Jobs, Steve Jobs
Apple CEO Tim Cook conducted an interview a few weeks ago at the Goldman Sachs technology conference. Cook discussed Apple's product line, grid-free power initiatives and the forthcoming Apple Watch (once asked about it). I've listened to Tim Cook interviewed and watched him give presentations dozens of times, just as I had Steve Jobs. There is one thing about each man that becomes abundantly clear. Steve Jobs was a pure genius visionary, while Tim Cook is cunningly smart.
Jobs birthed Apple, was fired, and was then rehired to save it. He did more than just save the company, he drove it to record success. Jobs could simply see things others could not, and he taught his fellow executives to remove the glass ceiling and dogma surrounding large businesses. Jobs had pet projects, such as the ill-fated Cube, and wildly successful iPhone and iPad. Who knows what he had up his sleeve for Television.
If Detroit’s top brass are operating with the same acumen as former General Motors CEO, Dan Akerson, Apple should be tripling their car efforts. Apple taking on Akerson and other automotive "whiz kids" may make former Motorola & Microsoft CEOs (Ed Zander and Steve Ballmer) look like a geniuses.
Earlier this week, Akerson spoke to Bloomberg about rumors of Apple getting into the automotive market. “I think somebody is trying to cough up a Hairball here,” Akerson said. He continued on, talking of how those outside the automotive industry don’t understand it, with the end result being a lot of work for extremely low margins. Akerman ended his comments with a warning to Apple. “They’d better [understand the automobile industry] if they want to get into hard-core manufacturing. We take steel, raw steel, and turn it into a car. They have no idea what they’re getting into if they get into that.” When asked how he would deal with Apple, his response was “How do they deal with us? That’s the question.” Oh wait, that last comment wasn’t Akerson, it was former Motorola CEO Ed Zander that uttered those disparaging comments against the iPhone. But Akerson’s comments are not falling far from the failed “mock Apple” tree. Perhaps history is about to repeat itself – again.
A good CEO knows that if their company rests on its success, impending doom will soon be at their doorstep. IBM became distracted and complacent. Microsoft believed it was invincible with over 90% market share. Thank goodness Tim Cook and Apple think differently.
Cook knows that despite all the success and glory with the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and the resurgence of the Mac, if Apple stands still history shows that Apple’s fate is certain — decline. While IBM and Microsoft are still with us today, they are not the companies they were at the peak of their success. The question is how Apple will maintain its success into the next decade.
If Apple were an ocean liner and Tim Cook her captain, there is little doubt that the USS Apple would be parsing the open waters at “full steam ahead”. While Steve Jobs turned Apple around, was very good at gathering top talent and then focusing that talent on a few key ideas — bringing excitement to the world with new gadgets and gizmos we all had to have, Tim Cook has brought stability to Apple.
Rumors of both a 12-inch MacBook and iPad have surfaced in recent months. Where there is smoke with Apple rumors there is often a form of fire, and claims of the an iPad Pro have been heating up quickly. We have put our stamp of approval on a 12-inch MacBook, but a 12-inch iPad (now with a stylus?) have us questioning the merits of why a product should exist.
The invitations are out and Apple wishes it could tell us more. But for those outside the executive suite at Infinity Loop we will need to wait one more week, until 9.9.2014. The significance of the location is that the Flint Center, located on the De Anza college campus, is where Steve Jobs unveiled the original Macintosh 30 years ago.
In the mid-90's when Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy, then CEO Gil Amileo, chose Steve Jobs’ NeXT, Inc., and the NeXTSTEP operating system over former Apple fellow Jean-Louis Gassée’s BeOS. Jobs joined Apple’s Board of Directors, and with the NeXTSTEP operating system set as the foundation of what would become OS X he went to work on hardware along with regaining his CEO status. Gil Amileo was sent packing within a month of Jobs return, branding himself as Apple's iCEO, and soon thereafter the introduction of the first iMac.
In his latest support of all-things-for-the-social-good, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, took the Ice Bucket Challenge at Apple’s fundraising bash to fight ALS during the company’s diversity week. Cook became CEO of Apple in 2011, and over the course of his reign he has had a major impact on the culture of the Cupertino company.
Apple is a unique company, and anyone who would deny that just doesn’t understand the company's history. While IBM created the first personal computer, it was Apple that made the PC useable by people who weren’t programmers. Yes Apple leveraged the idea from Xerox (and then Microsoft from Apple), but does anyone think we would have seen mass adoption of PC’s in the 90’s if Xerox were leading the charge with the GUI interface? And it wasn’t just the GUI interface. Apple delivered files, folder and a trash can, in easy-to-understand icon format. Apple then linked the PC with design software and laser printers and an entirely new way to publish documents was born.
Fast forward two decades and Apple launched the iPod. Apple did not create this product category either, but took it to the next level and made it a must-have for an entire generation. Once again the iPod portable music player was not a standalone device. iPod came with iTunes vertically integrated, quickly followed with the iTunes store, and the music industry was transformed overnight.
It has been somewhat amusing to watch, but Microsoft’s horrifically managed businesses and Johnny-come-lately practices may actually be coming to an end. That isn’t to say Sayta Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO, won’t make his own set of mistakes, but if his rhetoric matches the actual direction of Microsoft’s overall business, the slow motion train wreck Steve Ballmer was engineering over the past decade may be grinding to a halt.
Steve Ballmer’s idea that Microsoft could truly be all-things to all people in every market was pure folly, mixed with a heavy dash of hubris. His belief that the software giant continued to be the only 800 pound gorilla in the tech world was absolute arrogance and denial, culminating into one undefined direction for the company. So far it appears Nadella has a better grip on reality and a shaper focus for the company moving forward, as he is preparing to axe the irrelevant.