Jobs, Steve Jobs
Last week I wrote about whether Tim Cook was the right guy in 2015 to lead Apple forward. I then followed with an article about the stock being in a dulldrums. While comments to both stories were not necessarily positive, both postulations may be true. Sometimes people do not like to hear the truth, especially when it goes against their preconceived ideas. Change is difficult for most, and adjusting to reality is often something people prefer to avoid.
The fact is Apple is in a funk this year. While OS X will add some nice do-dads to its plethora of features and iOS 9 looks to be a welcomed update as well, it hasn’t been since the iPad’s launch that Apple’s luster was shining bright. Sure the stock has done amazing things since the beginning of this decade as has Apple’s savings account. Tim Cook has proven to be a very good manager of what is. Incremental change over time with the direction of the company in an upward direction. But while good for the first four years of the 2010 series, year number five is proving a bit more difficult.
Back in January of 2007, at MacWorld San Francisco, Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. I was at that show and remember waiting in line to go to the Apple booth to see the two iPhones on display in cylindrical glass cases. It was like gazing upon a rare jewel or ancient discovery at a museum. The round, glass case allowed you to view the iPhone from almost every angle. It was cool. It was unique. It was certainly different, but it was not alone.
Since last Fall, all the attention of those who carefully follow what Apple does have been focused on Apple Watch, iPhone, Apple Pay and most recently a stunning new MacBook. From all the predictions from way back in 2010 until now (including some here at T-GAAP), Apple TV has made little progress from its hobby status.
It has been a little over four years in the desert for those of us who use Apple Xserves — or any Apple hardware as a server. Since the fateful announcement on November 5, 2010, when Apple announced they were discontinuing the Xserve product line, many Mac IT professionals have been been disheartened that Apple never reversed this decision.
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.