It was not a stunning announcement but it still surprised us all when it happened. Steve Jobs was resigning as CEO of Apple. Unlike his peer, Bill Gates, not by choice, but because his health had deteriorated to a point he could no longer continue as leader of one of America’s most admired companies. It’s hard to measure the impact Steve Jobs has had not just on technology but on popular culture. It’s has been a journey of a young brilliant arrogant man to the top of the pack as one of the most admired and respected leader’s in the industry today. During that time we saw a transformation from youth to mature dignitary. He has been the an ultimate leader in technical discipline and a marketing mega star.
When I started in the industry, back in 1991 Steve Jobs was a legendary lost soul, having been booted from the very company he helped create. Apple at the time was led by former Pepsi exec John Sculley, while Steve was working on something called NeXT. I did not have much insight into Steve Jobs at this point until I was part of the account team at ATT Wireless. I worked with a partner, Accenture at the time, and we were all trying to bid on the call center business. We needed to replace their existing system built on…NeXT. Who used NeXT? It was hard to believe, but according to my counterpart from Accenture, who was in the room, when it was pitched to ATT Wireless it was the single best sales job he had ever seen, delivered by none other than Steve Jobs. Everything I ever heard about Steve Jobs always spoke to the power of his personality and when he was in a room you knew it, he was not to be ignored. It was a force of will.
By the time I was covering ATT Wireless and heard the legendary stories, Steve had already returned to Apple. It was one of those announcements that I am sure for anyone who loved Apple or worked for Apple was greeted with a sense of joy and relief. Apple at the time was a company in the wilderness. Losing market share and ceasing to do anything innovative. It was funny early on that the first release under Steve Job’s direction was the iMac which really only introduced one things of note..lot’s of colors. Up until then you could have any color that you wanted as long as it was beige. I think this little fact goes unnoticed but whether by accident or design the introduction of color was important as it was recognized that the personal computer was becoming more than just a productivity device, it was becoming a lifestyle device. From there on the history is easy to follow as music went digital. The web went mobile. The PC became entertainment. All starting with a little “i” as went from iPod to iPhone to iPad. All the time the attention to technical superiority and integrating that with the desire to be free and human. The panache that was the computer geek gave way to the individual, regardless of the technical level of ability. It was and remains the realization of the way technology is meant to be.
What will happen now that Steve Jobs is transitioning away from Apple. will Apple remain the same? First the pipeline of innovation is strong with iPhone, iPad and iTV. Not to mention the traditional sales of the iMac, Air, MacBoox etc…seems to be flourishing. Every time I got to Starbucks I estimate that half of the laptops have the familiar Apple logo glaring at me. I predict that in the not so distant future you could see Apple break the 10% mark in total market share for personal computers, which would be huge considering the decades it has been less than ten percent. computers. Then there is the question of leadership, with the reigns being handed to COO Tim Cook. In an odd way Steve’s illness has made this transition easier as Mr. Cook has been running the company at various times while Steve took a leave of absence. I think they are in good hands, with an experienced leader who has been very close to Steve Jobs over the last ten years, who knows the Apple culture.
As long a s Apple does not get to arrogant and continues to listen to consumers and be innovative they will move on and up just fine. The reality is most people like Apple. It will be a company that can reflect upon one of the great business leaders of the last hundred years and will have a legacy to move forward with. As for Steve Jobs we can only hope for the best, though the announcement seemed to be an indicator that he is gravely ill with not much time. He had a liver transplant which is never an easy thing to go through or a treatment with a “longer life span” as an option. It simply buys one time, which he has made good use of. STeve Jobs is moving to a different place in life’s long road, but many of those places on the road, he defined.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann August 30, 2011