A Jobs ‘less Apple?

January 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Steve Jobs while presenting the iPad in San Fr...

Image via Wikipedia

Recently Steve Jobs announced that he would be taking a medical leave with no possible return date.  He hands over the reigns of the company he founded, to Tim Cook the company’s COO whom he entrusted in the past during his absences.  The announcement came just a day before Apple was to release it’s quarterly numbers and only weeks prior to the much anticipated iPhone/Verizon launch.

Following his announcement After Hours trading was fast and furious.  Apple stock plummeted following Jobs’ announcement.  The next day following the close of the market Apple released their numbers and they did not disappoint.   Profits were 3.38B on 15.58B in revenue versus 2.26B on 11.88B a year ago.  Their balance sheet shows 39.8B in cash and 3.6B jump; which is the equivalent of the Gross National Product of Guatemala.  The next day the stock rebounded, albeit only slightly, as investors were still trying to envision a possible Jobs ‘less Apple.

Now that the dust has settled since Jobs’ announcement, it’s time to consider what possible impact his departure will have for both the short and long term.

Its already been proven that Tim Cook is more than capable to step in while Jobs is absent.  After all, he does have an existing pipeline of great product that he can continue to evolve and refine.  He and Jobs share similar visions for the evolution of their products.  However, Cook is not Steve Jobs.  Cook is supply chain logistics; while Jobs is product and marketing; they compliment one another well.  While Jobs prefers the stage; Cook prefers to be off-stage.   Cook is a company man and has demonstrated in the past he can tow the company line.

For the short term Apple seems to be in capable hands and has plenty of momentum to build on.   But who is going to create the magical tech products of Apple’s future?   Investors, Analysts and Techies are all trying to speculate what Jobs has planned (and you know he does).  What we know for sure is that whom ever leads the company has to be an innovator and visionary.

Leading that charge of innovators and visionaries would be Jonathan Ive, Apple’s resident industrial designer that has been credited for the design of the iPhone that led to the product design evolution of it’s existing products as well as new products (iPad). Ive is a visionary from a design and creative perspective not necessarily a business perspective.  It would be an interesting test putting Ive at the helm of Apple or possibly even creating an ‘Office of the CEO’ which would include both Ive and Cook as counterparts; working in concert to advance the Apple brand.  This exercise has been tried in the past and failed (Sears, Roebuck & Co).  Egos are simply too fragile and have their breaking points and in a company such as Apple I would imagine that breaking point would be swift.

Here’s a thought.  What about Mark Parker, CEO of Nike? Mark Parker is the third CEO of Nike since Phil Knight’s departure.  Parker is an innovator and visionary.  Parker has a stage presence and is a people person.  Parker is business savvy and has proven himself as a leader.  I doubt that Mark Parker would ever leave Nike (he’s got a good thing going) but wouldn’t this make for a great test.

The long term is still anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure, the future of Apple is uncertain and maybe the only person that has a glimpse of it is Steve Jobs himself.

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