Thursday, 06 October 2011 11:55

Jobs is a hard act to follow


In the aftermath of his death, it is worth speculating - would the announcement of the iPhone 4S have rated as negatively as it did if Steve Jobs had been the front man?

New Apple CEO Tim Cook's presentation resulted in a flood of negative media coverage - though there was really no factual reason why this should have happened.

In reality, one will never know. Jobs took no part in the event, being on his deathbed. He passed away on Wednesday, US time.

One would not be wrong to rate him as the only one who could singlehandedly convince Apple loyalists that the best was always yet to come.

Jobs was unique in one respect - in this day and age, there is not a single technology company which has pinned its fortunes to a lone individual.

Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Google, Yahoo!, you name it, no company has ever depended on the charisma of a lone individual to market its wares and attract new adherents.

Much will be written about Jobs' technical genius (he wasn't one) and his vision. Not many will focus on Jobs' main gift - obsessing about a product and insisting that it be perfect in every detail before it went on show.

Such a boss is unlikely to survive long in most companies but Jobs did because the whole company, even those who were pushed and pushed to produce, probably came to realise that the man who was on their backs all the time was the same one who kept the marketplace happy.

He was the one who kept Wall Street analysts on-side, he was the one whose words could flip the share price up or down. The reality didn't matter, what Jobs said did.

In some respects, making an individual the focus of a company's marketing is a dangerous strategy. Apple will now have to cope with the backlash of having such a person as its front man. Having reaped the benefits since Jobs returned to the company in the 90s, the downsides will now have to be absorbed.

Whenever an announcement is due from Apple, much is expected. Jobs made it that way and even if the hype did not match the reality, it was always overlooked. Exactly how Apple will cope with market expectations now, remains to be seen.

The company's strategy is unlikely to change - to be a step ahead of the competition and bring well-designed products to market. But no leader leaves a company exactly as he found it, and down the line, we will see a little more of Cook's personality come to the fore.

At that point, whether Apple continues to hold on to its status as the most valuable technology company or not, is open to question.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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