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Apple Will Thrive Without Steve Jobs

Apple has a deep management bench and will continue to thrive without Steve Jobs at the helm, according to Apple bloggers and journalists. The company announced today that Jobs is taking a five-month medical leave of absence, which sent the company's stock price into a dive. Nonetheless, blogger Robert Scoble and other bloggers and journalists
January 14, 2009
Apple has a deep management bench and will continue to thrive without Steve Jobs at the helm, according to Apple bloggers and journalists. The company announced today that Jobs is taking a five-month medical leave of absence, which sent the company's stock price into a dive. Nonetheless, blogger Robert Scoble and other bloggers and journalists expressed confidence in the company. "You are an idiot if you sell your Apple stock tomorrow," Scoble wrote.He added:


If you sold it today, you are a genius. But tomorrow? You'll be the biggest loser.

Why? Apple has the best team, the best distribution, the best supply chain, the best management in the business....

Apple is more than just Steve Jobs. Now you're about to find out just how much more.

If you sell your stock you're an idiot.

But he added that he expects the stock to be down 30% Thursday morning.

Trading in Apple stock halted after the announcement, but resumed in after-hours trading about 5 pm PT, falling more than 8%, according to News.com. The stock was trading at 79.93 at 5:54 pm, down from a peak of 87.25.

Taking the helm from Jobs is COO Tim Cook, who "should do fine as Apple's interim day-to-day leader," according to Silicon Alley Insider, which noted that Jobs plans to stay on as CEO during his leave of absence, and remain involved in major, strategic decisions.

Silicon Alley Insider writes: "On Cook's plate: Announcing potential updates to some of Apple's popular computers like the iMac and Mac mini, and potentially a new iPhone. But Apple's phone product cycle -- releasing new models in late June or early July -- suggests that Steve's return could include announcing a new iPhone in June."

Apple's management bench includes Cook and senior VPs Jonathan Ive and Philip Schiller, who gave the keynote at the Macworld conference in Jobs' place last week, notes Jason Snell, VP and editorial director of Macworld magazine, in an interview with Ad Age published two days ago (Via Daring Fireball). Snell told Ad Age that Apple probably has been planning to distribute management responsibility, sharing it from Jobs to other company leaders, and probably developed the plan during Jobs' 2004 cancer incident. Ad Age quotes Snell:


I think the entire idea of a "replacement" for Steve Jobs is misguided. Let's just all admit that Jobs is a unique sort of franchise player. He does a lot of things really well. If he were to reduce his role at Apple for whatever reason -- I like to imagine that someday he'll just buy a tropical island like a James Bond villain and retire -- he will not be replaced by any one person, but by different people in different roles. Tim Cook appears to be the operations and management guy, the adult supervision. Jonathan Ive has a similar design taste to Jobs. Phil Schiller actually does a pretty good job as a demo guy -- I think most tech companies would love having Phil Schiller be their keynote guy. Jonathan Ive is a brilliant designer -- I don't think he needs to be a CEO or good with a clicker on stage in front of thousands of people. ...

Apple's bench is deep. In addition to the people I just mentioned, there are other people such as Greg Joswiak, who is Apple's product marketing guy for the iPhone. Joswiak gives great presentations and has a great rapport with the press, and since he comes from the nitty-gritty product side at Apple he knows his technical detail as well. Apple doesn't subscribe to the auteur theory -- it generally hides the name of most of its employees and prefers that you consider Apple as a faceless whole -- but occasionally you see someone float to the top like Randy Ubillos, who demoed iMovie '09 at Macworld Expo and is a remarkably talented software developer. Scott Forstall has been a capable ambassador for the iPhone. Those people have always been there, but in a world where we may see a little less of Steve Jobs, Apple may finally let more of those names and faces be seen by the public.

There's only one statement Snell makes that I can argue with, and that's his assertion that Apple doesn't subscribe to the "auteur theory," that the company prefers to be considered as a "faceless whole." I think that's simply untrue -- the company has a face and that face is Jobs'. However, Jobs doesn't single-handedly design and build all of Apple's products, I expect we'll see that he has infused his spirit throughout the company so that it can continue on a steady course even in his absence.

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