That Jobs was the driving force behind Apple’s 21st century renaissance is not questioned. Yes, the company is made up of tens of thousands of employees that contribute to success, but Jobs had vision and both the personal and position power to move Apple forward, and leave the past behind.
Past Is Prologue
Jobs once said he didn’t want Apple to become like Disney, which lost its way for a few decades after founder Walt Disney died. Jobs said he expected his lieutenants not to ask what Steve would do, but to make their own decisions and be accountable for their actions.
What would Jobs think of the decisions Apple’s executive teams have made since his death? Everything from this moment on is pure speculation, of course, but an exercise which might give us clues to how Apple will evolve in the future.
First up, under Tim Cook, Apple is a kinder, gentler Apple that engages in the very social issues prominent in our day; the ones Jobs appears to have avoided. Second up is wealth distribution. While Apple became rich and prosperous under Jobs’ reign, the company became massively wealthy under Tim Cook.
In fact, Apple has become so wealthy that the company has given back tens of billions of dollars to shareholders, and gone into debt (to the tune of tens of billions of dollars) to pay for that wealth re-distribution. Whether Cook’s actions are prudent or not, I tend to think that Jobs would not approve of dividends, but those very dividends tell us that Apple has obtained so much money that the current management team cannot figure out how to spend it.
What else? Jobs fought tooth and nail and in public with Samsung and Google. Cook displays a more pragmatic position and is willing to negotiate, settle differences, and move forward. One can argue that Cook’s position has helped the company prosper even more as the iPhone business owns over 90-percent of the smartphone industry’s total profits.
Based on everything I’ve read about Jobs and his design ethic, he would be proud of Apple’s new line of products; the thinner, lighter MacBook, today’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but perhaps would have pushed Apple to make the iPad a more powerful device with more capability. After all, iPad sales are on a downward trend, not something Jobs would have been happy about, and not something Cook seems overly interested in.
What about Watch? There is little question that Watch is chief designer Jonny Ive’s baby, and though Watch is a work in progress, I cannot help but wonder if it would even have been developed while a healthy Jobs watched over Apple’s new product line. Watch is well crafted, yes, but the value proposition is cloudy at best, and Jobs didn’t like anything that was unclear.
Let’s carry my suppositions to a different level. Let’s say that in 2011 instead of dying, Jobs moved to a monastery somewhere in Asia for a four year sabbatical which would prevent any contact with the outside world until his return to Apple as Chairman (not CEO) in mid-2015. What would Jobs think of Apple 2015?