The long overdue and long expected succession plan for Apple was announced on Wed. It happened to come in the form of a resignation letter by Steve Jobs. With this news, some may cry that the “sky is falling,” believing that Steve and only Steve holds the magic of Apple innovation. Not so much.
Jobs wrote in his memo:
“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.”
I know that everyone wishes the best to Jobs and for his complete healing.
Tim Cook, who has been the chief operating officer since 2005, will take the helm.
Of course, there have been concerns about Apple’s top succession for years, whether from the state of Jobs’ health (a lengthy battle with cancer) and potential legal troubles. At times, this FUD has sent the stock price spinning downwards. But that was before the continuing success of the iPhone and especially the iPad and its stabilizing effect on Apple’s bottom line.
The FUD now appears to be based on the belief that Steve has some mystical knowledge of innovation and only he can lead Apple forwards.
Yes, Jobs is a great computing visionary and his accomplishments with Apple since his return to the company are now legend: killing Apple’s licensing strategy, keeping developers on the platform during the dark days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, managing the transition to Mac OS X, moving the hardware platform to Intel, and building out a retail operation when everyone knew that mail-order was king. And its mobile strategy that leveraged its existing Mac OS X IDE.
There are many more accomplishments. And more to come. How can I say that now that he’s leaving the CEO job?
Nothing in the hardware or software business happens quickly. Especially, when you have to manufacture millions of units. For some reason, there’s a naive belief that technology companies work on Internet time, a time span counted in months. They can’t. They design and plan things years in advance.
The plans for Apple’s product lines stretch out into the future for years. Unlike its competitors, Apple is not in the catch-up position for its computers, smartphone, and tablet. Apple isn’t reacting to innovations; it’s leading them.
In fact, we’ve recently seen with the rush to tablet computing what happens when technology companies lose a product cycle and play catchup, reacting to a development outside their playbook: tired designs, uncompetitive feature sets and overpriced, underwhelming performance.
Back in the middle 1990s, I worked as the News Editor of MacWEEK, a controlled circulation trade publication that covered the Mac market. When I started that job, I was handed the company’s version of a state secret: a photocopy of Apple’s 3-year plan for all of its products, hardware and software and accessories, with code names and projected release dates. And all of these products happened as it was writ.
Jobs has created a culture of innovation at Apple, so it’s not all about his direct leadership or sensibility. At the same time, his thumbprint is all over the secret documents in a vault in Cupertino.
Good luck to Steve Jobs, Tim Cook and Apple. And to all of us customers. The sky ain’t falling anytime soon.
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