Apple circa 2016 is a different Apple than the one headed by Steve Jobs up until his death in 2011. Much has happened since then, including Apple’s burgeoning riches, and a phenomenon we have referred to as Peak Apple.
Apple is different. What would Steve Jobs think of Apple 2016? Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure, perhaps because humans only get one resurrection and Jobs used his already. Still, it isn’t difficult to look at some of the company’s executive actions and product launches and realize that Steve probably would do things differently.
‘Screw The Shareholders’
Maybe Jobs mellowed in the years prior to his death but I can’t help but think the company’s co-founder would have frowned on stock buybacks and dividends. ‘Screw ’em’ in one form or another might have been the first thing out of his mouth after hearing such a proposal. Why? Stock buybacks dilute company coffers but, historically, do little to improve a flagging stock’s position in the market.
How has Apple’s stock buyback worked out? AAPL is in the doldrums and isn’t likely to generate any momentum until Apple executives can figure out how to grow the company again. Note that the iPad’s falling sales started just a year or so after Jobs died. iPad was a growth engine. It’s not any more.
Jobs belittled the stylus on Microsoft’s early tablets as well as those by Samsung and other iPad and iPhone copycats. Yet, here’s Apple today with an expensive professional level iPad that can use a Pencil. Apple’s version of the stylus is different, yes, and it gets rave reviews. But it’s still a stylus.
Jobs belittled the smaller 7-inch tablets that hit the market after the iPad, yet a year after his death, Apple launched the iPad mini. Jobs hated larger smartphone models that hit the market before he died. He said they were difficult to hold and use with one hand. After Jobs passed Apple launched a larger iPhone (iPhone5), and a few years later, much larger iPhones (iPhone 6 and 6 Plus), both were big sellers.
History points out that Jobs was sufficiently visionary and influential that he could disrupt technology markets, but he was wrong often, too.
Today’s Apple sits atop a growing cash hoard, a company that has spent tens of billions on stock buybacks and dividends, a company with nearly a billion customers worldwide, and a growing array of highly acclaimed products. Yet, Apple is not growing. The company projects next quarter to have lower sales and profits than one year ago. That’s what many call Peak Apple.
The question is this. What would Steve Jobs do? Obviously, Apple’s executive team has little problem doing much of what Steve Jobs publicly dissed and scorned, and while the company has banked riches, it has also not opened up new markets of growth.
What would Steve Jobs do with Apple 2016?