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August 31, 2011

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Roo_44

It will not be the success of Apples last 20 years the will define Jobs greatness as CEO but Apple's success over the next 20 years. Did Jobs, like William McKnight at 3M, create be a company that turned innovation into a systematic, repeatable process? I would bet yes.

SVE

Tomi, you've redeemed all your crazy articles of the past year with this magnificent post on the Steve Jobs era. One minor complaint is you've overlooked his affect on the electronics retail industry with his Apple stores. He revolutionized how product is displayed and sold. And now I believe they have the highest per square foot revenue of any store including Tiffanys.

Vikram

Tomi, I have totally disagreed with you regarding Elop and Nokia but I must say that you are 100% correct about Steve Jobs. Great post.

Vikram

of course I have one quibble :) and that is regarding the iPhone - Jobs himself has said that they were working on the iPad years before the iPhone and chose to do the phone first after an engineer showed him inertial scrolling which he realized would be perfect for a phone.

My pet theory on the Rokr which was so terrible is that Jobs purposefully did that to throw off the scent to competitors who were underwhelmed when they saw it and were not expecting much from the iPhone. Of course that is my own conspiracy theory and likely wrong but would be funny if it were true.

khim

Roo_44: Did Jobs, like William McKnight at 3M, create be a company that turned innovation into a systematic, repeatable process? I would bet yes.

Don't bet just yet. Apple is almost ready to repeat the story of Microsoft. Under Bill Gates it was fast growing corporation. Then he stepped down and suddenly it was stagnating. What happened? Was Ballmer REALLY the problem? Nope. Microsoft's problems of XXI century are directly related to Bill Gates management of XX century. While Microsoft was growing it actively backstabbed it's own partners and users. Eventually dissent grew to such a degree that other companies adopted "anything but Microsoft if at all possible" tactic in many cases (think smartphones, for example). This meant that Microsoft's advanced were slow and crippled at this point.

Apple under Steve did the same thing. The only difference here is the fact that Steve left (because of health reasons) before he was able to alienate all other players, so some friends still remain. Thus Apple probably have 2-3 more years left before stagnation period.

It does not mean Steve is not great - he is! No doubt about it! Steve is great executive, but to say that he's so far above all others... not enough time passed. Future will tell... Remember that Microsoft had market cap $642 billion at some point.

Vikram

"Remember that Microsoft had market cap $642 billion at some point."

That happened when the Nasdaq was also over 5000 and Microsoft had around $25B in revenues. It is half that now, around 2500, and Microsoft did about $70B in their latest fiscal year. Market cap is based on other people's perceived value which can be wrong. Apple is now nearly 50% bigger in revenues that MSFT and the gap is growing. Apple did $100B in the last 12 months.

The beauty of Apple is that they don't rely on other companies like Microsoft does and Google does with Android. Apple goes its own way and does its own thing.

Afewgoodmen

A beautifully written piece. Steve Jobs is truly the greatest. In the Tech world there're few CEOs that can match the drive, determination and resolute brilliance thatnisnthe almighty Steve Jobs.

However, I also believe that Apple would stand the test of time and remain viable for at least decades to come. Because that is the only thing that can show how great a man Steve Jobs is if his creation can live long after the living legend is gone.

Please get well, Mr. jobs!! And kick some more Tech Asses!

Decade

One minor quibble:

Xerox did not invent the computer with windows operated with a mouse. That was Douglas Engelbart and the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute. It's important to remember this because it's still early days in the computer revolution, and something better may still be built.

I know, it's hard to imagine, since the Windows-Icon-Menu-Pointer paradigm from Xerox as refined by Apple has been copied by everyone else. It's interesting to watch Microsoft attempt to de-emphasize the menu with their new Ribbon interface. And Apple has de-emphasized the desktop part of it with iOS. But I would not be surprised if something even more amazing is revealed.

Mikko Martikainen

Good writeup, a fresh breath of air compared to your last postings. As already pointed out, Steve Jobs and Apple also entered the retail business and currently make more per square foot than anybody else (I believe $5600 per sq.ft.) Another minor correction: Sony PS3 and PSP are not the best selling video game consoles, Nintendo Wii and DS + 3DS are. Other than that, very good article.

Robert


Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead left this quote:
"You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do."

Steve Jobs must have been listening.

HCE

@khim

Microsoft is not stagnating because of anything that Ballmer has done - they've been playing hardball with competitors and partners for years with no ill effects. Microsoft is stagnating because they pretty much completely missed a couple of major trends.

First they completely missed the music-player plus online music store trend which Apple kickstarted with the iPod. Microsoft should have come out right away with a competitor for both iTunes and the iPod. Instead, they wasted time with their PlaysForSure strategy and finally, in 2006, figured out what they should do and brought out the Zune. By that time it was too little, too late.

Then, they missed the biggest trend of all - the mobile explosion. Apple succeeded because they realized that the key to success in mobile was to use their strength in software to come out with a user experience that blew everyone away. Why didn't Microsoft do this? They were in the smartphone market long before Apple, their software team is every bit as skilled as Apple's. If any of the Microsoft leadership had any vision they would have been the first to come out with an iPhone-like device. Even after the iPhone came out, they didn't bother moving in that direction for quite some time. It seems no one there at any inkling of how big this could be. Google, on the other hand did what Microsoft should have done. They recognized at once that the iPhone pointed the direction in which the mobile market was going to be heading and immediately re-oriented their mobile efforts. Early Android prototypes look more like Blackberries than iPhones - but they were able to turn the ship around and come out with an iPhone-like device by the end of 2008. Had Microsoft done what Google did, it might be Windows Phone and not Android sitting on top of the mobile market. Instead they took their own time and finally brought out a competitive OS at the end of 2010. By that time the mobile ship had sailed and WP7, while a competitive operating system, has lost all mindshare to Apple and Google. It remains to be seen if they can win some of it back with the Nokia deal.

And then there's tablets. Microsoft has been touting tablets for years - way, way before the iPad (from the time Bill Gates was in charge). However, no one there had the vision to come out with a compelling design for one. There have been Microsoft-based tablets on the market for years - but they were clunky and hard to use and no one bought them. Then came the iPad and it was a big hit. Microsoft had *yet* another opportunity to come out with their own design and be a strong number 2. However, once again, they are late and if there is a #2 in this market, it's going to be Google again. Looks like yet another trend Microsoft is missing out on.

We don't need to look anywhere else for the reasons for Microsoft's stagnation. Their leadership has displayed a complete lack of vision. Had they even gotten on to one of these trends early, they'd be doing a lot better and partners would be flocking to them (regardless of how upset they were with Microsoft's double-dealing). About the only thing Microsoft has done right in this time frame is in gaming - the Kinect is a truly groundbreaking product. Let's see if they can use it to become the dominant player in that space.

That is what sets Apple and Microsoft apart. It isn't the quality of the engineers - it's the lack of vision of the leadership team. Assuming that Jobs isn't the only one with vision at Apple, they should do fine. Once you are as big as Apple (or Microsoft or Google), you don't need to originate trends to be successful. All you need to be able to do is to recognize early that some product area is going to be hot and quickly jump on the bandwagon.

- HCE

KPO'M

Excellent post. Steve Jobs is one of the greatest businessmen and creators of all time. He is named in 313 patents, including one on a glass staircase. He was the first and so far one of the only tech company CEOs to truly appreciate industrial design.

peter

Steve Jobs is the mountain;
Steven Elop is the flea

Baron95

Nice post.

Microsoft is stagnating because the US Department of Justice (followed by the European's) declared war on Microsoft, and Bill Gates was pressured (by the press and public opinion) to divert his attention into philanthropy. Microsoft was being threatened with being split up, and they had to tone down their competitive stance to escape. Meanwhile, everyone started writing stories on how Bill Gates (then richest man in the world) hadn't contributed a single $ to charity.

The rest is history - once your competitive urgency leaves, companies stagnate.

Interestingly, they just started writing stories about Jobs and his need to focus on more charity giving, and the Dept of Justice is going after Apple with the Nortel patent acquisition, etc.

The US Gvmt likes to kill successful companies. The same threat of a monopoly law suit caused IBM to do non-nonsensical things like not share technology between PCs, Mini-computers and mainframes.

So there is a lot more to the technology story.

But yes, Steve is likely the greatest modern CEO. I think Tim Cook will move Apple to the next level - he is well respected and admired by insiders and outsiders alike.

peter

@Baron95,
Steve Jobs is the greatest visionary;
Bill Gates is the greatest copycat.

peter

Jorma Olilla's fate will be more like Ken Lewis or Kenneth Lay. He is doomed if he can not fire Elop before he steps down.

Peter

@Baron95,
Steve Jobs is the greatest visionary;
Bill Gates is the greatest copycat.
Tim Cook will buy nokia at 70% premium.

Timo

Apple is one man show and without that one man, it will soon collapse like all the other bullshit overhyped yank companies so many times before. Like it already did once in the 90's.

It is the fancy designs and gimmicks that makes you marketing types so gaga when it comes to Apple, ignoring the real makers and shakers in this world.

Apple is small potatoes compared to real Megas, like Siemens, 50000 vs. 400 000 workers or ThyssenKrupp with 200K.

@rodrigottr

Tomi

I believe that is the first time me and you disagree but I have some words to say about how to judge a good or bad CEO.

And those words are about leadership and master-disciple relationship.

Nietzsche on Also Sproach Zaratustra said some words about the master-disciple relationship. He said that if the disciple doesn't surpass its master then he has failed on learning, and also his master on teaching.

Its also said that a good leader is able to create good successors. So that it doesn't makes the others depend on him and that his work, values, cause, organization can live on after his work and contribution.

Until now we can't judge by sure how was SJ's work on that task. But is possible to say that succession is one of Apple's weakest points.

That is even more preoccupying when a vision change is needed by Apple. And I don't want to write about it here but I would like very much if you read my words on my blog:

http://apitoemercado.blogspot.com/2011/09/apples-situation-and-why-it-tends-to.html

Anyway I think it is to early to say he was the best CEO ever when the results of his work are not entirely known yet as they will remain for very very long.

My belief, and I believe it is very easy to understand why, is that one of the most important tasks a leader can do is preparing better successors. Also as one of the most important things on a mans life is to raise well his kids. That is how a man can have a legacy and live eternally otherwise his life and passage through the world can be pointless or forgotten. Well, of course some people can think different but I believe this metaphor explains how important is on a leader life to prepare successors that is comparable to raising kids for a father and his family.

And on that task, on my guess, is were SJ failed.

Mikko Martikainen

@rodrigottr

I understand your point about creating successors. I read your blog post as well. However, I disagree with your interpretation of the situation. Do you know what has been done at Apple to prepare for the day when Steve Jobs is no longer around? I don't, apart from a few tidbits, and that being the case I can't say that Steve didn't do enough. I know that they have created "Apple University" ( http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/blog/?p=9974 and http://www.macrumors.com/2011/05/07/steve-jobs-reaction-to-mobileme-launch-and-other-anecdotes/):

"Steve Jobs hired dean of Yale School of Management Joel Podolny to run the Apple University, an internal group also featuring business professors and Harvard veterans that are writing a series of case studies to prepare employees for the life at Apple after Jobs. These case studies focus on Apples recent business decisions and internal culture, they are exclusive to employees and taught by top executives like Tim Cook and Ron Johnson."

Also, Tim Cook has been at the helm for a considerable amount of time already during the sick leaves, running the company and actually making the decisions. So, at least these two tidbits paint a picture where Steve Jobs has done considerable work to ensure the future success of Apple. I also think it is possible that the immense cash reserves Apple have is another one of Steve's succession plan details: Apple is in a position to fulfill practically any vision the new leadership has without fear of going under.

Of course, replacing a leader and visionary like Steve is not an easy task. If we look at his accomplishments, as Tomi did in his post, it is very likely we will not see a leader of the same caliber during our lifetime. Is it, then, his fault that he couldn't "raise genius leaders" to follow his footsteps? Is it the fault of every genius (Einstein, Tesla, Galilei etc.) that they do/did not produce a following of geniuses of equal capacity? I do not think so. I think it is most important for each person to act to his or her full potential, and to pass on as much as possible. But certain things are not as easily transmitted as some others, and creativity is certainly one of the really difficult ones.

For a slightly different view, The Ad Contrarian:

http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2011/08/advertising-and-future-of-apple.html

@rodrigottr

@LeeBase @Mikko


Of course is too early do say SJ failed on that. But is also too early to say the opposite. That is why I said that is just my guess. I was just saying that is too early to tell he is the best CEO ever when the results of his work are not entirely know yet. And one of the most important results that is his legacy.

But I had that guess based on how Apple showed itself about succession. All the buzz and anxiety around SJ succession when everything else on Apple usually happens like a clockwork. Then the delay on iPhone 5. Then the choice of Tim Cook. I believe Tim Cook is an evidence that SJ failed on creating visionaries like him. My impression about Tim Cook is that he is a Ninja as a execution kind of person. But not a creation kind of person. When all we like and expect from Apple is about creativity. About reinventing things.

And I'm a bit skeptical about this speech of "is not his fault if there are no genius like him"

What if it is?

We all know SJ is obsessive about control. Even the fact that he is still on work even if he looks more like a walking dead shows how he is obsessive about control. Controlling Apple seems more important than his last years of life for SJ. (I really don't believe he can live more then 5 years)

Now what about how controlling kind of people stimulates creativity on his subordinates?
Creativity is also about contesting the current way of thinking. Now, how good are SJ subordinates on contesting SJ's way of thinking? Does SJ shows himself open to be contested or humiliates those who think different them him?

What we know about SJ is that he always had that tyrant style. If he tyrannizes even his consumers with that iTunes crap we imagine his coworkers.

So the speech "it is not his fault if there is no other genius" can't be entirely true when this genius has an EGO that castrates other genious around him.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Everybody. Am back from vacation, am starting with replies, doing a few at a time

Hi Roo, SVE, Vikram, khim, Afewgoodmen, Decade and Victor

Roo - Thats a fair point, but it would be 'another' accolade for Jobs if he managed that too. I think, whether this leadership is repeatable or not, Jobs has been greatest CEO ever - by quite a margin to the next best - by his accomplishments listed just in this article.

SVE - Thanks haha.. Yes, good point about retail too. I thought about it, and felt I didn't have any good metrics to measure did Jobs achieve any kind of world leadership achievement with the Apple stores. I was not aware of the Tiffany's stat, if you have it anywhere in the public domain, please post a link or where you saw it. I do think the Apple stores are something amazing yes, and he is re-inventing the retail experience too with them. But I didn't have the evidence to claim he changed yet another industry haha..

Vikram - first comment - thanks! your second comment, about the iPad development, is not inconsistent with my history here of the iPhone, both were under development obviously by 2006..

khim - good points and yes, its too early to know if the successsion issue was handled well enough at Apple, but a CEO like Jobs is not out there to replace him, who do you hire to replace a true genius like a Michaelangelo or Edison or Brunel? Nobody. That is an unfair measure. But Apple obviously now faces a new challenge, how to build on the Jobs legacy. I would expect Apple not to be quite as dramatic as it was under Jobs, but not approach mediocrity as quickly as Microsoft seems to have under Ballmer. But nobody knows that, time will tell. It does not in any way detract from the greatness of Jobs himself.

Afewgoodmen - thanks

Decade - thanks, I had forgotten that Xerox got it from Stanford Research Center and didn't know it was Mr Engelbart. Yes, deserves to be noted. But the mouse and GUI came to the Mac by way of Xerox, at least in that part, my history here is reasonably close to the events haha.. Thanks

Victor - I removed your piece as clearly factually utter baloney and you seem to be some Microsoft fanboy. I don't mind you posting here, but stick to facts. If you deny that Microsoft has angered handset makers and partners, that is utterly untrue and such postings add no value to this blog. Please feel free to post your thoughts and opinions if you can stick to the facts.

Thank you all for comments, keep them coming

Tomi Ahonen :-)

@rodrigottr

@LeeBase


Thank you!

That is the first time I think you get me!

None great genius leaves a great genius after him. Although we do know that the genius is the one responsible for choosing, teaching, encouraging and challenging those he leads. And that comes again to what me and you said: because great genius have great EGOs, one to leave a mark after him must to quit and go out make his own path.

And that is why I said on the other topic "nanotoughts about iPhone nano" and also on my last post on my blog, that Apple is today on its top and is now beginning its path of downfall. Tim Cook is meant to be under the shadow of Steve Jobs and will never be able to change Apple's path no matter how he thinks Apple is going on the wrong way. That by itself is a serious management problem just waiting to become a huge bomb. And in no hypothesis it can be considered not SJ's fault.

You said:

"Sure they wanted Tim Cook, but they are paying him to stay where he could NEVER hope to leave his mark on the world. Stay and continue the Jobs way without ever being able to actually be a Steve Jobs."

That is almost like leaving a plane to be flight all by the automatic pilot. SJ did it. He doesn't want nobody to surpass him inside the company he founded. He wants to be the best on history. And that means Apple must suffer when he leaves.

In other words, did SJ managed for the sake of Apple or for the sake of his reputation or his EGO?

And that reasoning conducts us to another: does it worth having a genius in the lead of a company knowing after he leaves you will have a great chance to go into decadence? Does the good side pays for the bad side?

I believe that is something to think about when saying SJ is a genius. Is it a blessing or a damnation?

Eurofan

@rodrigottr: Wow, rodrigottr, I think you are writing this late at night! You sound like a prophet or a pot-head, but my friend, I know the feeling, so I will give you my thoughts, because you will never get anything out of Lee except, Maemo/Harmatten is not real Meego, WP7.5-8-9-10 is Nokia's best chance not to go BK because Nokia can't do software and MS has software skills and tons of money to put behind its phone efforts, and MS wants Nokia to succeed selling WP phones, not to go bankrupt. So, rodrigottr, let me speak to your soul, or try to, my friend:

I just watched from my local public library BBC/Acorn's 1982 6 hour production of John Le Carre's Smiley's People on my 5 year old MacBook Pro. Totally gripping, not only the performance and the production quality of the movie (DVDs) but also the performance of my MacBook Pro. The ease of use for watching a DVD, the sound quality (like surround, high def? on my desk top), the quality of the HD screen image. I had to buy a new battery last year for this machine when I stupidly left it out in a car for a winter week at high altitude (sun and steam and then freezing night for 5 days) and the four year old battery swelled up and broke its casing. So maintenance for my top of the line five year old MacBook Pro over five years: a $129 replacement battery, delivered from the Apple USA website in five business days, a smooth transaction.

Jobs is not dead yet. He is chairman of the Apple board now, a position he left purposefully unfilled until this moment. Apple has more money in the bank than any other US corporation and will make an absolute killing in the next 12 months on the iPhone5, for which demand is so greatly pent up all over the world, but especially in the two biggest markets, USA and China, that Apple could build its own moon rocket and moon lander with the profits from iPhone5 in the next 12 months. Jobs has won permission to build on an old Hewlett Packard site in Palo Alto, the most expensive real estate in America and closest to the most powerful influence on computer science in the last five decades, Stanford University, a giant donut shaped building, the "flying saucer", to house the entire Apple family, with newly planted pear trees put all over and parking underground, like a true 21st century self-made-mogul. Don't worry about Apple. Apple builds "bomber" stuff ever since Jobs came back from NeXT, and Tomi is right, they are happy with the top 20% of the computing market, the most profitable part, for making thoughtful, useful machines with excellent, thoughtful, premium software, just like Hewlett-Packard used to do before it made it's first laser printer cartridge and was transformed by the retirement of Hewlett and Packard into becoming a seller of printer ink cartridges and some kind of break even efforts in IT consulting. If Christopher Columbus had sailed to North America and written the USA constitution and endowed the USA with 20 trillion dollars in gold he couldn't have done better than Steve Jobs has done for his baby, Apple. As Tomi says, Apple will have a great Q4, as they always do, and then their share of the smartphone market will settle back down to 20%. There aren't enough rich people in the world who can afford Apple products and anyway 20% is enough if you make the most profits per phone of anyone, isn't it?

Eurofan

I like Mr. Waugh's idea of a bluetooth keypad that rolls up, maybe with its own rollable Kindle type electronic black ink screen for typing longer emails or reading newspapers when the iPhone6 is in your pocket. Mr. Waugh is right, Apple will solve the keypad "problem" with a solution which is an add on to their perfect form factor, the all screen brick computer/phone. Don't worry about Apple.

Now Microsoft... Let me tell you a story I remember about IBM. It was late in the 80's, if I remember's. Anyway, MS had become successful with its first windows OSes and clones were selling more than IBM desk top computers for the first time. IBM's stock was at an all time high but starting to wobble and I think there was talk of Gerstner, or whatever. I am too lazy to look it all up right now. Anyway, what I remember is all the tech analysts on Wall Street were saying the same tune for 12 months: IBM is too big, too smart and too rich to give up the PC market to the clones and to MS. IBM will come up with something, some killer proprietary OS that people will want that will only come with IBM desktop PCs and they will win back market share from MS and the clones. Don't worry, this can't fail, IBM has too much money and will try as many times as they have to to win back the business desk top market, there's too much money to be made in this market for IBM to walk away from it and they have all the brains and all the organization and money to do it eventually. IBM stock is a buy on this pull back; buy and hold for 12 months, you can't loose. IBM stock went down for the next five years and Gerstner eventually threw in the towel on PC OSes, joined MS, and then later sold IBM's PC division to Lenovo of China, a total loss. Of course Gerstner knew better than to throw all the money at PC OSes and IBM is profitable now as a consulting company, but the stock never recovered anything like its highs from the point in 1987 when IBM made the most popular desktop business PC, running VisiCalc, etc., on DOS.

What I'm saying is Lee's whole argument is MS has all the brains and all the money and all the incentive to eventually succeed in phone OSes and Nokia is lucky to put its hopes in MS. We now know Nokia was undone by civil service minded idiots with no technical talent calling themselves Nokia middle managers and top managers when all along their long term strategy was sound: Symbian, Qt, Maemo/Meego. The last part I hyphenate for Lee's sensibilities and because maybe Intel wasn't the greatest group to partner with. Maybe the N10 should be called Maemo7 and Nokia can let the Linux foundation come to it instead of trying to go the other way with Intel as a partner. All I'm saying, rodrigottr, is the initial production run for the N9 is everywhere said to be one hundred thousand, not one million, and selling more than two million N9s in the next four months will require an expansion of Nokia production plans by a factor of twenty, not a likely event. Perhaps a worldwide groundswell on exasperated opinion will force Nokia to sell a million N9s, as Tomi predicts, but the best we can realistically hope for is for the price for used N9's on Amazon, Ebay and other sites will be higher than as new price in Switzerland and Singapore. That would be telling and fun to explain.

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