Editor's Note: The I-Connect007 team would like to express our heartfelt sadness at the passing of Steve Jobs. This column was composed at the time of, and in response to, Jobs' departure from Apple. We believe its meaning is still relevant, yet even more significant. This column originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of SMT Magazine.
I had mixed emotions when I heard that Steve Jobs had stepped down as CEO of Apple. It's the end of an era; it had to happen someday. However, with change, things can move in new, exciting directions or stagnate and decline. It's going to be interesting to see what happens over the next few years. Tim Cook and his team will likely have a few more tricks up their sleeves. With all that cash and all those markets waiting to be concurred, they'll be busy for a while.
It certainly has been fun watching Apple over the last decade as they've reinvented one market after another. The day they announced the iPhone, I was watching the press conference live. I was stunned. I had always wanted something like this. I needed something like this. Honestly, I had been waiting for over 20 years. Finally, a company knew what I wanted. They took all these disparate parts and made them all work, seamlessly, in concert. It was beautiful. Not only that, it was so far ahead of the competition that most didn't understand the implications. Recently, Sprint Nextel's Chief Executive Dan Hesse, who was on Nokia's Board of Directors at the time he made the following comments, said this about Apple and the iPhone:
Everyone underestimated how incredibly successful the iPhone would be. We took the iPhone seriously, but Nokia management underestimated it, certainly. We were much more concerned at the time with RIM. It's not easy to make complicated things simple. The value of simplicity is something that so many businesses don't understand, but boy did Steve Jobs.
As lines stretched around city blocks and people camped out for the chance to get their hands on this revolutionary new personal tool/smartphone, their competitors were bewildered. First, they went into denial mode, then into reactionary mode, then crisis management mode, then into capitulation mode.
I don't know if a post-Jobs Apple will be able to see things as clearly, but what I've always loved about Apple products in the last decade, especially, is that they just work. They do what they're supposed to do. Companies like RIM and Palm, Nokia and Motorola had this entire market in their hands and were content to "me, too" it with incremental changes, but not willing to take the technology where it could go. When you do that, when you're content with the status quo, you're vulnerable.
As Apple demonstrated, if you aren't constantly willing to reinvent your business, you'll be subject to a similar fate as RIM (struggling for survival), Palm (sold to HP), Motorola (sold to Google) and now HP (exiting the PC market). Apple did all of this to these guys; or, more accurately, they did it to themselves. What was sad is that Apple came in and completely changed the rules and these guys decided to "me, too" it again by offering similar products, trying to save some market share instead of going for the gold--the brass ring--and reinventing their businesses. That's lazy business. Those CEOs were content with their annual income and golden parachutes, I guess.