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Wednesday, 16 November 2011 19:04

The difference between Jobs and Apple spells trouble


The revelation that Apple developed an iPhone 5 with a 4-inch screen but was forced to scrap the model because the late Steve Jobs hated it could portend a troubled future for the company.


Steve Jobs, as has been noted many times, was a dictator at Apple and, after his remarkable and triumphant return to resurrect the company he co-founded, his power was no less than absolute.

What this in effect meant was that Steve Jobs was not only the visionary genius that conceived the amazing products that Apple brought to market. He was above all the ultimate one-man quality control department for the whole enterprise.

Thus, as we now know, if Steve Jobs had not been in charge until his very last days when he stepped down, his successor Tim Cook may well have unveiled an iPhone 5 that was radically different to its predecessors and to Steve Job's mind out of kilter with the philosophy of the product line.

As a result, the iPhone 5 has not been delivered yet. However, as Jobs once again correctly judged, the iPhone 4S is what the market really needed.

So what does this tell us?

Apple is no longer controlled by a charismatic leader that intimidates his staff and demands no less than his idea of perfection from the products his company brings to market.

Some may claim that's a good thing because there's nothing worse than having a megalomaniacal boss constantly breathing down your neck.

Others, however, including Apple shareholders, may wonder how the company can maintain its position as the world's most innovative consumer technology company without the once in a lifetime genius that only a few months ago stood at the helm.

It's one thing to say that Jobs left behind a five-year products roadmap as part of his legacy for the company he loved.

It's quite another to execute on Jobs' vision and deliver the products that only he would accept and give his seal approval to.

There is little doubt that the iPhone 5 development team at Apple thought it had delivered a winner.

If its product made its way into the hands of Steve Jobs, then no-one else in the company had the authority to judge otherwise. Only Jobs could be the ultimate adjudicator.
Who else would have had the guts to throw many months of development work from some of the world's most gifted designers and engineers straight into the garbage can?

Some may argue - and many have - that the spirit of Jobs lives on in the people he trained to be his successors. However, a genius is born not made. The essence of genius cannot be distilled into a bottle.

Sure, there may be focus groups, market research and many hours of soul searching at the highest levels of Apple to try to ascertain what Steve would do. However, ultimately there will still be no Steve.

Thus, the next time an iPhone 5 moment comes along - which it inevitably will -there will be no-one with the royal seal of approval in hand at Apple to say, 'I love it!' or equally important 'I hate it!'

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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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