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Sunday, 28 August 2011 00:34

Why Apple will not survive without Steve Jobs

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There is not much that can be said about Apple and Steve Jobs that has not already been said. Jobs is Apple; no, Apple, with its superlative developers, is much more than Jobs; Jobs is merely human and just a good salesman. The reality is, however, Apple and Jobs are inseparable because Apple is Steve Job's dream. And that's why it will not survive after he goes.

 

As Apple folk lore tells us, Apple Computer was created as a company in 1977 by Steve and Steve (Jobs and Wozniak) in 1977. Most of us know that Wozniak was the tech guy and Jobs was 'merely' the marketeer, so incredibly many still today claim that Wozniak was the real brains behind Apple, despite the fact that he has had no real role in the company for about 30 years.

History tells us that between 1977 and 1984, under the guidance of Steve Jobs, Apple Computer - despite a few setbacks - flourished, culminating in landmark release of the revolutionary Macintosh personal computer.

Then, in 1985, the board of Apple, a company that had yet to realise where its true heart and soul lay, ousted what it probably saw as an erratic dictatorial Jobs in favour of a conventional CEO in John Sculley.

The moment that Jobs resigned from Apple marked a slow and painful decline into near obscurity, punctuated by some success in the early years following his departure, until he returned to the helm in 1997 with the company at its lowest ebb.

Jobs of course had not been idle while the company he co-founded was withering on the vine. He founded Next, the company whose object oriented operating system NextStep was eventually purchased by Apple and formed the basis of the current Mac OS.

He also acquired Pixar Animation Studios in 1986, the producer of Toy Story among others, and in the process became the largest shareholder in Disney.

The point is that Jobs, while he was absent from the failing Apple, proved that he was the magic ingredient that the company had been missing during its decade in the wilderness.

Eventually the company realised its mistake and, in what appeared to outside world as an act of desperation of a company on its last legs, welcomed back Jobs and and basically turned the company over to him.

CONTINUED


 

No-one really needs to be reminded of the outcome of that lifesaving decision. iMac, iTunes, iPod, the move to Intel processors, iPhone, MacBook Air, iPad - all massive successes contributing to Apple being one of the - if not THE - richest company in the world.

The Jobs naysayers will no doubt say that all of those products are the result of Apple's superb technology development teams not Jobs.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Those of us in the media, who have dealt with Apple on a corporate level in different countries around the world, know how the company operates.

Apple is the corporate equivalent of a one-world government under the obsessive control of a tyrannical dictator. Unlike any other technology company in the world, there is no autonomy at a local level anywhere outside of 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California.

If any local public affairs lackey dared to issue a statement to the media or field a query without first running it by Cupertino, it would mean instant dismissal - and it has happened.

The power hierarchy at Apple is clearly defined and, until recently, there has never been any doubt that the person in charge was none other than Steve Jobs.

And this brings us back to why Apple, a company with only a few products that plays in a largely select niche consumer market place, has been such a phenomenal success.

Apple is literally Steve Jobs' dream. Unlike his rivals, he does not care or try to guess what products the market would like to have. All Steve Jobs cares about is what products Steve Jobs would like to have.

Steve Jobs hated the type of personal computers that IBM was producing. What he wanted was a Macintosh. He hated the type of mobile phones that we were being forced to used. What he wanted was an iPhone. Steve Jobs hated netbooks. What he wanted was an iPad. Steve Jobs hated the way he had to buy the music he loved. What he wanted was a store where he could download it to a device that he could put in his short pocket or clip to his running shorts.

Yes, occasionally Jobs has some failures - Apple TV has not exactly been a rip snorting boom product. But most of the time Jobs has hit the nail on the head.

Some may think Steve Jobs is a self-centred, selfish ass for telling his development teams to bring products to the market that he personally would like to have. However, others recognise that what Steve Jobs has done with Apple is the mark of true genius.

And this brings us back to the original statement, with the departure of Steve Jobs, the company will do well for a while. It has an excellent line-up of relatively early generation products thanks to Jobs.

However, unless another genius of the calibre of Steve Jobs steps in - and let's face it they don't happen too often - then Apple will eventually revert to trying to invent new products that it thinks the market might want. If that happens, then Apple will once again begin a slow and painful slide, because the true differentiator between Apple and its rivals is none other than Steve Jobs.

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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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