Three years ago he declared the iPad as the start of the post-PC era. PC sales are dropping like a rock today as mobile devices rule personal computing. But Apple is quiet these days. Is the company really going where Steve Jobs wanted it to go?
Calm Before The Storm?
Apple is officially a victim of the ‘What have you done for me lately?‘ crowd of critics. After all, it’s been six months already since the company launched the iPad mini. What’s Apple been doing?
Accurately predicting the future requires a good understanding of the past. Apple’s history of product launches doesn’t seem to follow a pattern based in time.
For example, the iMac, credited with saving the company, and ushering in an era of easier to use personal computers was launched in 1998. Three years later the iPod hit the streets.
What was going on during that gap? Apple was busy doing what Apple does. Inventing and re-inventing.
Two years after the iPod, the iTunes Music Store opened. That was 2003. It took four more years for Apple to launch the iPhone, but in the interim Apple switched the Mac to Intel CPUs, and came to dominate the digital music download industry.
Obviously, Apple stayed busy, and each year the iPhone became more powerful, more capable, and came to dominate the smartphone industry, spawning many copycats. The iPhone was 2007, but the iPad, a natural extension of the iPod touch, didn’t launch for three more years.
See? There are gaps between revolutionary, market disrupting products. Apple’s course is almost predictable. Innovate. Iterate improvements. Repeat.
Steve Jobs has been gone from Apple for about 18 months. Is the company of today going where Jobs wanted it to go? Personally, as an avid Apple watcher for years, I think it’s too early to tell.
What I don’t see is a different line of drama emanating from One Infinite Loop. Jobs was not afraid to shake up the executive tree. Neither is anointed CEO Tim Cook. Jobs wasn’t afraid to apologize over a public embarrassment. Neither is Cook. Neither seemed to worry about the stock price.
Apple, under Cook, is chugging along with great momentum from the Jobs era. Mac, iPhone, iPad, App Store, Music Store are all majorly profitable and best of breed. That’s the ecosystem legacy left behind by Jobs departure.
What of the future? What’s next? We should be somewhat assured that Apple is busy on the next great thing, because the executive and management team is mostly intact and taking public responsibility for Apple’s future.
Jobs feared that Apple would become like Disney after Walt Disney died. Executives then tried to figure out what Walt would do in any given situation. That lead to paralysis and Disney’s dark ages which lasted many years.
Gimme A Sign
Is there any sign that Apple is wavering from the course laid in by Jobs? Not yet. The iPhone 5 and iPad mini, Apple’s Maps app, and other recent product advances were likely installed under Jobs’ reign. The product roadmap has an end date, though, and it’s not too far into the future. The next few product advances are the kind that will have less of Jobs’ influence and more Jonny Ive, Tim Cook, and Phil Schiller, the triune head of Apple in the era after Great Leader’s death.
The next great test of new product design, evolutionary or evolutionary, will be revealed this year in iOS 7, OS X 10.9, and perhaps the long awaited Mac Pro. If Apple still has the mojo we want, then we’ll love their new products. If not, then there’s a leak in Apple’s mojo maker and the future is in jeopardy.