The end of an era
It’s the end of an era. Last night Steve Jobs announced he was standing down from his role as chief executive of Apple, and said he would become chairman instead.
Although Jobs stepped away from the day to day running of the company some months ago, when he took medical leave due to ongoing health problems, the move still came as a shock to many.
Jobs is credited with turning the company around, transforming it into one of the largest tech companies in the world. In fact, earlier this month, Apple briefly edged past ExxonMobil to become the most valuable company in the world, overtaking rival Google.
Forced out of the company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak by Apple’s board in 1985, Jobs returned to Apple as an adviser in 1997, and eventually took up his role as chief executive again. The rest is history. In 1998, the first iMac was introduced. Then in 2001, the iPod hit the market. The iTunes store followed in 2003, transforming the music market, and the iPhone’s launch in 2007 propelled Apple into a whole new market. The iPad launch in 2010 created a new market for tablet devices.
It remains to be seen what Jobs’ new role will actually mean. Is it the end of the shock and awe press conferences? While we may cast a sceptical eye on Jobs’ claims of “magical” devices and Apple’s marketing machine that could probably reinvent the wheel – and not just the Click Wheel either – the truth is you always want to see what he comes up with next.
In 1997, Apple was just another tech brand. Now it’s THE tech brand. It wasn’t the first to invent a hard drive based music player – remember the iRiver and Creative Zen devices? – but it certainly managed to make itself the most popular. Likewise in the smartphone market where Nokia once ruled the roost, although Android’s market share has since eclipsed Apple’s.
And things are just getting interesting in the tablet and mobile markets. Apple’s iPad now has several rivals – the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab – and the smartphone market has taken off at a great pace. Apple is in court fighting several patent cases, on both sides of legal actions, and the launch of a new iPhone is believed to be imminent.
In his resignation letter, Jobs said he believes Apple’s “brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it”.
It’s a tough act to follow. Apple has appointed Tim Cook, previously Apple’s chief operating officer, as recommended by Jobs in his resignation letter (below).
Cook has taken charge of the company previously, when Jobs went on medical leave in 2004, and again in 2009. And since he took over the reins in January, the company has continued to perform well, probably soothing some fears that Apple will suffer without Jobs at the helm.
But whether he can match the creative impact, influence and charisma that Jobs brought to Apple is another thing. Like, loathe or simply indifferent to him, you can’t deny that Jobs had a huge influence, as the legions of loyal Apple fans will attest to.
You could say – and many have – that Jobs inspires a cult-like following. He is, above all else, a showman. Watch any of the Apple product launches he’s been involved in. You may not want to listen to what he has to say, you might even scoff at the marketing rhetoric, but by and large it works. Look at the sales of the iPhone – 20 million in the space of three months.
Inevitably you find yourself clutching an iPhone or an iPad, or even a MacBook Air, forking over several hundred euro for the privilege of owning one.
And even though he was on medical leave, Jobs has still been very much the public face of Apple, even returning for the launch of the iPad 2 in March.
He’s always been a force to be reckoned with. Without him at the helm, will Apple still have the same impact as before?
The resignation letter:
“To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.
As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.
I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.
I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.
“Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company,” said Art Levinson, Chairman of Genentech, on behalf of Apple’s Board. “Steve has made countless contributions to Apple’s success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple’s immensely creative employees and world class executive team. In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.
“The Board has complete confidence that Tim is the right person to be our next CEO,” added Levinson. “Tim’s 13 years of service to Apple have been marked by outstanding performance, and he has demonstrated remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does.”