I guess its fitting that the two lead stories on CNN today is the massive hurricane Irene and Steve Job – a hurricane in the business world. In my honest opinion, Steve Jobs has been the most influential CEO since GE’s Jack Welsh. The string of hits (iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc) far outweighs the misses (MoblieMe, Ping, Apple TV, etc). I’m not going to do a full retrospective because for the past 12 hours or so, they are everywhere to be found. CNN.com, Apple 2.0 blog and NPR have excellent ones with many interactive/links to back content. Perhaps even picking up a hard copy of The Wall Street Journal to have for posterity is something for today’s “to-do” list.
Instead of a retrospective, here’s my bullet point take the Steve Job news:
-Tim Cook will be fine CEO. In fact, he has practically been the CEO for the last 6 years at Apple in charge of everything except marketing and design. I fully expect promotions of Philip Schiller (Sr. VP, Marketing) and Jonathan Ive (Sr. VP, Industrial Design) in the near future. These three match up – – or are better than every leadership team in tech.
-The timing of the announcement is odd. I guess we’re all surprised even though with Jobs health over the last 2+ years, we knew Jobs was going to step down eventually. Perhaps with one of Apple’s biggest competitors HP throwing in the towel on both the consumer PC market and the Tablet market it was a good time. Plus I don’t believe Google needed to spend 12.5 billion to just protect against patent lawsuits. Every tech reporter from NYC to San Fran could see right through that smoke screen. Google knows (plus HP confirmed it) the future of the consumer market is mobile. Android/Motorola is at least two generations behind iPad2. And with all the rumors that iPad3 will be revolutionary, Google/Android could potentially be 4 or 5 generations behind iPad by March 2012. In short, Apple’s two biggest competitors are down. Why not now?
-On a related point on timing, the rumor mill on iPhone 5 is buzzing: (1) potentially a new low-end $99 iPhone, (2) a third carrier in Sprint, and most important (3) iPhone 5 will be on the market in 3 to 4 weeks. (There are also a multitude of rumors that iPhone 5 will be a major leap in innovation). All of this will make Wall Street forget about Steve Jobs relatively quickly. I can see headlines now “The absence of iconic CEO Steve Jobs is not hurting Apple shares as the market is reacting strongly to consumer sales of iPhone 5…..”
-Apple’s stock took a 5% hit last night on the “shock” but it won’t last. See iPhone 5 comments above. Remember iPad 3 is 6 months away.
-I expect a parody based on Oliver Hirschbiegel’s “Downfall” sometime today or tomorrow on YouTube. Although these “Hitler” videos are among the stalest jokes on YouTube (e.g., the film’s original subtitles have been rewritten to cover everything from Kanye West’s diss of Taylor Swift to Apple’s (AAPL) rejection of the Fuhrer’s Flash app) it’s expected nonetheless.
In summary, it is the end of an Era but it is not the end of Apple. Even with how fast the tech industry moves, Apple should be very comfortable with what is already in the pipeline for at least the next 24 to 36 months. The only question remains is: will Apple be able to plan now for the next 36 to 60 months without Steve? Apple is sitting on 76 billions dollars in cash – I can easily see Apple using that cash somehow so that new-CEO can put his stamp on something (are you reading this Larry Page?)