Today marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of Steve Jobs and debating his legacy has been a hot topic this week. Numerous media outlets have commented on the state of Apple since his passing and here’s a short list round-up:
–How Steve Jobs’ Legacy has Changed, by Brandon Griggs of CNN
–Apple’s Post-Steve Tipping Point, by David Goldman of CNN.money.com
–How Apple has changed under Tim Cook, by Heather Kelly of CNN
–Mapping A Path Out of Steve Jobs Shadow, by Brad Stone, Adam Satariano, and Peter Burrows of Business Week
A journalist contacted me earlier this week to reflect on Steve Jobs legacy. The way I look at it, Mr. Jobs had many strengths, as well as, many weaknesses and the obvious accolades to Mr. Jobs’ legacy are the numerous products including the ground-breaking iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad from his second term at Apple. However, I feel Steve Jobs had a much more profound impact than just those products and its hiding in plain sight; it is Apple Inc. itself.
Steve Jobs’ passion was creating revolutionary products that had the potential “to make a dent in the universe” but his passion to create a company that was built to last rivaled that of his focus on products. The lessons from his ouster from Apple, the trials and tribulations from creating and running NeXT, and ultimately those experiences gleamed at Pixar, were imbued into the Apple we know today. Think about this; by the mid-2000s Apple’s culture was so strong that the CEO took not one, not two but three medical leaves before stepping down and Apple did not miss a beat. How many companies can you think of that has a culture that strong?
Interestingly, although Steve Jobs created this culture, it was best articulated by current CEO Tim Cook in 2009, well before he knew he would replace Steve Jobs at CEO:
“We believe we are on the face of the Earth to make great products, and that’s not changing. We are constantly focused on innovating. We believe in the simple and not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think, regardless of who is in the job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well” (Isaacson 2011, pg. 488).
With Cook, Ive, Schiller, Forstall, Cue and team, Apple has the deepest bench in tech. Moreover, this team has Jobs’ DNA described above in their blood and they will pass that passion on to future team members.
While we will talk about the products and gawk at the sales and margins of those products now, it’s the Apple of 2014 and beyond that will be most interesting to watch. Apple always worked 18 to 36 months out on all their concrete plans. The iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, new iPod Touch, new iPad, iBooks, the future iPad mini (probably next month), the future Apple TV box (probably early to mid 2013) and even the currently unpopular Siri and Apple Maps all have Steve Jobs’ finger prints all over them.
While I understand that CEO Tim Cook is often criticized that he is steering a ship that is still zooming along with the winds of Steve Jobs blowing on its back, however, I will not be surprised when Apple is still rolling out critically acclaimed and consumer loving products in 2014 and 2015 that have Cook and teams’ fingerprints all over them. That’s the company Steve Jobs built and I hope there is a sufficient tribute to the man when they move into their circle-shaped, space-ship looking headquarters in a few years.
Something to think about today…
Associate Professor of Marketing
Stillman School of Business
Seton Hall University