This past Wednesday evening I was flying across the country with my Apple (AAPL) iPhone off. I used the relative silence to sleep, take care of some work, and start some new SA articles. As soon as we landed I rushed to turn my phone back on as did virtually all of the other passengers so that we could return to the connected world. The first text message I received did not make any sense “jobs died.” The next few of “STEVE JOBS DIED” were equally cryptic in their simplicity. Sure I knew that Steve Jobs was ill and had stepped down from the CEO role one month earlier but could this be true? I've suffered through enough fake reports of Steve's death over my years of covering Apple that I held a glimmer of hope that it was another fake report but all doubt was removed when I saw Steve's powerful eyes staring back at me on Apple’s homepage.
No one outside of Apple will ever know the extent to which Steve was involved in product development and the day-to-day engineering but there are two highlights that I wish to share. First Steve had over three hundred patents to his name indicating that he was heavily involved in the nitty-gritty details of new products. The second instance is quite shocking in that it shows how Jobs was at times singlehandedly responsible for fundamentally altering products. The original iPhone was to have a plastic screen until Steve objected mere weeks before production and ordered that the touchscreen be replaced with glass. If the iPhone had been released with a plastic screen it is conceivable that it would have flopped and there would be no iPhone 4S or even the iPad 2.
There are numerous additional examples that I can site in which Steve was light years ahead of the curve by laying the foundation for technology we use everyday:
To ensure that this type of development would continue into the future Steve worked hand-in-hand with Joel Podolny, former dean of the Yale Business School, to create Apple University to effectively answer future ‘What Would Jobs Do’ questions. The LA Times discusses how serious Steve was about the project as Mr. Podolny “moved into an office in between Jobs and Cook” and “was later named vice president of human resources”. It is clear that this was a priority for the company and will not be some token training program. Any of my concerns regarding Apple are assuaged by Jobs’ focus on the future.
It is absolutely foolish, contemptible, and outlandish to think for a moment that Steve Jobs would fail to prepare his greatest creation for his departure. The only positive to come out of Steve's battle with cancer was that it gave him the time to prepare for his death. Not only did Steve prepare Apple's product pipeline for years in all likelihood but he definitely readied the company. Make no mistake, I think Tim Cook is well positioned to be a great CEO but I am nervous with Steve out of the picture. Based on Steve’s monumental contributions cited above I would not be surprised if Apple’s earnings in 2020 start to slip but we can deal with that uncertain future closer to that date.
There are unverified reports that Steve even left a “master blueprint” with detailed plans for the next four years and conceptual plans for future products. Knowing how far advanced Steve was from us mere mortals I find this highly believable. So yes, investing in Apple without Steve Jobs is scary but we will not have to face that reality for a good five years. Steve’s greatest invention was not the Mac, iPhone, or even the iPad. Steve’s most significant creation was Apple, Inc. the company that will thrive well into the future under his vision. If Steve was twenty years ahead of current technology with the Newton, I can only imagine what magical devices he laid in that blueprint. Steve always encouraged people to “stay hungry, stay foolish”; I am going to adapt that famous phrase for Apple investors. Stay hungry, stay foolish, stay long Apple.