Apple Without Jobs: At Least One Analyst Gets It

Many analysts and tech pundits spend a lot of time wailing and gnashing their teeth over the supposed demise of Apple, should something happen to Steve Jobs. I find it especially amusing that many of them seem to be the same ones who give Jobs little credit for Apple’s success (it’s all Jon Ive, or marketing, or the Apple faithful, or blah, blah, blah), but still claim Apple would be lost without him. I wish they’d make up their minds.

Finally, there’s a more level-headed analyst out there who realizes that life (and companies) do go on. Ezra Gottheil, of Technology Business Research, Inc., outlines why Apple will be OK when Steve Jobs departs.

“Apple doesn’t need Jobs anymore,” Gottheil said. “He’s established three sound businesses — Mac, iPod and the iPhone — and the company knows how to execute his fanatical devotion to design and usability. There’s a stable management team in place, and they know what they’re doing.”

He’s right. For as much credit as Jobs (deservedly) gets, he has assembled a crack management team that is executing almost flawlessly.

Gottheil suggests the intelligent choice of Tim Cook running the company in Jobs’ absence. That would be my preference, though given that Ron Johnson was the driving force behind Apple’s retail presence going from nothing to a model of the industry, I think he would be a good choice as well.

It seems the popular choice to replace Jobs is Jonathan Ive, but I believe Ive’s nature, his shyness, precludes him from being in such a spotlight. While Apple has allowed Phil Schiller and Scott Forestall to have the limelight in various keynotes and presentations, you don’t see Ive in such situations. Are they trying to hide him? Hardly. I believe he shuns that sort of thing. A much better strategy is to let Ive become the primary creative force within the company. Gottheil suggests Ive could “pick up the reins” on product design. A wise move, in my opinion.

Meanwhile, Apple should continue to use Schiller and Forestall (and perhaps some newcomers) for product introductions after Jobs leaves. I don’t see the CEO continuing that function, and while no one gives a keynote like Steve, Phil and Scott do it well and are clearly very enthusiastic about the products.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that there’s no harm if Apple loses Jobs. Indeed, from the above you can see I believe his tasks must essentially be spread out amongst a group. But it’s not as if there’s no harm if Apple lost any other member of their excellent management team. These are holes not easy to fill. Still, the loss of one individual, even Jobs, is not going to derail this train when there are many experienced hands at the controls.

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