Steve Jobs died in late 2011 and much has changed in the technology marketplace since then. The iPhone has become the best selling technology gadget of all time. The Mac continues to grow the user base and experience record sales and profits. What Steve Jobs left to CEO Tim Cook is a legacy of unmatched creativity and innovation. What Tim Cook has done to Apple is create a very powerful money making machine.
That Steve Jobs had the ‘vision thing’ and Tim Cook does not is an ongoing argument with no legs. Jobs had vision, and combined with personal power and position power– plus the manufacturing engine that Cook built– Apple launched a stellar array of industry changing products.
It all started with the original Apple computer, but the Mac was Jobs’ claim to fame. At least, until his second coming in 1997. Since then, the company that Jobs built launched Apple Stores, the iPod and iTunes duopoly, switched the Mac from PowerPC to Intel Inside, redefined the smartphone industry with the iPhone, and rebuilt the tablet in his image with the iPad.
All were market disrupting products born of the ‘vision thing’ and pushed into being by Jobs.
What has Apple launched since Jobs’ death?
Cook has led the company to an amazing level of riches– from shareholder value to revenue and profits; and continued to improve and expand the iPhone and the Mac, stabilized the iPad’s fall from industry-leading grace, bought Beats for music and headphones, launched Apple Music, Apple Watch, and AirPods, and turned the Services group into Apple’s fastest growing profit center.
What is missing should be obvious.
That ‘vision thing.’
Some have written what Steve Jobs would hate about Apple. Luke Dormehl has a few:
- A Kinder, Gentler Apple – Steve Jobs was a lot of things, but gentle wasn’t one of them. Building Apple as a company in his image, Cupertino under Jobs was ultra-secretive and occasionally even vengeful in its attitude.
- Giant iPhones – I love my iPhone 6 Plus, but there’s no doubt it’s a bit of an unwieldy beast. It’s virtually impossible to use one-handed. Jobs was proud of the fact that Apple had worked out the perfect length for its iPhones at 3.5 inches.
- Siri (which Jobs bought) – Given Jobs’ perfectionist attitude, and his disdain for both Microsoft and Google, the idea of coming in third in the virtual assistant race would have been unlikely to make him happy.
The list goes on.
Since Jobs died, Apple has become a more collaborative and less combative company, far more shareholder-friendly with stock buybacks and dividends, more media savvy, visible socially responsible, and, of course, more wealthy.
What Apple has not done is disrupt a market in the same way the Mac, Apple Stores, iPod and iTunes, iPhone, and iPad did. Apple Watch may own the industry in revenue and profits, and AirPods remain out of stock, but Apple Music trails Spotify, and Siri is a sad relic which Amazon has kicked to the curb.
Apple needs that ‘vision thing’ more than ever and Tim Cook repatriating a few hundred billion dollars in profits, buying more stock, and issuing more dividends while allowing the non-iPhone, non-Watch products languish seems like a sin to me, a notion that likely falls on deaf and tin ears in Cupertino because here we are in 2018 and Apple was named the most innovative consumer technology company.