By now you’ve all read that Steve Jobs is taking an indefinite leave of absence from his post as CEO of Apple. The news was hard to hear – for both technology enthusiasts and the financial community. Many are questioning Apple’s ability to innovate in the absence of Jobs. After all, it was Jobs who stepped in and not only rescued the company from the brink of extinction, but propelled it to greatness with game-changing products like the iPod and the iPhone.
It is fascinating to me that so much of this company’s image and respect hinges on one man’s name. Jobs is brilliant, but there are two reasons that I think Apple will continue to innovate.
First, there is and always has been a team behind Jobs. He is brilliant, but he has not been brilliant alone or in a vacuum. Success breeds success and while I am not deeply familiar with the personalities behind the Apple brand, I am sure there is a cadre of great minds already working on the next innovations in consumer electronics.
Second, Jobs built a culture of “design comes first” within Apple. This culture has set Apple apart from many of its competitors in the consumer electronics market. While Creative, RCA and others had MP3 players on the market as the Napster age swept the country in the late 1990s, Apple was the first to come to market with a sleek design for all three elements of consuming digital music: hardware, software and a commerce model. A corporate culture is bigger than one person – even the founder. It’s not impossible to dismantle that culture, but in my opinion it is unlikely to happen. Continue to expect beautiful things from Apple: they will probably deliver.
One other thing to consider with regards to Apple: over the last decade or so they have not been outside of the mainstream of ideas in consumer tech – they have just executed better. What I mean by that is they didn’t invent the digital music player with the iPod; they didn’t invent the idea of a lush mobile user interface with the iPhone; they didn’t invent the idea of a tablet computing device with the iPad; they just figured out how to deliver the most elegant products.
All that said, let’s hope Jobs is back at work and healthy in the near future.