Core values: where to next for Apple?
One of the reasons Apple fascinates as a company was due, of course, to the mercurial and magnetic persona of Steve Jobs, and while his successor Tim Cook has shown himself to be a sure hand as chief executive, all perceptions of the company are seen through the prism of Jobs. The expectation that the company will struggle in Jobs’s absence is hard to dispel.
“I would have a lot of confidence in that Tim Cook is a process guy, he’s concerned about making the trains run on time, as they used to say,” says Dediu. “In that sense, he has to think of the business itself as a process, so he should be codifying it and optimising it and trying to understand it. I’m confident of Tim Cook being conscious of the project and hopefully that would allow the legacy of Jobs to continue, even if Jobs may not have known what he was doing exactly, even if he was just being instinctive.”
Understanding that process and analysing those instincts has developed into a kind of technological Kremlinology, and a big business in its own right, but Dediu suspects the answer is somewhat more straightforward.
“The weird thing is that Apple’s products are not particularly earth-shattering, they’re just well-executed,” he says. “This is all very much a Jobsian thing; you pick your fights carefully, and you execute as well as possible, keep it in incubation as long as necessary, and then release it when it’s good and ready. It requires so much polish and confidence in the result, and it usually resonates well with the consumer. It’s a simple formula in reality, I think, but one very few companies can do, either because they don’t have the patience, the confidence or the focus.”
The recent trial victory over Samsung has highlighted the manner in which Apple dictates the direction of the industry, and zealously protects its intellectual property. But Dediu suggests that it’s not the hardware or software designs other companies should be paying attention to.
“When people ask me what should Samsung do, what should Nokia do, what should Microsoft do, and I tell them ‘Be more like Apple’, that doesn’t mean much. What I mean to say is, don’t copy their products, copy their way of making products. That’s very difficult, it turns out.”
However difficult to replicate, it’s an approach that might well prove to be the company’s signature achievement.