All technology companies experience peaks and troughs. Products come and go, execs get up and leave, consumer tastes change. Just look at RiM and the fortunes of the BlackBerry platform for proof. Apple is just another company, despite the faith shown by the true believers. Which means its fate is one of doom and gloom.
With Steve Jobs having departed this thing we call life, I can’t help thinking Apple’s downward spiral is inevitable. It’s a matter of when rather than if from this point forward. With Jobs at the helm the company trended up in a big, bold way. With him gone Apple faces an uphill battle not only to remain on course but to remain on an even keel.
Is Apple’s Downward Spiral Inevitable Without Jobs?
Steve Jobs was the driving force behind Apple, especially after his return in 1997 to the company he founded. Bringing him back was the key decision which led to the creation of some of the best tech products ever produced. But Jobs has now gone. Apple continues on without him, of course, but will things ever be the same without him at the helm?
There is no new Steve Jobs waiting in the wings, and that has to be of great concern. If Apple is to experience the same kind of success after the plans Jobs laid out before his death come to an end then someone will need to step up to the plate.
Alternatively, several of the execs who now form the top-level team at Apple will have to forge together to become a collective that will somehow replace Jobs.
The New Mob
Who are that team, the new mob which collectively needs to fill the gaping void left by Jobs? And are they capable of continuing on the good work begun under Jobs?
Tim Cook: The Money Guy – Cook is a young (51) CEO with vast experience under his belt at Apple, Compaq and IBM before Jobs snatched him up in 1998. He’s regarded as the money guy thanks to his former role as COO.
Jonathan Ive: The Product Guy – Ive is the man who made the products Jobs envisioned look the way Jobs envisioned them to look. If Apple is style over substance then Ive is the reason. He’s regarded as the product guy because all products go through him before seeing the light of day.
Phil Schiller: The Marketing Guy – Schiller is Senior Vice President of Marketing. If a commercial has made you purchase an Apple product then Schiller will be responsible.
These men will lead Apple into the future, but they won’t be doing so alone. Instead, they will be accompanied by a group of individuals who have a reverence bordering on religious when it comes to Apple.
I know many of you hate the term fanboy, even some of my fellow MakeUseOf writers. But these people (who I have nothing but contempt for), whatever the terminology used to describe them, are the key to the company’s future. Like it or not. As long as they keep buying Apple products then Apple will succeed. But that is far from guaranteed. Even the most vehement supporters of a company or brand can drop them as soon as a better competitor comes along.
If the fanboys ever turn against Apple then it’s game over. Those who hate Apple will not suddenly see the light. Those who couldn’t care less either way, and will buy a product based on more than just the brand, won’t buy Apple if the quality of the products suddenly drops. And that, therefore, is the key to if and when Apple’s slide downwards begins.
Products have always been the key to the success of Apple. When the company was producing crap the company suffered. When it upped its game its fortunes soared. So it stands to reason that products will be the deciding factor as to whether Apple carries on growing, flat-lines, or starts to shrink back to the levels it was at before The Chosen One returned. Bankruptcy and all.
Incremental improvements made to its core product line-up are fine. The iPhone, iPod, iPad, Macs, and MacBooks will continue to sell with little effort from the company. But the test comes when a new product is needed.
Apple has been at the forefront of consumer electronics over the past decade. Can it do the same through the next decade without Jobs at the helm steering the company in the specific direction he thinks it ought to head in?
I think Apple will fail. In the long term. But so will Microsoft. That’s just the way of things. The crunch will come in a few years time when Steve Jobs’ product progression comes to an end. The decisions made at that point in terms of the direction of the company will forge the future for Apple. Positively or negatively.
If you trust Cook, Ive, and Schiller to make the correct decisions then the inexorable slide downwards will be stalled for a few more years. If not then it has already begun, and did so the day after the Jobs era ended and he bid this cruel world goodbye forever.
What side of the fence are you on? Do you think Apple will fail? Would it make you happy to see the company go down in flames?