The Steve Jobs Standard

Ever since the black turtlenecked one appeared at the Worldwide Developers Conference, there has been no shortage of discussion about the health of Steve Jobs, the worry that he is mortal and who might succeed him.There’s the photo by photo rundown of the increasingly thin Jobs.

Ever since the black turtlenecked one appeared at the Worldwide Developers Conference, there has been no shortage of discussion about the health of Steve Jobs, the worry that he is mortal and who might succeed him.There’s the photo by photo rundown of the increasingly thin Jobs. There’s the discussion of whether the latest gauntness is because he is a “cancer victim” or just suffering from a ‘common bug’, like the company said. There are the rundowns, like this one, of who might succeed Jobs at the helm of Apple.

Yet, of course, no one can succeed Steve Jobs. And there is no way for him to pass on his ferocity in first arriving at a clear vision of what a new electronic device should be and then making sure it gets executed, down to the most minor-seeming detail.

Also see: Pondering Apple in a post-Jobs world

When he get bumped out of Apple in 1985, John Sculley tried to prove his worth in carrying on the touch by shepherding the Apple MessagePad, aka Newton, into the market. The idea was to be a whole new type of handheld computer, not just a “personal digital assistant.” But its handwriting recognition was suspect, it was too big to fit in pocket and overpriced. The Palm Pilot won the day.

After John Sculley came Michael Spindler and then Gil Amelio. Remember them? For what?

Since he came back, Jobs has become the lovable terror of the digital era. He rebooted the company’s computers, with the bubble-shaped iMacs. He took over the nascent digital music business with the achingly simple iPod and well-thought-out iTunes store. He’s come close to the same kind of rethink of an existing device, with the keyless iPhone for mobile communications. The only place he’s stubbed his foot is with the Apple TV, but that can be fixed.

He’s been a one-man wrecking crew. More than two decades after the launch of Macintosh, all the great minds at Microsoft still haven’t caught up with their imitation, Windows. The latest iteration, Vista, has been generally panned. Bill Gates is happy retiring. Jobs and crew, meanwhile, are happier building Snow Leopard – and new ways of remaking more parts of the digital world.

In the meantime, there are scores of well-funded electronics companies out there with intelligent CEOs. And none of them have come up with a device that has “killed” the iPod, excited users like the iPhone or, even with overwhelming market share, done away with the Macintosh.

Maybe it will be different the next time Jobs leaves Apple, whether of his own accord or because of health concerns. Maybe Tim Cook really has the same fire and ability.

But you have to doubt it. The record inside and outside Apple says that Jobs stands alone. He has talent, perserverance and a devotion to making devices that delight in ways that others can’t imagine – or carry out.

In the meantime, just enjoy every day this guy steps in the door. We don’t need medical affidavits in the back of 10-K reports to the Securities Exchange Commission or doctors appearing on stage with Jobs at each MacWorld or developer event.

Let the man work on his magic and appreciate it for as long as is humanly possible.

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