August 25, 2011
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The eulogizing started in earnest around 7 or 8 PM here on the East Coast. By the time I was running through a digest of the day’s events at 10:30PM, my Flipboard had been fed a whole chapter dedicated to the resignation of Steve Jobs from the CEO position at the second most highly valued company in the world, announced after market close yesterday.
Some folks will chalk up the coverage and reverence of tone to Apple “fanboism,” some will say we’re only interested because of the meteoric rise the company’s stock has taken in the recent years but I say we’re interested because Jobs is a leader that did things different(ly.) He came back to the helm of a company that he’d founded some 20 years earlier to find it in shambles, with a byzantine network of licensing deals for hardware, a minuscule market share and no clear differentiator to warrant an existing premium on its products. In the interceding 15 years he transformed Apple Computer into Apple Inc, on the way redefining personal computing and communications norms as well as creating an entirely new route to market and ecosystem for music and media delivery.
Will Apple as a company fundamentally change? Will Tim Cook the successor named ages ago in a well-thought-out succession plan be able to fill the giant footsteps Jobs has laid? Nobody knows the answers to these questions but I ask you this, if you are part of the management team of the second most valued company in the world, are you going to leave anything to chance? No. Add to this that Jobs will be playing a direct role in running the company as its Chairman – a role that allows him to remain intimately involved but likely allows a schedule his health demands – and you’re not going to see any significant alterations in the company’s path.
It’ll be 2-3 product cycles after Jobs has stopped playing an active role at the company that will truly test whether the firm has what it takes to continue thinking different about markets, consumer needs and ultimately products. No brand lasts forever, and regardless of the outcome, the contributions to our computing culture that Apple has made with Jobs at the top are impossible to understate.