Originally Posted by tomlawler
The company, Apple Inc., is Steve Job's best product he's ever made. It has a DNA that will keep it thriving for quite a few decades after his passing. I know of another company like it.
I worked for IBM for a few years. While there, it was common for old timers of 30 plus years to contrast the current company against the original company, and find it wanting. So much had changed. TJ Watson had long since passed, and now their current CEO was so different. The course of the company was so different. Everything was so different.
But the influences that TJ Watson established during his tenure set the course for innovations with a purpose: we manufacture customer satisfaction!
It is no surprise that as customers changed, IBM changed with it.
Apple will thrive even as it too changes with its customers. This is because its founder set the course: we design customer satisfaction!
People don't usually comment on my "old days of computing" posts, but doesn't bother me, and I will on yours because we're both about trying to bring a little perspective to the heat of the moment that rules the roost here.
My unk was an IBM'er for 30 years, dress and grooming code and all. I've seen the company song book (a very Japanese-like thing to have at an American corp., btw, in any era - unless the Japanese adopted it from Watson in the post WWII era), with songs to encourage the IBM Way.
So I was an IBM groupie long before Apple grabbed my fascination. Best view of digital sci-fi becoming reality around. And there's a soft spot in my heart for Big Blue even now.
And I agree the momentum from Watson's tenure did get enough intertia built up to keep the ball rolling well after he was no longer there. And some is still in the corp's deepest DNA. As will likely be the case with Steve (and to a much lesser, but still real degree, Woz).
But you did leave out the part about IBM foundering and nearly breaking into 4 or 5 parts about 20 years ago now after they misunderstood the significance of the personal computer (otherwise they NEVER would have outsourced the OS for it, when computer OS's were their speciality). For one thing, IBM had grown too bureaucratic and ossified and had lost "the vision thing." For another, they were (or had been, I forget some of the exact time-lines, here) simultaneously distracted by a many year long tooth and claw battle over the government's anti-trust suit. And somewhere in this post-Watson era, they also critically "mis-underestimated" the brashness and cold determination of their upstart "partner," MS to stab them in the back (which is how I saw - and still see - what MS did) in a way that turned out to be a near mortal wound - as they drove petal to the metal on releasing Windows 3.0 while supposedly working equally hard on IBM's OS/2.
Clearing out the cruft in the wake of the Wintel revolution, which marginalised IBM in so many ways, while trying to stanch the bleeding was a painful and lengthy process - in which the traditionalists still at the company were both a strategic asset (deep cultural continuity) and a tactical liability (didn't understand the then field of battle). So I'm happy the new IBM has re-established itself as a key player in many areas of the ongoing info processing/transmitting revolution - even if it doesn't directly and visibly touch the public as it did from the Selectric typewriters through the IBM PC - and that its market cap has come back to the point it might pass MS's again within a year or two! (Champagne WILL be opened up in the exec suite in Armonk on that day!)
In fact this page
has a number of interesting statistics about market cap, earnings per share and gross sales which are worth a peek, because even these few stats help show what an amazing business
feat Apple's accomplished during the Jobs II era.
Why does this matter in considering Apple's future? A number of reasons (I'll just list two):
1. Steve's successor will be picked along a continuum between someone whose approach will be to keep things the way they've brilliantly been set up with minimal disruption, that is "like Steve" - i.e., Steve circa 1995-201?, to, on the other hand, someone with hopefully equal potential to be a visionary for the next generation by instituting bold new strategic directions and ways of running the company to bring about that vision, i.e., someone "like Steve" only in the sense of brewing up his/her own iconoclastic stew of what will keep Apple's products "insanely great." Bottom line: from don't rock the boat to tear the boat apart and remake it (over and over). Both approaches - the "safe" (for the interim term) and the "bold" (for the long term relevance of the company) have potential upside and downside in the immediate post-Jobs era for Apple.
Typically among corporations with retiring charismatic, transformative leaders, the first choice will be safe - until safe quits working and then a rush to a seemingly possible "new Jobs," or a quick succession of several would-bes until lightning strikes, or Apple becomes another "mature" company among others and no longer defining the future.
2. While people say Apple controls all of its own hardware and software, so there's no MS to pull a Gates/Ballmer on 'em, that's not really the case. Apple has plenty of "partners" (and manufacture almost nothing themselves anymore) as well as plenty of rich competitors with lots of smart people working for 'em. And anyone who doesn't think that the rise of Asian computing will eventually result in companies with the clout of IBM, MS, Apple, Oracle and Google is drinking some strong Kool-Aid. How can Apple's (and HP's and Dell's and Cisco's, etc.) suppliers not be learning a ton from their collaboration?
To some of these Asian companies, the corps above are software/marketing middlemen they believe they can eventually do without altogether (just as MS no longer needed IBM).
The Datsuns of yesterday became the Nissans (and Toyotas, Hondas and Hyundais) of today, and some of the Foxconns of today will become the Samsungs of tomorrow.
As both Thomas J. Watson and Jeopardy's "Watson" would say, " 'THINK' about it."
PS: Fun fact for anyone who's read this far, and doesn't know it: The name for "HAL" in 2001 - whose voice isn't all that
different from Watson's - came from the three letters in the alphabet preceding I, B and M.