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August 31, 2011



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


"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.


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!


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.


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.



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.



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.


Steve Jobs is the mountain;
Steven Elop is the flea


Steve Jobs is the greatest visionary;
Bill Gates is the greatest copycat.


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.


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


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.



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:

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


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" ( and

"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:


@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.

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