Saturday, October 25, 2008

Apple After Steve Jobs....

Steve Jobs may be a celebrity CEO, but he doesn't jump out of airplanes or traipse around Africa with bundles of cash. He is always in character and always on message, so much so that when late-night TV parodies him, he's invariably rolling out some new iProduct . Jobs gets called mercurial, egomaniacal, a micromanager. If that sounds a little like a CEO doing his job, maybe that's because he is—and a mighty fine one.

This week saw Apple launch its new line of laptops. Sleeker, speedier, meaner. And a little cheaper. They have also slashed the price of the existing entry-level model to $999, the first time an Apple laptop has been sold for less than $1,000. The discount could have been in response to Morgan Stanley's late-September report, in which it issued a revised recommendation for Apple that saw its share price tumble by 17.5 per cent.

But Apple has other problems. At the launch, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who was treated for pancreatic cancer in 2004, joked about his health in an attempt to alleviate concerns over blog rumours that he had suffered a heart attack. He then handed off parts of the presentation to other executives, possibly to dilute his guru status and demonstrate that other able helmsmen were available should he have to step down.

But while stories of Steve's death have been greatly exaggerated – Jobs' own words after Bloomberg mistakenly posted his obituary in August – his gaunt appearance has prompted many to question Apple's future without him.

His hands-on, somewhat irascible style has shepherded a series of aesthetic gadgets into the marketplace and captured enough hearts to maintain a healthy balance sheet, so few would deny Apple's reputation is securely anchored to Jobs' charisma.
Steve's strategy has always been to target the man in the street. The "cool" factor that accompanies Apple products is an attribute you just can't sell to a business, which wants to know the answers to such banal questions as: "What is the cost of ownership?"
Steve's consumer base, meanwhile, is drooling on their collective hush puppies as they cry: "Wow, it glows in the dark!" This is a marketing strategy more suited to a fashion house than a technology giant, but it has served Team Steve amply.
It allowed Apple to turn a glorified Walkman (iPod) into a chic fashion accessory and whipped up a nerd frenzy over the iPhone ("Wow, touch screen – cool!").
Jobs has built a brand that will outlast him. He has never shrunk from firing those who didn't measure up. So presumably, any new organ-grinder will have a focus on Stevosity and steer the ship into the wind, releasing market-pleasers such as new laptops, which have custom-designed graphics processors and glass touch-pads that allow multi-finger gesture controls ("Wow, etc.").
Here's a selection of some of the most insanely great things the man has said, organized by topic: innovation and design, fixing Apple, his greatest sales pitches, life's lessons, taking the fight to the enemy and Pixar.
On Innovation and Design:

"It's rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing."-- At age 29, in Playboy, February 1985
"I've always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do."-- BusinessWeek Online, Oct. 12, 2004
"Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it."-- Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998
"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."-- BusinessWeek, May 25 1998
"It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much."-- BusinessWeek Online, Oct. 12, 2004
"(Miele) really thought the process through. They did such a great job designing these washers and dryers. I got more thrill out of them than I have out of any piece of high tech in years."-- Wired magazine, February 1996
On Fixing Apple:
"The products suck! There's no sex in them anymore!"-- On Gil Amelio's lackluster reign, in BusinessWeek, July 1997
"The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament."-- Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company, by Owen W. Linzmayer
"If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it's worth -- and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago."-- Fortune, Feb. 19, 1996
"You know, I've got a plan that could rescue Apple. I can't say any more than that it's the perfect product and the perfect strategy for Apple. But nobody there will listen to me."-- Fortune, Sept. 18, 1995
"Apple has some tremendous assets, but I believe without some attention, the company could, could, could -- I'm searching for the right word -- could, could die."-- On his return as interim CEO, in Time, Aug. 18, 1997

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