Steve Jobs’ vision and leadership has turned Apple around from a great-promise but minimal market share in the computer business into a media and fashion darling envied by the likes of Sony, Dell and Microsoft.
Under his watchful eye they have put out a friendly computer called the iMac that redefined what computers could look like, a powerful Unix based OS with a simple but gorgeous user interface and practically took possession lock-stock-and-barrel of the portable music player market.
Now they looked poised to go even further forward with TV & movie downloads ,the video iPod and the apparent initial success of the Intel switch.
What could possibly go wrong?
Sure, there are a lot of bright people working at Apple. They engineer the great products you see but what you need is a guy at the top to put the best of it together. To decide the strategy, what ships what doesn’t. What’s ready. What isn’t.
As Jobs has proven he’s definitely the man for the job but does he still want it?
Steve celebrated his 51st birthday this February not long after brokering the deal where he sold his other venture, Pixar, to Disney for the tidy sum of $7.4 billion dollars. Jobs owned more than half the company. He steps down as Pixar’s CEO but takes a chair at the board of Disney.
A couple of days ago Jobs disposed of about half his Apple shares – those awarded to him by Apple in 2003 as a bonus – to pay his taxes to the tune of $295 million dollars.
Less than two years ago Steve was diagnosed with a rare form of life-threatening pancreatic cancer that put him out of the Apple driving seat for over a month. While the operation was a success it might be a reminder about taking time out to enjoy a less stressful life.
If Jobs wants to relax a little now may very well be the best time to do it.
If he wanted financial security for himself or Apple that’s done. If he wanted to prove his baby is better with him than without as happened in the 80’s that’s a big tick. If he wanted to point Apple in a positive direction that’s happened.
Maybe Apple Chief Technology Officer and brains behind the Mach kernel inside OS X Avie Tevanian knows something because at the end of March he leaves Apple to “pursue other interests”. He’s been with Jobs since the birth of NextStep.
Senior vice president of the iPod division, Jon Rubenstein, is also departing this month albeit to entire retirement.
Who on earth could possibly take over after Jobs?
Whether he’s leaving or not Jobs needs to find somebody to imprint his ideas, perceptions and desires upon. With at least a Jobsian imprint Apple might last beyond their CEO’s term.
Found this quote from Fortune, dated Feb. 23 2004;
“Why would I ever want to run Disney? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to sell them Pixar and retire?”