Apple as a company is more like Doctor Who than meets the eye. The former is a gadget company which inspires imagination.
The latter is an imaginary humanoid time lord who travels in a telepathic, sentient time machine. Both regularly regenerate and morph into a completely new, yet intriguingly different creature.
Made In Whose Image?
The original Apple was made in the image of the co-founders, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The fruity colored Apple logo personified Apple of the late 20th century.
Wozniak hasn’t been involved in Apple for decades and has become not much more than a footnote in the company’s history.
Early Apple, especially from the Mac era, was molded more in Steve Jobs’ image; full of hubris and energy. Some of that continued for a few years after his departure in 1985.
Without Jobs, Apple drifted and then morphed from the brash and profitable upstart, to a technology entity that had not aged gracefully and became stricken with various corporate illnesses.
Along the way, Steve Jobs himself changed. He matured. He became more patient. Like Doctor Who, Jobs was always Jobs, but his bouts with near failure at NeXT and Pixar instilled a discipline without diminishing the vision.
When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the company’s colors changed. Jobs had gained wisdom and maturity and that was reflected in Apple’s corporate logo. Out with the fruit, in with understated elegance. The company, under Jobs’ guidance, planned and prepared for the future, terrified of clinging to the past.
Jobs was a different Doctor at Apple in the 21st century than he was in the 20th century, and Apple prospered accordingly with one visionary and well executed product launch after another.
One can expect Jobs’ Apple to continue moving forward for a period of time, using much of the momentum gathered in recent years. The executive staff built by jobs remains mostly intact, but the company is really on the threshold of another regeneration, a morphing from Apple under Jobs to Apple on its own; a life without a forceful, visionary, charismatic leader.
What will Apple become in the next few years under newly anointed CEO Tim Cook? Will Apple drift or take a new course? Is Tim Cook a caretaker CEO who manages well the day-to-day operations but cannot chart the future?
Regardless, the color of Apple is changing again. It’s not 1985 all over again. Apple today has a massive customer base, a large pile of cash, and a revenue stream that executives only dream about.