Apple after Steve: The End?

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Rumor has it that the iSlate introduction may be the start of Steve Jobs 'curtain-call' at Apple...What will it mean?



Unfortunately, I think these are the 'good old days' (redux, if you were around in the 80's). There is no doubt that Apple can/will continue to succeed (and quite likely over-achieve) following Steve's eventual departure. There is enough 'cultural inertia' to ensure that the products remain among the best in terms of industrial design, user experience, and quality; and Tim Cook is an excellent OPERATIONAL MANAGER, who will keep the company profitable. However, after about 3 years (when the product pipeline that Steve sets is depleted) Apple will be missing what is perhaps it's most important asset. More than just whether it's 'STEVE JOBS' - is the idea of a single vision that green-lights/shit-cans projects according to a personal notion of taste, elegance and style.

Will Apple be able to say NO to all of the great product ideas that come out of the company's groups? Probably not, because most people will see $$$ and potential rather than risk and half-measures like Steve does. Most CEO's would have entered the cell-phone market with a 'good enough' device 15 minutes after the iPod became a hit - and made a short-term fortune from the venture while watering down Apple's brand-image.





The second great risk is that Apple's #1 strength is the devotion to SIMPLICITY, even in exchange for great features. Steve has often said he's more proud of what Apple doesn't do than what it does. This means refining/refining/refining and stripping products of all 'fluff' in order to get to a clear value proposition the user can easily grasp. The iPod wasn't the first music player, but the combination of its design and MOST IMPORTANTLY the dead-simple 'plug it in and sync with iTunes' model and easy scroll-wheel UI made it a user revelation.

Will there be someone at Apple with the taste and the autonomy to pull the breaks on features and refine to the point of 'insanely great' perfection? Probably not, because the company will fear doing that which must be done - finding and appointing a Steve 'clone' to act as the ultimate judge of product quality. All the process and same designers will be there, but will there be somebody with absolute authority to call their work CRAP and send them crying back to their cubes to do it again?



The third risk is the 'flair for the dramatic'. More than just a 'STEVE-note', it's the company's talent for SECRECY mixed with rumor building toward a surprise unveiling that generates more marketing buzz than a billion dollar ad campaign.

Will there be someone with the AUTOCRATIC control to quell every leak, punish every journalist who gets out of line, and who can ultimate stand up and pull off the 'big reveal'? Probably not, but this at least one item where Apple has shown some junior talent capable of the task or which I think can be 'imported'.



So, Apple will continue to do great for about 3 years following Steve's departure, but after that they risk becoming 'just another tech company' with good industrial design but no 'special sauce'.



Thoughts?

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    I wouldn't put any stock in this rumor, which is about as thin and un-sourced as they come. Even if Steve does reduce his involvement with the day-to-day running of Apple (something which would happen eventually anyway), I'd expect him to reduce his role not just take a bow and leave. Taking on Chairman of the Board would be an obvious exit strategy. Before he even went that far, the company has to show how it transitions to new leadership, something they have only hinted at to date (and only because Steve was on medical leave).
  • Reply 2 of 9
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,177moderator
    I think Jobs stepping down as CEO would impact the stock significantly and I don't think Apple will be very strong under the current group of people. Phil Schiller is not a great leader - he likes to joke around too much and is too indecisive.



    Serlet is too unlikeable - he's like a guy you walk by in the street who keeps yelling about the government with his continual empty presentations about Microsoft in his odd accent. Employees like Scott Forstall, though very likeable are too inexperienced.



    Tim Cook seems to have all the qualities of a good leader and has the experience but he lacks a key element. Jobs has everything - the experience, the attention to detail, the drive/energy/focus but what he has that Cook lacks is personality. Jobs is funny and witty - every presentation he gives is entertaining even if he's only playing out the character he's created.



    One look at this picture and what you see is an icon next to a nobody:



    http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/01/meet-tim-cook-h/



    For all his faults, even Steve Ballmer is more of an icon than Cook. The question is does Apple need an icon to stay strong? I think at least for the presentations they do and I haven't warmed to any presenter from Apple besides Jobs, though possibly Forstall. That's a big part of the hype factor.



    Even though you don't see Jobs for months now, you still know that he's in there somewhere. Once we know he's not, there's gong to be less anticipation over what they do. It will be as if they are saying, 'well look here's what Tim Cook's view of personal computing should be' and the world will go 'who's Tim Cook and why should we care what he thinks?'.



    Jonathan Ive is really the style guru and has done presentations before but he's just getting far too pretentious in the way he over exaggerates the most meaningless details of his designs.



    Spreading the talent around will help avoid the current situation with Jobs wherein taking out the keystone brings the building down - for example with Cook behind the scenes leading it and a mix of the best presenters (Forstall leading the presentation, Ive for brief product design changes, Schiller introducing games and software features). I can see the brand diluting over time without that very strong individual in the mix but that's the way all faceless corporations are created - by taking out the faces that define them.



    Apple being just another tech company like Microsoft is bleak but it has to happen. Technology can only go so far before it fades into the background and then it becomes about content distribution and services. Apple's strongest asset is OS X but that experience can be replicated over time.
  • Reply 3 of 9
    dr millmossdr millmoss Posts: 5,403member
    Whenever I think of iconography, I'm reminded of Marx, Lenin and Mao.



    No joke, really. The value of symbols can be overrated, as I think it is in Jobs' case. Sure he does great presentations, but presentations are not products. Apple has to deliver the goods, or what is said on stage and how it's said and by whom are meaningless. The real value Jobs provides to Apple is the focus and the demand for perfection. In terms of how he runs the company, he's more iconoclast than icon. He doesn't need to be in his office every day to get that done.



    AAPL doesn't have to take a big hit if Jobs leaves as CEO, provided that a transition of leadership plan is in place and understood by investors. Sure some people will panic in the short run, but if the plan is convincing, the impact will be short term. Give investors the EPS, and they don't care if the company is run by Donald Trump or Donald Duck.



    Apple certainly doesn't have to become like Microsoft, even in the absence of Steve Jobs. These companies have very different histories and cultures. The culture put in place by Steve will outlive him, just as the culture at Microsoft has outlasted Bill. For better or worse, the stamp of founders remains for many years after.
  • Reply 4 of 9
    vineavinea Posts: 5,585member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post


    Apple certainly doesn't have to become like Microsoft, even in the absence of Steve Jobs. These companies have very different histories and cultures. The culture put in place by Steve will outlive him, just as the culture at Microsoft has outlasted Bill. For better or worse, the stamp of founders remains for many years after.



    Microsoft without Gates hasn't been the same.
  • Reply 5 of 9
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by vinea View Post


    Microsoft without Gates hasn't been the same.



    I believe it has fundamentally remained the same. The culture created by him lives on, even as the times have changed. This is actually the key problem with Microsoft. They built their entire empire on a winning model, which they can't quite acknowledge cannot be recreated in other products -- and they don't know how to reinvent their approach. When they try, they lose money. Apple in particular seems to baffle them. As much as they've tried, just can't figure out how Apple does it. This is the legacy of Bill Gates.
  • Reply 6 of 9
    vineavinea Posts: 5,585member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post


    I believe it has fundamentally remained the same. The culture created by him lives on, even as the times have changed. This is actually the key problem with Microsoft. They built their entire empire on a winning model, which they can't quite acknowledge cannot be recreated in other products -- and they don't know how to reinvent their approach. When they try, they lose money. Apple in particular seems to baffle them. As much as they've tried, just can't figure out how Apple does it. This is the legacy of Bill Gates.



    Geez, do you really believe they are stupid? The key was when Gates was there he kept the MBA thinking in check since he was a real geek's geek. AND there was the perception that as long as he was at the helm it was a winning team (not so much with Ballmer) so they could recruit the smartest. Today the smartest would rather work for Google and Apple (to a lesser extent).



    Jobs serves that same purpose. The best and brightest gravitate toward perceived winners. These are the folks that make or break tech companies. Sure bad management can sabotage success but it's the engineers and designers that have to be able to come up with brilliant solutions to be sabotaged.



    MS lost money on the XBox because they wanted into that game quickly. That always costs more and it worked for the 360. They beat Sony this generation. And as much as they wanted that segment they didn't bring out the big guns (aka MS Office Student).



    Same for search and other areas. Gates was caught flatfooted over the internet and they spent $$$ to catch up. The thing is they have to a large part. Bing, Azure, and a lot of other products show they now have a very solid tech base to grow on that is unequaled by anyone but Google. The key issue now is execution and with Win7 they're executing better.



    They aren't as resurgent as Intel after the Pentium 4 fiasco maybe but they're starting to look good again.



    The problem is that Gates was always more visionary than Ballmer and the engineers trusted him. Ballmer is a math/econ guy that was the business manager. Gates was a geek's geek. Some folks dis Gates technically but he had chops...even more so than say...RMS.



    But I do wonder why you feel fit to continue to pontificate about this topic (the influence and importance of MS) with such assurance when you dissed other folks as unqualified to discuss the relative merits (or distinct lack thereof) of the Jackling House.
  • Reply 7 of 9
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by vinea View Post


    Geez, do you really believe they are stupid? The key was when Gates was there he kept the MBA thinking in check since he was a real geek's geek. AND there was the perception that as long as he was at the helm it was a winning team (not so much with Ballmer) so they could recruit the smartest. Today the smartest would rather work for Google and Apple (to a lesser extent).



    I said nothing about intelligence, so no, I don't believe that they are stupid. I am talking about culture, which is a far more complex issue.



    Yes, Microsoft lost money on Xbox because they wanted into this market quickly. Just as Apple wanted into the mobile phone market, and the music playing and retailing market. The difference in results is obvious, is it not?



    There's pretty clearly a tension going on within Microsoft over whether they should try to recreate their success with PC operating systems or to design end-to-end. They haven't had notable success doing either, have they? If it wasn't for corporate culture, they'd have moved on a long time ago, and they'd have figured out how to design products like Apple designs products, which includes making them profitable from the start.



    I think Gates' reputation as a tech visionary is far overrated. Have you ever tried to read "The Road Ahead?" It's almost embarrassing.



    If you can discuss this issue civilly, then fine -- please feel free to respond. But if you have to add complete irrelevancies and ad homs then please do not bother.
  • Reply 8 of 9
    splinemodelsplinemodel Posts: 7,311member
    There are people out there who could probably do a better job running Apple than Jobs has, but they are not always easy to find or recruit. Remember that Jobs was acquired by the purchase of NeXT. Apple's next CEO will almost certainly come from an acquisition.



    Don't sweat it.
  • Reply 9 of 9
    vineavinea Posts: 5,585member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post


    I said nothing about intelligence, so no, I don't believe that they are stupid. I am talking about culture, which is a far more complex issue.



    Yes, Microsoft lost money on Xbox because they wanted into this market quickly. Just as Apple wanted into the mobile phone market, and the music playing and retailing market. The difference in results is obvious, is it not?



    Yes, Apple executed better than MS. This doesn't mean that MS doesn't understand how Apple operates or that it cannot develop new products using different business strategies.



    Yes, culturally MS is different than Apple.



    Yes, Bill Gates created much of that culture.



    However, there are many examples of companies that lost their way once the founders or iconic leaders left. IBM after Watson Jr. Disney. Few companies have excelled at grooming successful follow-ons to iconic CEOs.



    Apple doesn't seem to have a successor able to fill Jobs' shoes.



    Quote:

    There's pretty clearly a tension going on within Microsoft over whether they should try to recreate their success with PC operating systems or to design end-to-end. They haven't had notable success doing either, have they? If it wasn't for corporate culture, they'd have moved on a long time ago, and they'd have figured out how to design products like Apple designs products, which includes making them profitable from the start.



    Moved on from what? PC dominance? Their products ARE largely profitable from the start with the understanding that their products are SOFTWARE products. A point you seem to miss somehow. They made $4.2B in PROFIT for Q4 2009.



    Not bad for a company without any "notable success".



    But without Gates it lost a significant advantage. Likewise, without Jobs, Apple will not be the same and likely will also enter a period where it flounders a bit.



    Quote:

    If you can discuss this issue civilly, then fine -- please feel free to respond. But if you have to add complete irrelevancies and ad homs then please do not bother.



    Why is it irrelevant or an ad hom to ask if you are willing to adhere to the same criteria you set for others? These are considerably less than civil and attack the poster rather than the post:



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post


    What is really ridiculous is people who have absolutely zero knowledge of a subject to pretend expertise.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post


    Really? Are you an expert on these matters? Do you have any knowledge about them whatsoever?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post


    Really? How do you know this? Are you an expert on these matters? Do you know anything about them whatsoever?



    ...



    Sigh. I guess one doesn't have to know anything at all about a subject to have an opinion



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post


    The first post in each of these threads should be, "The following people know nothing about the patents involved or the law, but have strong opinions about them nonetheless."



    So by what criteria should we judge you expert on personal computing history or Bill Gates that your opinion should be considered canon?
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