Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Apple Doesn’t Need Steve Jobs Anymore

As the world knows, Steve Jobs is taking a second medical leave in two years from running Apple. The news caught everyone by surprise—Apple is now the biggest tech company in the world by valuation, and though Apple has a very strong management and product design team, there is question that Jobs is the driving force behind the company.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Amid all the breathless—and occasionally panicked—reporting about Job’s exit from Apple, only Farhad Manjoo at Slate has anything interesting to say: He thinks that—regardless of his health issues—Jobs might well never return to Apple:
Since returning to Apple in 1996, Jobs has pushed the company to achieve one of his long-held goals—to turn computers into mainstream appliances as ubiquitous and easy-to-use as televisions, toasters, and food processors. He has been stunningly successful in achieving that vision. And now he's probably done. The tech world, today, looks more or less exactly like what Steve Jobs has always said the tech world should look like, and Apple is one of the most valuable companies in that universe. What more is there left for Jobs to do?
Manjoo gets it exactly right. From Jobs’ point of view, he’s summited all the tech mountains worth climbing. Without question, the shape of today’s tech world is the shape Jobs imagined it back in 1976. So in a very real sense, Jobs doesn’t need Apple anymore. 

As for Apple, it doesn’t really need Jobs. 

Remember the 2007 launch of the iPhone: Though the unveiling of the product was done by Jobs, the actual development of the product was during a time when retrospectively, Job was having obvious and severe health concerns—culminating in April 2009 with his liver transplant. 

In the short run, clearly Apple’s stock might take a hit—but in the medium to long run? Considering how successful Apple currently is—what with devices, the App Store, the brick-and-mortar store, all of them fabulously successful by any metric—and considering that each of these areas of Apple’s still have room for galloping growth—with nary a single serious competitor on the horizon, not even Google—Apple is going to continue doing very well for many years to come. 

The only ominous note is that, unlike Jobs’ last health break, he has not announced how long he will be out of Apple. 


  1. Apple may not need Jobs in the sense that anyone is dispensable. Sure they can carry on... But his presence was largely symbolic, and the torch is being extinguished. His departure will turn apple from a light bearer to a mere a soulless profit seeking giant like any other gorilla out there. i don't think we wanted to leave... likely he is more ill than it appears. And he probably did not want us to see him become more and more frail. i am the same age as Steve and i watched him grow, suffer, succeed and fail all his life. i am saddened by it.

  2. I doubt that in 1976 Steve envisioned 80% of the population plugged into these devises all day long chirping and tweeting utter trivia.

    I guess these guys can't imagine how their work will be misused by the masses. I'm sure Farnsworth never could have imagined how television would enslave a large chunk of humanity.


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