Well, it finally happened. Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. Almost every article I’ve seen on this reads like an obituary. What does this mean for Apple, and what does it mean for Steve Jobs?
For Steve, it seems pretty clear to me. When you’ve been told by your doctor you’ve got cancer that’s a pretty clear wake-up call that your remaining time on this planet is finite. One thing we can probably surmise from the announcement yesterday is that Steve is not one of the very few people that are lucky enough to see a complete remission of their pancreatic cancer. That Steve has spent so much of his time at Apple since the diagnosis shows how deeply committed he is to Apple’s mission, and how strongly the creative impulse in him still beats. Even now, he will be continuing as Executive Chairman.
For Apple, we now know - if we didn’t previously - that Tim Cook is the anointed heir. That means that Apple is in trusted hands and that little will change any time soon. The product direction and release schedule for the next two years is already set. It’s what comes after this that might wobble.
Steve Jobs is famous for a level of nit-picking in product design that breaks the normal golden rule that CEOs mustn’t micro-manage. No other Silicon Valley CEO that I’m aware of has had his name attached to 313 patent filings whilst still being CEO.
When Steve finally bows out of Apple, who else is going to enforce his relentless standards? No conventional CEO would have the attention span or intellectual curiosity to work at Steve’s level of detail. No-one in the product design hierarchy will have the influence at the top table to halt the shipment of a product that’s mostly great, except for one unforeseen and ugly detail. Even Tim Cook won’t do this, unless he can keep Jonathan Ive permanently at this side. Which I somehow doubt he will.
We can look forward to some beautiful products for the next two years. My next MacBook Air 13” is going to be better than I ever imagined, a couple of short years ago, that a laptop could be. The iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 will be gorgeous. But after that all bets are off.