A Year Later: Apple Minus Steve Jobs, Minus the Magic?

Written by Joy Ma

A year to the day after Steve Jobs retired from Apple, our Dino Londis worries that Apple may be losing the imagination that Jobs enfused it with.

Jobs retired from Apple a year ago today.  Apple remains the most profitable company in the world, and runs the most profitable retail stores in the world.

This success is largely from the momentum Jobs built by delivering one watershed product after another.

At his retirement announcement, Jobs said he had 18 months of innovations in the pike.  A year later and Apple has only introduced incremental improvements in existing products.

“Any company that IS its CEO/founder is bound to do worse – if not going bankrupt – when the CEO/founder is no more. I hold very deep respect for Steve Jobs, both on a personal and a professional level, but he should have made sure his legacy was better taken care of (and) less dependent on his person,” comments Eric Vlietinck, a senior commentator here at aNewDomain.net and our EU correspondent.

But how do you transfer imagination? Apple CEO Tim Cook rose to his position from that of Chief Operating Officer. His background is in operational efficiency — not in imagination.

To me it looks like Cook is using his imagination to manage the company — but, unfortunately, he isn’t using it to envisage new Apple watershed devices.

Apple has made some uncharacteristic errors since Jobs retired. Consider: Even though its retail stores are the most profitable in the world, it began laying off employees. Then it hired them back after a wave of bad press.

And that’s not Apple’s only reversal. Apple also announced it will remove Green Certification (EPEAT) from all products and that it would begin sealing them shut. That shuns the tinkerer and forces obsolescence, all to gain a millimeter here and there in portability. After the public balked and the City of San Francisco said it wouldn’t buy Apple and the company immediately backed down and rejoined EPEAT.

There lies the magic of Steve Jobs. He didn’t form focus groups because he often seemed to intuitively know what people wanted — and what people wanted to hear.

Apple makes mistakes now it would not have under Jobs’ reign, in my opinion. It didn’t name the third generation iPad — the new Apple iPad, it calls it. This wasn’t a colossal mistake, but it’s a detail that Jobs wouldn’t have missed. This leaves the iPad to be defined by price instead of by model.

The simplicity of Apple commercials with the white background – borrowed from the old Volkswagen ad campaign – now are replaced with a smug John Malcovich killing time with Apple Siri. Who is that ad for? Not me.

The next six months are Cook’s and Apple’s most important.

Without its visionary founder Steve Jobs but still with its stock sitting at an all-time high, Apple needs to introduce another winner or risk the perception of looking like it did when Jobs left Apple the first time, back in the 1980s.

Jobs picture circa 1977: Courtesy Margaret and Steve Wozniak

1 Comment

  • I still think it’s a little soon for ME to place judgement on Tim Cook. I’ll feel better about a decision around October 2012.

    -RAP, II