In the last fortnight, the mobile technology industry was witness to two key decisions that will surely alter its landscape. One, Google’s decision to buy Motorola and second, Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs stepping down as Apple’s CEO. While acquisitions and mergers are part of business and so as resignations but Steve’s was no other resignation. Since its inception, Apple and Steve Jobs had been synonymous to each other. He was the face and some would say ‘the soul’ of Apple Inc., a company which took off in a garage, 35 years ago, and is today the most valuable brand of the world.
It would be an injustice if Jobs life is merely seen through the prism of economics and entrepreneurship. He was more than a successful leader who created a business empire. He created a world where innovation, excellence towards quality and fresh approach to anything and everything was the hallmark. The technology czar not only did different things but also did things differently. And a few things, the world could never understand and decode. He was a visionary, a genius and an icon with an exceptionally brilliant, innate ability to read the pulse of the consumers and the future of technology. The iPhone, the iPad, the iPod or the Mac- every product was a catalyst of change, a symbol of innovation and a signature statement of Job’s thought process.
Former Apple executive Jay Elliott, in his book, “The Steve Jobs Way,” writes, “I tell people that Steve is not replaceable as a charismatic, visionary leader of a consumer-product-centric company, but that he can be replaced by a triumvirate to carry on his legacy. Apple will have a new CEO but he, or she, will fill only one part of Steve’s role.” And still there will be something missing. The man in black mock tutrtleneck, who was like a God for many, is impossible to replace. Not even by a triumvirate.
So, what’s next for Apple?
As an era ends in Apple and a new beginning beckons, there are a few worries and skepticism on how the company will progress hereafter. But there shouldn’t be any reasons for worry as Steve leaves a lasting legacy. The man, over the years, has built robust processes and teams that have the potential to deliver. Jobs successor Tim Cook has been working behind the stage for many years, understanding the nuts and bolts and is handpicked by Jobs for the role of CEO. And, looking at the track record of the man, he has seldom gone wrong. Moreover, Steve may have been the face of the company but there are many others who made significant contributions in building Apple and now will power it forward.
Carl Howe, Director, Consumer Research at Yankee Group, who described the stepping down as ‘the second earthquake in a week’ echoes similar optimism. In a blog post, he writes “Apple’s strength comes from its culture, not its spokesman. Too many analysts have focused on Steve Jobs as the ultimate showman for Apple, but don’t recognize the processes and teams that he built that now define the company. The lasting legacy Steve Jobs leaves from his CEO role is the fact that he created a $100 billion enterprise that “thinks different.” and isn’t afraid to bet the company on that idea.”
Will the recent events give rivals any edge? Will they benefit from the transition?
JP Gownder of Forrester answers, “Product strategists at companies like Microsoft, Google, Samsung, HP, Dell, HTC, and similar firms wonder if Steve Jobs’ change in role might benefit them. They actually shouldn’t wonder: His departure from the CEO spot won’t benefit them — not for a very long time, at least. Apple’s product development road map stretches into multiple years ahead and has been shaped both by Jobs and by the organization he built. Jobs’ departure won’t affect Apple’s product portfolio, quality, or competitiveness for a long time — if ever.”
Looking at the future of Apple, Carl Howe says “Apple’s future will be just as amazing as the last decade’s. Over the past decade, Apple has both defined and dominated three new product categories: music players with the iPod, smartphones with the iPhone, and tablets with the iPad. What isn’t widely known is that many other amazing products have been similarly well-though out and developed but haven’t been brought to market yet. That pipeline, combined with Apple’s more than $70 billion cash horde, will continue to delight consumers for years, if not decades to come.”