I lost my 20/20 vision after working a summer internship on a Macintosh, my eyes constantly straining to read the mouse type on the 9-inch display. But I didn’t hold that against Apple.
In my first public relations job with Xerox as a client, I worked tirelessly to repair some of the reputation damage Xerox experienced after losing out to Apple on their capitalization of the GUI—the technology that many say Steve Jobs “stole” after a visit to Xerox PARC. But I didn’t hold that against Apple, either.
Then, Apple laid off my husband as I entered my ninth month of pregnancy with our first child. Still, I couldn’t hold that against Apple. Of course I held a grudge for a little while. But after they launched the iPod, brought iTunes to Windows, and opened the wildly successful Apple stores, how could I remain indignant?
Neither will I give up on Apple now that Steve Jobs has officially resigned as CEO. Like many true Apple fans, I will keep shopping at the flagship Apple Store at Valley Fair mall in San Jose, and expect to run into Woz there the first day any new product is out. (You’d think they’d just send him a copy!) I will continue to marvel at every layer of packaging when I open an Apple product, and will stack Apple boxes in my garage because they’re too beautiful to throw away. I will keep delighting in the level of product design and functionality that’s worlds apart from anything else. And I’m even willing to give up part of the street I drive out of my neighborhood onto every day, as is part of the plan for Apple’s future UFO-shaped campus. Whether it’s out of idealism, posterity, or because the value of my home is partly dependent on the company’s continued success – I am willing to pledge my support to Apple’s future, even though I fear that without the vision of Steve Jobs, Apple will never be quite the same.
The “Minutiae” That Made the Company
Living in Cupertino and having enough friends (and in the past, family) who have worked at Apple, I’ve learned a few things about how Steve Jobs works. His attention to detail and appreciation of the end-to-end user experience is unequalled in the history of technology, and his fanaticism about design is unrivaled. Jobs would personally approve every design decision made – not just on the products or big campaigns – but on details down to the posters in the stores, the packaging of accessories, and even the signs in the campus cafeteria. Few CEOs take the time to deal in what most would consider “minutiae.” But Jobs’ concern for these details is really the difference that first made Apple a great company, and when Apple was down at $4 a share 10 years ago when Jobs came back (darn, wish I’d held onto my shares!), it’s Jobs’ return and vision that again made it great.
Reasons for Hope
Fans wonder whether Apple can remain successful without Jobs at the lead. I don’t expect Tim Cook to be as much of a visionary as Steve Jobs – those shoes can never truly be filled – but I wonder: will Apple employees, especially the noted designer Jony Ive, remain as loyal to Cook, or will there be an exodus of talent? I prefer to take an optimistic outlook. One good reason for optimism is that Cook seems to be extremely well prepared to take on the CEO role. Many say Jobs has been grooming Cook as his successor for at least seven years, ever since Cook took over as interim CEO when Jobs was recovering from pancreatic cancer surgery in 2004. And, unlike Jobs’ previous departure, Apple is no longer coming from the position of the underdog trying to survive against Microsoft. They already fought that battle and won. For a few hours on August 9, 2011, they were the most valuable company in the world (ahead of Exxon until the close of trading). And they remain the most valuable technology company in the world.
History holds examples of other great companies who survived the loss of a visionary CEO. One of the most prominent examples is Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford was a revolutionary, envisioning and creating the assembly line to enable mass production of cars. He’s famously quoted for having said: “You can have any color you want as long as it’s black.” Sounds like something Steve Jobs would say, doesn’t it? They shared an uncompromising understanding and decisiveness about what’s good. Ford made it through the loss of their founder and original visionary. Long after the Model T has run its course, Ford reinvented itself by having Carroll Shelby design the Mustang, one of the most loved and iconic cars in history. Today, Ford is known for excellence in trucks (I happen to own a Ford 150) and continues to innovate with its eco-friendly hybrids.
The most solid companies tend to be able to reinvent themselves when necessary. Apple is one of those companies: even with Steve Jobs out of the forefront, and now under Cooks’ leadership, I believe Apple will continue to rise to the challenge of being a leading innovator for the way the world uses technology.