By Carl Howe
I won’t repeat what’s in the press release. What I will do is repeat some points I’ve made in interviews about Steve Jobs over the past 15 years that I’ve been covering Apple (AAPL). Those are:
- One person doesn’t run a $100 billion company. Despite the fact that Steve Jobs was the best-known founder and visionary of Apple, Inc., he doesn’t make every decision in the company. In fact, Apple has been run by a team of very accomplished visionaries that includes Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, Jonathan Ive, Scott Forestal, Ron Johnson and a host of others. Steve was public face of the company, but we shouldn’t think that he was the only one making all the decisions.
- Jobs left a strong succession plan. Wednesday’s announcement wasn’t a surprise to anyone who had been paying attention to Apple. Jobs had worked with Apple’s board for years to create a succession plan to ensure that the company would continue after he left the company. Any of the members of the executive team had the ability to take on the CEO role, but Tim Cook had been executing on the company vision nearly since Jobs rejoined the company. It’s only natural that he will have the title to go with the responsibilities he has accepted for many of those years.
- Apple’s strength comes from its culture, not its spokesman. Too many analysts have focused on Steve Jobs as the ultimate showman for Apple, but don’t recognize the processes and teams that he built that now define the company. The lasting legacy Steve Jobs leaves from his CEO role is the fact that he created a $100 billion enterprise that “thinks different.” and isn’t afraid to bet the company on that idea.
- Apple’s future will be just as amazing as the last decade’s. Over the past decade, Apple has both defined and dominated three new product categories: music players with the iPod, smartphones with the iPhone, and tablets with the iPad. What isn’t widely known is that many other amazing products have been similarly well-though out and developed but haven’t been brought to market yet. That pipeline, combined with Apple’s more than $70 billion cash horde, will continue to delight consumers for years, if not decades to come.
But despite the fact that Apple’s future is secure in the hands of Tim Cook, I would like to pay some tribute to Steve Jobs’ leadership. Apple’s founding as the first commercial personal computer company, it’s subsequent struggles, and its comeback from its 1990s decline have all been well-documented. What’s often forgotten, though, is that for many of the years when Steve Jobs returned to Apple and rebuilt it to pass its former glory, he also was CEO of Pixar, the motion picture company that is now part of Disney (DIS).
For the time that Jobs was head of Pixar, that company never made a single movie that wasn’t an unqualified and money-making success, a track record unequalled by any other movie studio. Pixar’s animated movies may have been rated G, but they were anything but children’s stories. They were creations where technology was the vehicle whereby writers and directors could tell stories to all ages of viewers, and they continue to do so.
We will easily remember Steve Jobs as the man who built Apple to become the most valuable technology company in the world. What we should also remember is that while he was doing that, we was also helping to build a business around some of the most successful story-tellers and artists of our time as well. The fact that he did both at once, when most people would not have been able to do either will truly be his lasting legacy.