Can This Apple Be Cooked? - Bye Steve, You'll Be Missed

So Steve Jobs has resigned from Apple, It's sad news to wake up to as he is undoubtably a hero of mine.  

It's not a surprise at all given his recent efforts to cement his legacy.  The NY Cube he paid for is being dismantled, development of Next Infinite Loop (the new Apple Campus) is suddenly in progress again after languishing in his priorities in recent years, an internal Apple University has been established at the company and his official biography's release has been pushed forward, no doubt in anticipation of this announcement.  What is really sad is the thought that given how passionate Steve is about having control of Apple, it's likely that he would have to be seriously ill to make this decision.  I fear that he may not live out the year.  I do truly hope that he gets to spend Christmas with his family but let's not dwell on his personal misfortunes which really isn't any of our business. Let's look at the future of Apple, his great passion.

So Tim Cook is replacing Steve as CEO...

The only thing shocking about this is how many people seem to be fine with it. I expected more discussion.  If you read the press, it seems that everything will be "Steady as she goes" at Apple.  Sure, the company can do "just fine" running on fumes for the next 10 years with the amount of cash Apple has on hand but while Microsoft seems to be taking this strategy, that's not what got Apple that cash pile in the first place.

Tim Cook is reportedly a genius behind the scenes and a significant portion of that cash is due to his impressive ability to create profit margins on Apple's devices that are the envy of the industry...  but the millions of people out there buying millions of Apple devices don't give a stuff about Apple's profit margins.  If Tim Cook is really such a brilliant COO, shouldn't he be remaining as COO and concentrating on what he is great at?  Although he has supposedly been at the helm while Jobs has been on sick leave, let's make no mistake, if Jobs wasn't in complete control while home sick in bed, we would have had this announcement either a lot earlier or we would have had it delayed well after the iPhone 5 announcement.

The surprisingly high level of ignorance shown about Steve Jobs's importance to Apple by so many people is probably the number one reason why many of Apple's competitors consistently fail to replicate their success.  Even John Gruber, a notable Jobs fan, has oddly contradicted himself within the space of a week about the influence a CEO has over his/her company.  When discussing the demise of the HP Touchpad last week, he had this to say about HP's CEO Léo Apotheker.

 You don’t bring in an enterprise consulting guy to turn around a PC and device maker. You bring in an enterprise consulting guy to turn a PC and device maker into an enterprise consulting company.

Then just today he said this:
The thing to keep in mind is this: Apple tomorrow, a week from now, and next month is the exact same Apple from yesterday, a week ago, and last month. Tim Cook wasn’t named “CEO” until today, but he’s been the chief executive at the company since Jobs started this — his third — medical leave back in January
According to Gruber, HP changed it's business model because they hired a CEO with a history in business services. What will Apple become under Tim Cook? A man who is all about dollars, cents and component costs.

Steve Jobs's final work as CEO is likely set in stone for the rest of this year and I guess, if we do see changes to Apple's philosophies, we may not see them till at least next year.  Jobs has built an impressive team of Vice-Presidents like Jonathon Ive and Bob Mansfield who are full of talent, but let's not diminish the importance of leadership, not by a team, but one man with a singular vision and focus.

Ask yourself, how long would Jonathan Ive have lasted at another company like Dell or HP trying to convince their CEO to carve a laptop out of a single slab of aluminium?  Sure, Cook might be able to see the cost advantages of doing so, but would he want the product made out of aluminium in the first place?  I'm sure the margins on the products would be improved if Apple just used plastic to make their Macbook Pros.

Let's face reality, Steve Jobs is a visionary and has no peer in the Tech industry.  To find one, you have to look elsewhere. I feel a director of a film is perhaps a better comparison.  Great films are made by great teams, but those great teams are always lead by a director who has a singular vision.  Having too many cooks in the kitchen, as you all should know, is never a good idea.

I'll just give one director as an example but you could find many others.

Paul Thomas Anderson
Visionary writer / director of four of the most visually stunning and critically acclaimed contemporary films of the past 20 years.

What else do all these films have in common?  They were all shot by cinematographer Robert Elswit, a magician with light.  PT Anderson's right hand man.

But let's see four of Robert Elswit's other films when he wasn't collaborating with PT Anderson:

It's quite possible that the latter four films made more money than the former but nobody will remember them in the years to come.  Apple doesn't have millions of fans because they make so much money, Apple is celebrated by the greater population because they make great products.  Can Tim Cook go from being a manufacturing guy to being a product guy?

Sure, Jonny Ive and Tim Cook and the rest of the senior vice-presidents are an amazing team but it took the singular vision and focus of one man to hire them, promote them, guide them and put them on the right track.  Apple's success came because it was run more like a film production, with many immensely creative people working behind the scenes.  The key to all the great films (ignoring the freaks that are the Coen Brothers) is that they are all helmed by one person who knew when to say yes, when to say no and do so with taste.

Does Tim Cook have that vision? I know I'm sounding negative, he could turn out to be amazing, I should perhaps be giving him more of a chance.  I just can't help but think that Apple succeeded because they had the product guy up top and they had the money guy backing him up, just as Pixar succeeded with John Lasseter at the top with Steve Jobs backing him. Who is going to replace Cook as COO if he's as brilliant as everyone says he is?  I wish him my best luck but if I was an investor in Apple stock, I would seriously look into this transition and consider that Apple might have peaked.

More than anything, I wish Steve the best of luck, it's sad to hear that some people still downplay the value you brought to the company you founded.  Perhaps they will in years to come, until then, I'm sure all true Apple fans are hoping that Jobs's final legacy is his greatest achievement of all.


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