Steve’s Break is Apple’s Opportunity to Shine

by Chris Howard Jan 21, 2009

Left, right and center we hear too many doomsayers suggesting the fortunes of Apple are tied to Steve Jobs. With Steve taking a (well earned) break due to ill health, the doomsayers are going nuts. Apple now has an excellent opportunity to prove them wrong.

You are well aware that Apple is not a one man band. Apple employs many, many very intelligent people. In truth, a company is only as good as its people - all of its people. If Apple was just Steve, it would close up shop tomorrow. Steve is no inventor,  nor I suspect is he any better a salesman than anyone else - in fact, he must lose out badly on that score to Mr William H Gates the third, who somehow or other sold the world DOS and then Windows.

Steve surrounds himself with the best people to get the job done. His input is to set the bar and to see the future, the right path to take. When his brilliant engineers came to him to show off their new touch interface for handheld computers, it was Steve who saw that the greater opportunity lay in incorporating a cellular phone into that hand held computer. And from there on, he defined the standard for that interface.

How important was he though? Without Steve, Apple would now be selling the hottest hand held computer on the market. Instead, it's selling the hottest smartphone. Apple couldn't really lose could it? And not because of Steve, but because of some very clever engineers.

In hindsight it's easy to see the phone was the wiser choice. Yet his ability to see the right path has been finely tuned over many years. There were many near misses.

To quote our own Chris Seibold from several years ago (sorry, I have the quote, not the link), “Apple is defined by a secondary project, one that Steve Jobs wanted to kill and later demanded to control.” That project Steve wanted to kill was the Mac. Forutnately he had the right people around him to convince him otherwise.

And then it was John Lasseter and others who had to convince Steve that making animated movies, not the hardware they were constructed on, was the go after Steve proposed shutting down the animation division of Pixar.

And it was Tony Faddell who approached Apple with the idea to make what would become the iPod.

In all these examples, Steve had the right people around him. Without Steve, these could have all still come to fruition. Steve's success is based on surrounding himself with the right people, getting the right people at Apple (well, maybe he got it wrong with John Sculley).

Now it's time for those people to shine.

To prove Apple is more than Steve, Apple has to show it's not dependent on him. To do so, it has to allow other executives to launch significant new products. If Apple delays such until Steve's return, it will prove the opposite, and shares will tank everytime Steve sneezes.

It's hard not to suspect that Apple didn't release anything significant at MWSF because it expected Steve back soon. Rumors though say a Mac netbook is in the pipeline, and an iPhone nano, not to mention a significant upgrade to the Mac mini, and there's Snow Leopard. Any of these could have cracked a mention at MWSF if Steve was there.

Hey, maybe there isn't anything significant in the pipeline (chortle, chortle - this is Apple). But if there is, Apple should bend over backwards to accelerate its release before Steve returns. This will be the clearest demonstration that Apple isn't Steve. And that should quell the stockmarket jitters.

So Apple, lets see Phil or Tim or Jonathon or one of the other outstanding members of your team releasing the next great Apple product. Let's see Apple shine in the next six months.


  • Hey, Martha Stewart spent more time in prison than Steve will spend away from his gig, healing. Stewart’s company didn’t collapse without her at the helm. Apple will be fine.

    tao51nyc had this to say on Jan 21, 2009 Posts: 45
  • It’s interesting, today Tim Cook has said “We’re not going to play in the low-end voice phone business”

    Hmmm? That’s really no answer, because no one is asking Apple to. Folks just want a less smart iphone, maybe without GPS and WiFi say.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 21, 2009 Posts: 1209
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