Friday 2 September 2011

Steve Jobs: Why 2011 Is Not Like 1985

From CNet
Last month Steve Jobs stepped done as CEO of Apple Inc. Before I go into the article I want to take the opportunity to wish Steve well in his role as Chairman and in his personal life as well as wishing Tim Cook well in his new role as CEO of Apple.

I think it's fair to say that the tech press has been divided over the future prospects of Apple. Many have looked back to the ten years between 1985 and 1995 when Steve was in the non-Apple wilderness of NeXT and Pixar. This look to the past tells the story of an Apple that wandered in it's own organisational and innovative wilderness. When Mr Jobs rejoined and became iCEO (interim CEO) Apple had only 90 days before bankruptcy. While Mr Jobs has not left the company he is now in a much more 'hands off' role and therefore this is a good time to ask: Is history going to repeat itself and will Apple look the same in 2021 as it did in 1995?

Well before we answer lets take a look at the Apple of 1985, the Apple Mr Jobs left behind. To begin with the ex-Pepsi Co. CEO John Sculley was CEO of Apple Computer. While Mr Sculley was a highly skilled executive he had no background in the IT industry and in the arena of rapid innovation that naturally comes as a part of that industry. Fast forward to 2011 and Apple's new CEO is Mr Tim Cook. Mr Cook is an Apple veteran who has been an instrumental COO and has been credited by many as the man who ensured that the Apple Supply Chain was capable of delivering millions of iPods, iPhones, iPads and Macs. He knows the company, knows what it stands for and knows how to produce great products. There is no one in the world more capable of doing the job.

Looking back to 1985 once again we find an Apple divided. Apple was divided not only at Board level but also within the company itself. With employees taking up position behind either the Apple II, which was still popular and versions of which were still selling well, or the Lisa/Mac. The Mac had seen concerning declines in sales since its initial successes and the Lisa with its $10k price tag was a disaster. Apple was a divided company with no single trajectory to follow or vision to aim for. Jumping forward to today and the story couldn't be more different. The Mac is gaining market share, iPod has sold hundreds of millions of units, iPhone is the second most popular smartphone in the world and the iPad is the only successful tablet, period. Apple itself is battling with Exxon for the position of largest company in the world by Market Capitalisation. Most importantly everyone at the company believes they are changing the world and are united in producing the best products and best experience for everyone.

Finally, Apple today not only has one of the strongest executive branches in the industry but it is Steve Jobs. I know many are saying that in the negative but let me explain what I mean. Through the executive training, years of working side-by-side with Steve and a very real effort to infuse Apple with what Steve Jobs believed the company should be, Apple is set up to change the world, be product oriented and be innovative. This culture, along with the hugely successful products and fully united employees, Board and Executive Team will leave Apple in good standing for years to come and ten years from now it is my firm belief that we will still be admiring the innovative products coming out of the Cupertino Spaceship.

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