Ever since his very secretive battle with Pancreatic Cancer in 2003-2004, Steve Jobs’ health is consistently under a microscope. Every time Jobs coughs on stage the news media goes crazy with rumors that he might be ill. Many believe the charismatic leader, who saved Apple from […]

Ever since his very secretive battle with Pancreatic Cancer in 2003-2004, Steve Jobs’ health is consistently under a microscope. Every time Jobs coughs on stage the news media goes crazy with rumors that he might be ill.

Many believe the charismatic leader, who saved Apple from extinction in the 90’s, cannot be replaced. Investors seem to agree. When a hoax news story was posted on a CNN iReport that Steve Jobs had a heart attack, Apple stock fell sharply until it was reported that the story was just a hoax.

Tom Reestman recently argued that Apple would be just fine without Jobs, noting that he has put together a “a crack management team that is executing almost flawlessly.” I agree that Apple’s current senior management team has the experience and creativity to continue producing successful products. But while Apple’s day to day operations would likely run relatively smoothly, their share price would plummet due to speculation and fear.

Some have suggested that Steve Jobs and Apple should name his replacement, much in the way that Bill Gates tapped Ray Ozzie as he planned retirement. Reestman notes that Phil Schiller and Scott Forestall have often assisted Steve Jobs in giving keynotes, but lack the same charisma as Jobs. It has also been suggested that Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Senior VP of Industrial Design, but Ive has traditionally shyed away from the spotlight. He is notoriously private, and some say that even Apple doesn’t know his true birthdate.

It wasn’t until Apple’s recent Special Event that I realized Steve Jobs had already seemingly chosen Ive as his replacement. Jony Ive (Apple profile) was invited on stage to talk to the audience about the manufacturing process and simplification of the new MacBook and MacBook Pro models, and is the star of a new video detailing the manufacturing process.

Jony Ive is already a star at Apple, even if few outisde Cupertino know his name. He’s responsible for designing all of Apple’s flagship products, including the iMac, iPod, MacBook Pro (both models) and the iPhone. Could his recent move to the spotlight be a foreshadowing of things to come?

Few companies’ success is so closely tied to a single leader (whether falsely or not) as Apple. Microsoft didn’t so much as skip a beat after Bill Gates announced retirement. Even though the possibility of Steve Jobs’ retirement is minuscule, Apple’s responsibility is to its shareholders. Steve’s health (and health rumors) are affecting Apple’s share price, and a succession plan might ease that tension.

Does the charismatic Brit have what it takes to replace the iconic Jobs? I’m not sure, but I applaud Apple for taking a step in the right direction. I don’t think anyone can replace Jobs, but I personally feel that Jony Ive is a natural successor to Steve. I certainly hope “The Steve” stays at the helm for another 20 years or more, but it’s nice to know the company will be in good hands no matter what happens.

I look forward to seeing many more Steve & Jony duos in the keynotes to come.

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  1. Don’t forget that Tim Cook (my personal pick) was also called on stage at the Apple event.

    Moreover, Cook’s talk was about the state of the Mac — the kind of thing a CEO is expected to discuss — whereas Jony’s talk was about the tech details of the new manufacturing technique that put half the crowd (though not me) to sleep.

  2. Who leads the company and who talks at the keynotes are two different things. Jonathan Ive has more charisma and fits better at keynotes, but I doubt anyone is better than Tim Cook at leading the company (next to Steve).
    So what are we discussing?

  3. My personal pick would be Tim Cook. Jony doesn’t like to share the limelight as we typically see during these Apple events. He’s had a very secretive existence at Apple, including lots of extra stock options thrown his way to keep him at Apple. He’s definitely talented, but is super humble and modest and doesn’t like to take the stage often at all. What does everyone else think?

  4. The main reason people are scared of loosing Jobs is that last time he was fired from Apple, the company declined. However… he was fired. If he left with his vision and team in place, it could be a very different story. Its the difference between a company that went against him and that goes with him.

    I doubt Ive would be the person or be even interested in that role – he’s a designer, a superb one, and I’m sure he would like to continue at what is is excellent at.

  5. “Steve Jobs had already seemingly chosen Ive as his replacement”

    Ive is Job’s replacement because he was on stage? So what about Cook, Schiller or Forestall? Your logic is daft.

  6. I was watching the video when a friend stopped by, I just explained it would be over in a few minutes. He remarked that every single exec was in black, but tim cook was as well. If any company depends too much on one guy, and he could be hit by a bus ( to quote steve) it’s very reasonable to make sure each VP grooms successor, and a COO takes all daily duties off steve.
    It was over 5 years ago steve explained he was very happy with all of the people, if he did get hit by a bus, apple would be alright. In contrast to last time, when a soda pop salesman took over, who could sell kids sugar water, but couldn’t see the “next big thing”. Ran Apple into the dirt….
    Remember Gil Amelio? In HIS book, he thinks he was set up by steve…. I asked him what to do, and he’d say “get on with the next big thing”, but he never told me what that was…. ( A CEO who doesn’t know should resign )

    I’m sure steve wants Apple 100%, to thrive….

    IMHO, It’s just like the org chart. Yes Ive is very artistic, and detail oriented…. he loves hardware design, and that is part of a steve. Then Phil will sell anything, which is his job, but Steve introduced Mac OS 8.5 as “Only $99, it’s like getting a brand new Mac for under $100″. ( like some used car salesman… Then we have Fred’s protege as CFO (whatever the deal was with options – he was very good at keeping finances pouring in) So, I suppose ideally, you don’t want any one person to BE the company, and in many ways, they all make up different facets, and I think we Mac Users also think it’s something worth having around….. as most of the 20K employees feel.

    Apple from 85-96 was a lot like President Bush, I wouldn’t want to go through that again!

  7. The value of a CEO is too frequently understated. Its much more than the public persona… its how he works the board, gets the senior execs to implement the vision, and of course his public stewardship of the company. I think to many people look at others that are technically qualified and assume they can do his job. Ivy is deeply private and that will probably keep him from being successful as the captain of a very public company.

    Steve Jobs does so many things that we never see and that is what really makes him the man. Will the other execs follow Ivy, Schiller, or Forestall? Who knows, but the next Apple CEO will probably fall well short of Steve’s mark, in my opinion.

    The other thing to remember is the difference between Gates and Jobs. Gates retired and Jobs was reportedly dying… that’s a huge difference. Retirement is safe and planned, death is unexpected and dangerous. If Steve lives to retire he’ll probably see a similarly mild handover, but if he dies or becomes terminal whatever is done to fill the gap will be assumed to be risky.

  8. I’m sure Jobs and Apple have this covered. I’m sick to death of the endless speculation, though.

  9. As an industrial designer working my way to apple…eventually, my vote is for jony!

  10. gotta be Cook. Ive can still handle the vision thing, but somebody with a sound grip on the books is critical. Look for a bigger role in future for Ron Johnson, too – certainly the mastermind of Apple Retail should have a seat up front in any future course after Steve…

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