Let’s say Steve Jobs retires next year. So what? I’m one of those in the lonely camp that doesn’t believe Jobs is Apple and Apple is Jobs. Or that when he disengages from Apple the wheels must necessarily fall off. Jobs bought Pixar in 1986, and […]

541321286_7b398dab10_m1Let’s say Steve Jobs retires next year. So what?

I’m one of those in the lonely camp that doesn’t believe Jobs is Apple and Apple is Jobs. Or that when he disengages from Apple the wheels must necessarily fall off.

Jobs bought Pixar in 1986, and while he wasn’t nearly as closely involved with it as he has been at Apple, he assembled a team that helped the company thrive even after it was sold to Disney two years back. Since then, Pixar delivered the Oscar winning “Ratatouille” as well as “Wall-E” (Nos. 144 and 34, respectively, on IMDB’s list).

If Jobs hasn’t done the same at Apple, he’s failed at one of the key tasks of a great CEO. I don’t think that’s his style. Yet this week, the media once again turned the spotlight onto Jobs’ health after the company said he won’t appear at MacWorld, that Apple is essentially snuffing what has become a tedious knockoff of a Galaxy Quest convention. Any other company, and it would have ended at the headline.

But Apple isn’t any other company. It’s Apple. Therefore Jobs must be dying. Therefore the stock loses $6.6 billion in two hours.

One day we’ll all look back on this and shake our heads. Rarely has so much attention been paid to the health of an individual who was not the head of state or a religion. What if Jobs is fine, and just wanted no part of the obscene gadget fetishism, which tech conferences in general have become, when millions were losing their jobs and homes? Isn’t that kind of the opposite of dying?

The voluble world of Apple-gazers has been cleft between the virulent fanatics and the desperate naysayers (which the fanatics have in good part created). All this drama overlooks two boring things: a) Apple is a company, and b) Steve Jobs is a businessman.

Apple doesn’t need Macworld anymore. It did for years, when Jobs would step out like Gandalf and save our butts from the ill forces of Mordor. Now Apple rules online music, and Mordor — read Microsoft — is greatly weakened.

Apple has blossomed into a global, mainstream brand, and the fanatics who helped get it there are suddenly less useful. Which brings us to point b.

Until now, Steve Jobs never showed discomfort with the mystique, the legend, the icon that he had become as the man who created and later saved Apple. He totally dug it, but he dug it totally as a businessman. His fan base grew passionate, grew vocal and then — in late 2008 — grew outmoded. Apple simply didn’t need them anymore. It could expand on its own powers.

Besides, this whole mystique thing was starting to backfire. The idea that Jobs and Jobs alone could keep Apple successful is kind of demeaning to the other 32,000 employees there. If Apple did suffer after Jobs’ departure, many of the most talented of those people would found startups, some of which would eventually accomplish insanely great things like Apple has.

Beyond Apple’s stunning success this decade, the success of those new startups would be the ultimate compliment to Steve Jobs’ skills as a corporate leader.

Photo courtesy of acaben via Flickr.

  1. [...] See the original post: Apple Will Be Just Fine Without Steve Jobs [...]

  2. I’ve said this for months now; Apple would be fine, Jobs or no Jobs. Apple iis one of the strongest, smartest and more resilient companies in recent memory, and that wouldn’t change either way.

  3. Besides, somebody has to go off to the mountain for a while and think different about how to do insanely great things with the new, post-apocalyptic global economy. Go Steve, go.

  4. Any links to the stock drops after Steve dropped out? Nicely written. Loved the reference to Gandalf and Morrrdor! Apple is loved because Apple is great, not because of Jobs.

    I could fry an egg on this Macbook Pro, but wouldn’t have any other machine, and wouldn’t get the level of service from any other company. Even Dell. I know when I ring my local Apple Store, they will get this issue resolved. We can rely on our Machines to run our amazing Adobe Suite, without crashing, constantly. And this is a notebook, not a desktop.

    Steve did not design or manufacture the machines, but led the company to do so to the highest standards. He has set a benchmark, for others to exceed. Apple always raise the benchmark, and hopefully always will.

  5. I think you might be underestimating Jobs’ value to Apple. Right now, we have to go on faith that Steve has a good succession plan in shape. Tim Cook is mildly comforting but that’s it. Schiller, Ive, and others wouldn’t cur it. Steve has had an incredible ability to exploit the intersection of technology, marketing and culture in a way that no one else I can think of has.

    Regarding Macworld, I have not seen anyone suggest that Apple should continue participating. The only issue, which was absent from your post, was the timing. The timing made health a plausible topic. The only other reasons would be a major product delay or wild dissatisfaction with IDG.

  6. Great article. What most people absorbed in the tech industry do not realize is that the average person waltzing into Apple stores or getting ipods for Christmas have absolutely no idea who Steve Jobs is.

  7. [...] su parte, GigaOM ha puesto paños fríos al asunto, diciendo que “Apple estará bien sin Steve jobs“, basándose en el desempeño de Pixar, compañía que Jobs compró en 1986, y en la que [...]

  8. There’s one major flaw in the Pixar argument which you take as a jumping off time. Pixar has John Lasseter who is the creative force and the visionary and the spiritual leader of the storytelling forces at Pixar. At Pixar Steve is not the main guy – he is the business guy He is not the products guy or the technical guy. Latter is Ed Catmull.
    There is no other spiritual leader at Apple – there is no other products guy at apple – there are technical greats and business greats like Avi Tevanian and maybe Schiller respectively – but that is “just infrastructure”.

    So if, as you argue, Steve Jobs has a successor in the wings why haven’t we seen him/her yet – and how successful could he/she be if they haven’t had the kind of exposure and public vetting that we would expect.

    Sorry, but you haven’t made the case properly. While it is true nominally that Apple is a company and that Jobs is its business leader, it is also true that Apple is a cult and Steve Jobs is it’s spiritual leader.
    Apple as a company will no doubt survive – but will it still have cult status when someone else is running the show? Yes, but only if some one with the charisma and reality-distortion-field of Steve Jobs, takes his place.

    Your arguments while logical miss out on putting your finger on the soul of Apple which is what makes it not just a great company but THE company at the cutting edge of consumer computing.

    You might want to come at it from that angle and see if you come to the same conclusions.


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