It’s been awhile since we experienced Apple without Steve Jobs at the helm. Jobs last week tendered his resignation and helped usher in a new era with former COO Tim Cook set to take the reigns of the world’s most innovative and successful technology company.
While Steve Jobs will reportedly remain actively involved in Apple’s product strategy, and we certainly hope that he is around for a long time, the day will inevitably come when Jobs is no longer involved at all with decisions at Apple. When that day comes, and again, hopefully it won’t come for a long time, many folks are wondering how Apple will fare. Will the company be able to continue on its course of innovation, releasing trendsetting new products that help define technologies for a generation? It’s a tall order to fill, but given the way Jobs structured Apple we’re inclined to believe that Apple is in a position to thrive not only for the next 2-3 years, but for the next 10 years – regardless of whether or not Jobs, Tim Cook, or even Scott Forstall.
You see, Jobs at Apple didn’t just usher in innovative new products like the iMac, iPod, and iPhone, he helped create an environment where those products were conceived and brought to market. To that end, Jobs helped create an infrastructure that will arguably keep Apple on pace to continue churning out successful products for some time.
Last week, John Gruber of Daring Fireball wrote:
Apple’s products are replete with Apple-like features and details, embedded in Apple-like apps, running on Apple-like devices, which come packaged in Apple-like boxes, are promoted in Apple-like ads, and sold in Apple-like stores. The company is a fractal design. Simplicity, elegance, beauty, cleverness, humility. Directness. Truth. Zoom out enough and you can see that the same things that define Apple’s products apply to Apple as a whole. The company itself is Apple-like. The same thought, care, and painstaking attention to detail that Steve Jobs brought to questions like “How should a computer work?”, “How should a phone work?”, “How should we buy music and apps in the digital age?” he also brought to the most important question: “How should a company that creates such things function?”
Jobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself.
And so it goes.
Jobs has filled the ranks of Apple with people who buy into Jobs’ notion of what a company like Apple should be about. It’s not about the bottom line, it’s about creating products that can literally change the world. And sure, money matters, you’d have to be a fool to believe otherwise, but Apple’s brass firmly believe that if you focus on innovative products that customers love, the bottom line will take care of itself.
Looking forward a decade or two, it’s likely that Jobs’ legacy at Apple won’t solely be relegated to the products Apple released under his leadership, but will encompass a company that was able to remain on the vanguard of technology and the way people interact with consumer electronics even after he stepped down as CEO.