same Christianity from yesterday, a week ago, and last month. Saint Peter wasn’t named “Prince of the Apostles” until today, but he’s been the chief executive at the congregation since Jesus started this — his third — medical leave back in January, and probably even before that. Whatever Jesus' role is going forward, it’s only different in title than what it has been, in effect, for some time. Whatever it is that ails him, he’s been diminished.
It’s no coincidence that I wrote about succeeding Jesus just last month. All you need to read in that piece is the second footnote:
Perhaps this entire article could be replaced with, “Look, it’s going to be Saint Peter, and that’s that.”
How do you replace the irreplaceable man? Like we’re seeing. An open-ended medical leave, where he retains the "Prince of the Apostles" title. A continuation of strong new teachings, including a major improvement to the holy trinity, the device that is upending the entire religious sphere. The ceding of day-to-day operations and leadership to Saint Paul, his right-hand man and chosen successor. Ever-higher profiles during public miracle announcements of top revelation-focused lieutenants like Matthew, John, and Andrew. It wasn’t something you could see or hear, but from the audience during this year’s Mount of Transfiguration keynote, it was something you could feel. Midway through, I wrote:
He’s here, but this is the first post-Jesus keynote.
Christianity's teachings are replete with Christian-like features and details, embedded in Christian-like thinking, running on Christian-like souls, which come packaged in Christian-like bodies, will be promoted in Christian-like campaigns of terror, and sold in Christian-like churches. The church is a fractal design. Simplicity, elegance, beauty, cleverness, humility. Directness. Truth. Zoom out enough and you can see that the same things that define Christianity’s teachings apply to Christianity as a whole. The church itself is Christian-like. The same thought, care, and painstaking attention to detail that Jesus brought to questions like “How should you be living?”, “How should you worship God?”, “How should you treat your enemy?” he also brought to the most important question: “How should a church that creates such things function?”
Jesus' greatest creation isn’t any Christianity's teaching. It is Christianity itself.
Today’s announcement is just one more step, albeit a big and sad one, in a long-planned orderly transition — a transition that no one wanted but which could not, alas, be avoided. And as ever, he’s doing it his way.
Lots of us knew it had to be soon, even if we didn't want it to be. He looked really unhealthy in June.
I was off by a few months, but here's a snippet from my Ameritrade account:
06/07/2011 12:37:38 Sold 69 AAPL @ 333.3
Granted, I hedged by only selling some of my shares. My thinking was to take profits on long-term gains, and then re-invest again if the stock dips after this announcement. AAPL will increase in value if there's a dip – no question in my mind.
Yes, I realize that it's somewhat tasteless to discuss the stock when Steve is clearly struggling with his health. I reconciled that issue a long time ago – Apple is a business, and a group of human beings at the same time.
The first thing I did when I heard the news is send Steve a thank you note.
I completely agree. I will gladly bet $100 on that Apple, without Steve Jobs' help, will create a new product in the coming decade that'll revolutionize (or even create) a market completely like they've done with the iPod, iPhone, iPad and many other products.
Steve Jobs may not be the CEO anymore, but his spirit and philosophy will be alive and well in Apple for a long time to come, no matter what happens with him personally.
I will gladly bet $100 on that Apple, without Steve Jobs' help, will create a new product in the coming decade that'll revolutionize
Maybe, but skeptics will probably be right to doubt it. Many had similar hopes as yours when Steve was fired from Apple in the '80s. The company ambled along for a few years, then started its famous nosedive.
Let's hope it stays that way -- I don't want Apple to fail anymore than anyone else. Tim Cook is a fairly dim bulb, though, just a paper-pusher with a bad temper. I hope he doesn't get in the way of those at Apple with real talent.
I have to agree, and a lot of the other responses in this thread are disheartening/annoying.
The biggest thing Steve Jobs brought to Apple was to build a culture that supported his vision. Apple as a whole is focused on the mold that Steve brought back with him. Tim Cook has been the avatar and excellence in this image on the operations/production side. A company that has AMAZING profit margins on it's products due to the operational efforts to buying up needed parts ahead of time, etc. I suspect Jonathan Ive will be able to continue the design esthetic. Apple is a company running on all cylinders to deliver focused products. This differs greatly from the Apple before Job's returned. Will the focus erode? Possibly, maybe some of the perfection will be lost, but there is a much stronger base in plance than ANY other company in the valley in the last 20+ years.
Compare this with Microsoft when Bill Gates steped down. While, I personally feel that MSFT has made some positive steps in mobile with the Nokia partnership and WinPhone 7 doesn't suck, the company wasn't focused. Each department was kinda doing it's own thing. Ballmer was left to try and build something out of a lot of disparite pieces. As such, MSFT, as a stock, has basically flatlined for 10+ years.
I think it is safe to say, outside of Hewlett & Packard (more recently) and the Fairchild Eight, no single person has been more influential on the Bay Area technology scene in my lifetime (born and raised here). I will go one step further, and state, I don't see any of the current "elite" Paige/Brin/Zuck/Ellison(he's still around and strong) contributing anywhere as much.
Steve, like Bill and Dave, Gordon Moore (etal), are in a class of their own.
I've loved/hated AAPL products over the years, but Steve has been nothing but a gem for the valley.
I find humility in things like deciding to ship without copy/paste, or the decision to ship the initial phone without an SDK. These decisions are an implicit admission that the company wasn't able to get these things sufficiently polished or thought-through to include in a given iteration.
That's an interesting take. I've not thought of it that way. Apple doesn't include everything a device obviously should have in the first iteration but what it does include it does very well.
All of the iPad competitor devices absolutely suck at looking up the definition of a word in an ebook. (The ones I've tried that is.) On the iPad it is so simple, so intuitive, and quite fast. When they do something they do it well.
He's describing, at most, a two month stretch of time. Your response is entirely true, of course, but you're not speaking in the same scope. I think all John is saying here is that it's not going to collapse before our eyes, and that established teams, corporate cultures, and philosophies take time to erode.
I know my first comment got down voted but perhaps it was because I didn't provide enough details?
Apple will continue being Apple - that is they won't change names, they'll continue innovating and creating amazing products. But to say they'll be the same Apple with and without Steve Jobs is silly and belittles the importance of having Steve in the company in the first place. There's no doubt that the path of Apple will be different.
You're right that "fractal" is a bit sloppy here. It's always been a tawdry analogy when used like this that will annoy anyone who likes their words to have meaning.
But I think his underlying point is that Apple
consistently executes similar values and priorities in many different areas -- for a company of its size, it's amazingly coherent and consistent.
Compare them to HP, where the CEO kills an entire product division that their webpage is still breathlessly promoting for days afterwards, which makes it seem like no one knows what the hell is going on over there and that they don't really believe in anything they do. As soon as Apple announces something, its whole public persona is consistent with that. It's kind of amazing. At the very least, you can count on being consistently annoyed with their values.
Fractals have a property called self-similarity, where "a self-similar object is exactly or approximately similar to a part of itself."
John is saying that Apple's products have an "Apple-ness", as does each app on each product, each feature within each app, etc.
He is suggesting that the zen-like simplicity of Apple can be found at many different levels of the organization. I don't think it's overly biased dribble... it's an eloquent point that Apple Inc. is a culture (cult?) with a clearly identifiable philosophy that permeates every element of the org.
Gruber always makes a more compelling argument than the masses constantly slinging "fanboy" around innumerable internet forums. So you disagree with him, fine, why don't you post your own analysis instead of the incessant name calling.
It wasn't a surprise to anyone. Everyone knew it would happen eventually. He is still remaining the Chairman of the Board, so he will be around for a bit in that role. I see nothing changing for the immediate future but we will see.