The Orange View (on hiatus) Because Apple is great but it isn't perfect


Underestimating Steve Jobs, impossible as that sounds

The announcement that Steve Jobs is resigning as CEO of Apple has ignited a tsunami of analysis and commentary, much of it quite enlightening. I liked this piece by the always-reliable Harry McCracken comparing Apple after Jobs to Disney after Disney. And Internet smartie Rex Hammock brings great perspective to the whole arc of Apple's success under Steve.

But even those two pieces reveal an important  blind spot that is even more gaping in the vast majority of stories written by tech reporters and tech bloggers. And that is, amazingly enough, underestimating Steve Jobs' contributions to Apple.

Yes, his product design strategy philosophy/taste has been super-critical to Apple's success. But there is so much more that Jobs has done much less visibly and I am much more concerned about those areas.

It was Jobs who had the cred and the charisma and the balls to get the music industry on board with the iTunes store when every other effort at the time was a disaster. It was Jobs who similarly convinced wireless carriers to give Apple far more control over the phone user experience than any previous manufacturer. I'm not happy about how he deployed his skills in the ebook arena as a consumer but from Apple's point of view he pulled off a business miracle in outfoxing Amazon.

And even more opaquely to everyone on the outside, how has Jobs developed, attracted and retained the most talented senior folks like a Tim Cook or a Jon Ive and kept them working in harmony? What about changing strategies mid-stream -- iPod won't have video/iPod has video, no one reads anymore/iBooks for iPads and many more examples (probably bigger ones I am forgetting). There is a lot more to Apple's success than great product design.

And that is why, despite its amazing products and current top-o-the-heap standing, I continue to be more pessimistic about Apple after Jobs than the vast majority of folks.

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Posted by Aaron Pressman

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  1. It is sad to see Steve Jobs leave his post as CEO, but continuing as a board member and employee of Apple, he will still have influence on the overall direction of the company.

    We knew the day was coming soon that Jobs would need to step down and hand over the CEO reigns of the company, so yesterday’s announcement was not unexpected.

    His replacement as CEO, Tim Cook, is eminently qualified for the position. Mr. Cook has been Acting CEO of Apple during the past few years that Steve Jobs was ill and on leave.

    During Tim Cook’s tenure, Apple has not only survived, it has grown at an incredible pace. There is nothing to indicate that his prowess leading the company will change in any way in the future.

    Apple’s products have been and will continue to be designed by Jon Ives, and the management team that developed everything from iOS to the App Stores to Mac OS X, etc. continue to provide products and services that have made Apple so successful.

    Apple is one of the few companies that actually develops a long-term corporate strategy, and there is commitment from the Board on down to following the plan.

    Ultimately, Steve Jobs’ resignation at this time is a good thing for him and for his health. It is also a good thing for the company since Steve Jobs’ influence will still be felt, but the day-to-day operation of Apple, and the production of new and innovative products will continue without the hindrance of external uncertainty about Jobs’ ability to lead the company.

    Investors are starting to realize this, and today Apple’s stock price is bouncing back from the panicky, minor sell-off yesterday.

    Overall, Apple’s investors, employees, and customers should be as confident as ever about the company’s future.

  2. I was in the former camper before finishing the biography. Now I am almost done with the book and it is clear that Steve Jobs has done tons more than just product design. It was his credential, his charisma, his perseverance, he being the final decision maker, his whole package that took Apple to its current status.