“The job calls for a world-class leader, requiring vision, creativity and cojones,” says Leander Kahney, author of Inside Steve’s Brain.
Whether Apple CEO Tim Cook— who took over for Jobs in August and brings an impressive résumé— can keep Apple humming like Jobs did remains an open question. Industry analysts who closely study the company’s every move are somewhat mixed. Apple’s iPhone 4S event on Tuesday, some said, underscored a lackluster showing from Cook.
“Tim’s not Steve,” says Gartner analyst Van Baker. “He’s much more low-key. He’s much more laid-back.”
Added Kevin Dede, Brigantine Advisors’ Apple watcher: “Tim Cook’s first presentation as Apple’s full-time CEO was underwhelming by many assessments.”
Jobs was legendary for splashy product launches shrouded in secrecy and rehearsed to perfection. He often made witty snipes at rivals and had the timing of a deft stage actor. And, of course, his “one more thing” tagline, said with dramatic effect at the end of a masterful presentation, usually revealed a show-stopping product that elicited gasps from the rabid Apple faithful.
Dede says concerns may persist for Apple to demonstrate it can continue to introduce crowd-pleasing products.
But others think judgment should be held back for now. Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu advised people not to underestimate Cook. Wu said, “We don’t think Steve Jobs picked Tim without him having somewhat of a ‘vision thing.'”
Indeed, Cook and his team of executives were handpicked and trained by Jobs to carry on the Apple Way — imbued with Jobs’ penchant for perfectionism, clean and simple design, and impeccable taste.
Plus, as Apple’s other co-founder, Steve Wozniak, said in an interview earlier this year, Apple is multiple companies — not just one anymore. Its tentacles extend to the music, cellphone, tablet and advertising markets.
“Even if everyone fell asleep, this is a $70 billion company,” says Lou Mazzucchelli, an analyst who spoke to Jobs. “Apple knows its product road map the next few years. The execution may be a little different, and it will be interesting to see how its decision-making process changes. He was the final arbiter of taste within the company. How is that going to evolve? One person? By committee?”
For the tech industry, the loss of Jobs is immeasurable. He wasn’t just a CEO who orchestrated Apple’s turnaround and parade of hits. He was a pop-culture icon who gave consumers products that they didn’t know they badly needed. And the products worked flawlessly. His product vision was unrivaled. For that, he’s been a beacon to tech visionaries all over the world.
“It’s like the world lost a John Lennon,” Wozniak said in a video with the Associated Press. “I mean, Steve was just clearly the most outstanding business thinker.”
The tech industry “recognized that somehow he had the ability to think out new ways of doing things, not just ways to improve what we have and do a better version of something, but do it in a totally different way that the world would swing toward,” said Wozniak, who was a high-school friend of Jobs before the duo started Apple in Jobs’ parents’ garage.
Jobs was a mastermind who inspired an industry to touch the consumer.
“We all live in the world that Steve invented,” says Alain Rossmann, who worked with Jobs at Apple in the mid-1980s. “We’re using the devices, using the retail, watching the movies. Everyone is saying he’s the Edison of our century. You’re living and I’m living in the world he invented.”
Jobs’ inventive genius inspired the tech industry worldwide to create intuitive software and forge businesses with his ethos.
“The company we invented (mobile video start-up Klip) would not exist without Steve Jobs. And it’s probably true of hundreds of thousands of software companies around the world,” said Rossmann, who has sold or taken public a handful of hits, including movie service Vudu and Openwave (formerly Phone.com), one of the dot-com era’s monster IPOs.
“There are 500,000 apps companies, and that tells you something,” Rossmann said of the entrepreneurs who banked on Jobs’ ideas.
Jobs’ vision rubbed off on a veritable Who’s Who of tech. The list of Apple alumni successes is long. There’s Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com, Dave Morin at Path, Reid Hoffman at LinkedIn, Trip Hawkins at Electronic Arts and Evan Doll at Flipboard, to name a few.
“I knew him when he was a young man in his 20s and 30s,” says Rossmann. “You saw him do things that were shocking in the clarity of his thinking, in seeing things. The impact on how you think about things, products, consumers — it’s enormous. I’d never be an entrepreneur if that didn’t happen. It was extraordinary.”
No one person has inspired so many. And the industry will be left with a void.
Cook & Co.
In the months to come, Apple’s future will turn on effective leadership by Cook and others; sound product development, marketing and communications; and investor confidence in the overall direction of the company, says Boston University School of Management professor James Post, an authority on corporate governance and business ethics. “All of these areas will rise or fall depending on Apple’s board of directors,” Post says. “Apple’s board was never very independent while Jobs was in charge. Now they must be.”
“Steve Jobs is the Leonardo da Vinci of our time. We’re all profoundly saddened,” said Vivek Ranadivé, CEO of Tibco Software and a friend of Jobs. “He was always a very sincere and heartfelt individual. When I had a tragedy in my life, he personally called to ask how I was doing.”
A Jobs-less Apple should survive — even thrive — because its executive bench is “the best in the world” with Cook, global product marketing chief Phil Schiller and scores of others, Mazzucchelli says.
“It is definitely the end of an era, but certainly not the end of Apple,” he says. “Steve built a really good team and invocated his cultural thinking into that team. The question is, ‘How do you harness that and execute it?'”
Cook, who joined Apple in 1998, after several years at Compaq and IBM, filled in capably as interim CEO when Jobs battled pancreatic cancer in 2004 and when Jobs was out again for six months in 2009. Cook became permanent CEO in August.
Under Cook’s run as interim CEO, Apple continued to launch well-received products, including updated laptops with lower, entry-level prices and a faster, feature-laden iPhone.
The stock price impact
Apple shares weathered the news of Jobs’ death much the way they’ve rallied in the face of other negative news, including Jobs’ resignation. Shares fell 88 cents to $377.37 and are up about 17% this year, while the broader market is down more than 7%. Investors are betting that Jobs “probably left a nice set of blueprints” for the company to follow for years, says analyst Dede.
The company has assembled a strong management team, he says, who can help keep the company’s products relevant. “It’s easier to take the ball and run with it, rather than trying to form one out of the dirt,” Dede says.
But that’s not to say Apple is unstoppable. In one of the first major product announcements since Jobs resigned as CEO, investors were disappointed with the latest iPhone iteration, Dede says: “There was quite a bit of disappointment in the air.”
And while Jobs may have had ideas of products Apple can launch next, especially in the area of TV, “technology moves fast,” Dede says. “There’s no telling what comes out of the woodwork.”
Investors who stuck with Jobs during his latest 14-year stint as Apple’s CEO have been rewarded. Shares rocketed 6,802% from $5.45 a share on Sept. 17, 1997, when he was named interim CEO, to $376.18 on Aug. 24, the day he resigned. A $1,000 investment in Apple when Jobs was named CEO was worth $69,020 when he resigned, vs. $1,249 if invested in the broad U.S. stock market.
Apple has more than $76 billion in cash and investments, $12.1 billion of which is in cash and cash equivalents.
“The fundamentals can do very well for two (more) years, if not longer,” says Scott Sutherland, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
Mark McKechnie, an analyst at ThinkEquity, says Apple’s stock proved to be resilient when Jobs resigned. The wild card is whether his death came sooner than investors expected. “If it was sooner than expected, maybe the stock takes some pressure,” he says.
McKechnie had cut his price target on Apple stock, before the news, from $475 a share to $450. He didn’t cut it because of Jobs’ health, but because “the iPhone 4S was a disappointment.”
“I doubt it will have too much of an impact over the next 1½ to two years,” he says. “It takes a lot to put things in motion.”
The Jobs Way
Perhaps no corporate figure was as closely identified with his company as Jobs was with Apple.
The marketing whiz with an unerring eye for the aesthetic left his fingerprints all over the groundbreaking computer company he co-founded in 1976. By the time he stepped down as CEO, Apple had helped redefine personal computing, cellphones, music, tablet devices, TV advertising, computer trade shows and — through Jobs’ stewardship of Disney’s Pixar — the movie industry.
Since he reclaimed the top job at Apple in 1997 after being ousted in 1985, Jobs systematically went about reinventing the company nearly every year, putting it in transition for about a decade. But with his passing, Apple faces its greatest transition yet.
“Apple has always been a company in transition,” says Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. “Is this the end of an era? Absolutely. But Apple has thrived with Jobs on medical leave, and it will continue to do so.”
Few corporate CEOs were as visible or as tied to a company’s philosophy and style as Jobs. In his standard black mock-turtleneck shirts, faded Levi’s and running shoes, Jobs was a rock star in a world of button-down, desk-bound chieftains. His appearances at trade shows and corporate events, where he unleashed the latest Apple gadget or product update with the aplomb of a Broadway headliner, were as much about entertaining the masses as they were corporate events, highly anticipated not just by Wall Street analysts and clients, but also by technophiles and consumers.
“Steve Jobs was (and will continue to be) an icon because of his ability to change our lives through technology in perhaps the most influential way: bottom-up from the very tendrils of everyday life, and being cognizant that changing seemingly small details can lead to mass sweeping changes over time,” says Ge Wang, assistant professor of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University.
“Smart companies respond to the users. Great ones lead the way by changing how users think,” Wang says.
Source: USA Today