Yesterday was the big day. It was Tim Cook in a blue-collared shirt instead of Steve Jobs in a black turtleneck. Otherwise, it was supposed to be the same. It was in San Francisco. The lights were low and diffused when they should be; bright and focused when they should be. The occasion was the unveiling of the iPad3…oops, just the “new iPad.” With a higher resolution screen, a better camera, higher speed and 4G connectivity, Apple will undoubtedly sell millions of them.
Apple stock is up $11 today (to $541 @ 2:00pm EST, 3/8/12); they have $100 billion cash on hand and their market cap is over $500 billion. That is more than the entire GDP of all but nineteen countries in the world. And the beat goes on. A new iPhone is expected later this year and there are rumors of an iTV at some point. Wow! It is easy to make the case that they are the best company in the world…at least for now.
Steve Jobs said in one of his last interviews with Walter Isaacson, “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products” (from Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, a truly great book). They achieved Jobs’ passion while he was there. There are a lot of reasons, but three stand out.
First, it was their products, not profits, that motivated them. They never compromised quality, function, aesthetics, etc., just to make an extra buck. Their products are more expensive than their competitors’, but enough better that people are willing to pay the price.
Second, the “enough better” actually means a “lot better.” Jobs believed in “leapfrog” products that jumped over and far past any alternatives. He wasn’t satisfied with being the best of the lot; he wanted Apple products to be in a lot by themselves. More often than not, they are.
Third, Apple products are a unique and harmonious merger of art and technology. Every detail is intended to blend together in a way that stirs the soul. They are intended to not just make life easier, but make life better. That is why Apple groupies are so fiercely loyal.
It has been five months since cancer took Steve Jobs’ life at the early age of 56. So Apple is now on it’s own without him. That is a very big deal because Jobs was intimately involved in every detail of every product. For example, all Apple products have rounded corners. It wasn’t a design engineer that selected “how round” they should be, it was Jobs. There are ten thousand more examples of how his fingerprints are all over the Apple products.
How much of Apple is left without Jobs? I don’t know. I’m sure there is not another Steve Jobs who will emerge, so motivation and decisions that came from him will now have to come from Tim Cook and his leadership team. They have a huge vacuum to fill. Will they? Check back in four or five years; we won’t know before then.
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© Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner
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