There are plenty of Apple followers who worry about what Apple life would be like without co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs. Dan Fommer, in Business Insider, equates Palm’s most recent disaster with Apple sans Steve Jobs:
Palm slashed its guidance today and shares are down 20%, as the company’s comeback attempt in the smartphone market hits a brick wall.
What’s the brick wall? Apple, of course. The iPhone continues to sell strongly despite a weakened worldwide economy.
In the short term, that’s good news for Apple, whose iPhone has been able to gain ground despite increased competition.
In the short term? Does that mean that Palm or Android or Microsoft of whomever will be the cause of Apple’s downfall without Steve Jobs?
But in the long term, it’s more evidence that Apple is screwed once visionary CEO Steve Jobs eventually leaves the company.
It’s difficult to say that a company with $40-billion in the bank and record sales and profits and market share would be screwed once the fabled leader is gone, but, I’m listening. Just how is Apple screwed?
Palm is basically Apple, Jr. And if a bunch of Apple geniuses can’t kick butt on their own at Palm, how are they going to kick butt without Steve at Apple?
Dan, are you serious? That’s a nicely turned phrase on an interesting premise, but how in God’s name is Palm equated as Apple, Jr? A bunch of misguided former Apple employees at Palm do not an Apple Jr. make.
That’s ludicrous on its face.
Palm does not have, and has not had for many years, a single capable product that has an Apple counterpart. Not one. There are substantive differences between Palm and Apple, even with the former stealing executives and engineers from the latter. Palm is short on resources. Apple is not. Palm is short on talent. Apple is not. Palm is short on leverage (one product helping to launch another). Apple is not. In fact, everything Palm is, Apple is not (and the other way around).
Palm’s previous management completely screwed up everything as smartphones began to take off, requiring a complete reboot. That’s not Rubinstein’s fault, and you could argue that the deck was stacked against him from the beginning. But the big idea was that Palm was supposed to be able to make and sell something better than the iPhone. And it has failed to do that.
But why? And how is the why of Palm’s disaster similar to an impending disaster at Apple when Steve Jobs leaves?
Steve Jobs is still the one calling the shots—making both big decisions and tiny ones. So far, he’s mostly made the right decisions, as far as which products to go after and which to avoid, user experience, acquisitions, strategy, features, pricing, etc. As a result, the Mac is growing, the iPhone has been huge, the iPod drove the company for years, and now the iPad could be a cool rival to netbook PCs.
Alright. I get it. Apple’s success rests completely upon Steve Jobs’ shoulders. And, when Steve Jobs leaves Apple, and someday he will, Apple immediately reverts to being like Palm—populated with bright engineers and executives who can’t design or engineer or market their way out of a paper bag.
I don’t buy it.
Steve’s successors might have the same string of luck. But given Apple’s experience with and without Steve Jobs, and the futility of companies like Palm that try to clone the Apple magic without Steve Jobs, this seems unlikely.
There’s a big-assed fly in the ointment of that analysis.
Apple tossed Steve Jobs out the door back in 1985, and the company continued to grow and prosper for half a dozen years; increased market share, revenue, and profits—well beyond what the co-founder left. For the first half dozen years after Steve Jobs returned to Apple the company was definitely not in kick-ass mode. Market share, revenue, and profit growth at Apple were, uh, to be kind, modest—definitely less than stellar.
Was that Steve Jobs’ fault?
Back in 1997 Apple bet the farm on OS X. It took many years for that bet to pay off. The iPod venture begat the iTunes Store which begat a growing halo effect on the Mac which begat the iPhone which begat the App Store—all of which combined to form huge growth in market share, revenue, and profits. Jobs’ fingerprints are all over the Apple of today, and we may worry about what will happen once dear leader is gone.
Palm is not the Apple of seasons past. And the Apple of today is not Palm. Saying that Apple is screwed without Steve Jobs because Palm is screwed without Steve Jobs is to forget history.