The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

Summary: Steve Jobs greatest legacy is the Apple of today. That legacy faces a big risk without Jobs that Apple must be ready to handle.

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TOPICS: Apple, CXO, IT Employment
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The passing of Steve Jobs impacted everyone in unexpected ways, and rightly so. There is no denying his genius, his ability to see what customers wanted, and his unflagging demand that Apple would sell no product that wouldn't give those customers exactly what they wanted. With Jobs gone, the focus turns to how Apple will fare going forward without that genius.

I have stayed out of the speculation about Apple without Steve Jobs, but a conversation I had yesterday drove home where I think Apple is at risk. That's what conversations with smart people can do (thanks Patrick Moorhead).

There is no question that Apple has a lot of talented people to continue producing outstanding products. The same folks that Steve Jobs led so successfully are still there, and Tim Cook is an effective leader by all accounts. While discussing this with Patrick one thing hit me that might impact Apple in the future.

Of Steve Jobs' many strengths overseeing Apple's product development, his refusal to release products that didn't live up to his expectations is legendary. There are stories told about Jobs killing products just prior to launch, sending the team back to the drawing board to start again. Jobs would not follow the standard industry practice of releasing a product that didn't fully meet customer's needs, and then fixing it later. There is no doubt this is a reason Apple's products have been received so well by customers.

With Jobs gone, even with the outstanding design team at Apple and all of the great engineers, it is not clear who will step up in two areas. Firstly, is there anyone at Apple that can recognize a product that is not quite good enough to the level that Jobs did? More importantly, does anyone have the moxie to kill such a product late in the development cycle and send the team back to the drawing board?

Perhaps Tim Cook is the man to do that, but frankly there are very few executives in business possessing what it takes to be willing to stop a product after incurring great expenses producing it for launch. Few executives will be willing to admit internally "we are wrong, this is not good enough". More importantly, few executives in business have the ability to do this without demoralizing the talented team that produced the inferior product, instead energizing them to do it again, better.

Steve Jobs did all of those things at Apple, and the company's reputation and product lines reflect that. Apple didn't become one of the largest companies in the world by accident, it was a direct result of offering superior products. If that slips even a little, the company will be at risk for a drop in reputation, and a subsequent loss of faithful customers.

Hopefully Tim Cook and all the executives at Apple will be willing to do what it takes to prevent compromises in the company's products. Steve Jobs tormented Apple's competitors for years with his refusal to produce products "just good enough". This is the big risk to Apple without Jobs; that everyone will be afraid to step up when necessary and say "it's not good enough for our customers".

More importantly, someone must have what it takes to stand up to the product team, senior executives, and the board to justify eating the expense of starting over. It may seem to be just common logic, but in business this is very, very difficult to do. Steve Jobs was one of the very few in business that could do that. This is Apple's biggest exposure without Jobs.

Image credit: Flickr user luc legay

See also:

ZDNet RoundupSteve Jobs tribute

Topics: Apple, CXO, IT Employment

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62 comments
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  • THE biggest risk to Apple

    is the increase in the number of link-bait articles that are appearing on the InnerTubes&reg;<br><br>P.S. Ads? Didn't see any of those so the link-baiting was wasted.
    davebarnes
    • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

      @davebarnes Bitteraide. Bought in bulk.
      lelandhendrix@...
  • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

    he never saw what customers wanted, he saw what they would consider good looking and cool!

    Lets take the thumb keyboard for Android, the keyboard is awesome and way better than Apple's iOS keyboard but, it takes going into options and making changes to get the keyboard there... The boys at Apple said, "how can we make the split keyboard cool?" then somebody said, "Let's simulate breaking it in half!".

    those little things are what attracts people.
    slickjim
    • It seems to me my friend you have issues....

      @Peter Perry ... Don't know where they come from or the why of it. If I did not know better I would think that you and Jobs went to school together and he gave you weekly swirly's or something:) Regardless your issues are invalid for the simple reason Apple nor anyone has ever forced you to do business with them. Obviously you choose Android for your phones and push it for tablets so likely you use it there as well. Maybe you even are one of the 6 who use it on the desktop I don't know but I do know you have options and apparently use them so what or where you issues with Steve Jobs is and or with Apple are silly and you should seek help. You have no reason to complain. Apple does it's business a certain way (A way I like) and you do not so? Get over it and yourself. Time to move on my friend. Steve has and perhaps you can try to emulate him for he did it with grace and dignity.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

        @James Quinn

        I can almost guarantee you that jobs was on the receiving end of "swirlies" in high school.
        lippidp
      • I don't know Woz maybe but Jobs?

        @lippidp... I think he had a mean streak in him that served him well:P

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

        @James Quinn I am sorry Jim, did I insult your man crush with the truth?
        slickjim
      • A personal opinion does not a truth make.

        @Peter Perry ... You should know this if you are over 12 by now.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

        @James Quinn They can not like Apple if they don't like it. They have a right to express that disapproval, too. Just as you can like Apple and express that you like it. But then you go off the wall saying they need help. I sure hope they get none of that "help" and stay with their views! Because there's nothing wrong with them being different from you in this way!
        mike4ty4@...
      • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

        @James Quinn -10000
        mike4ty4@...
    • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

      @Peter Perry Based on sales I would say you are wrong once again, he saw what customers wanted and more importantly what customer would buy. So you like the thumb keyboard, what does that have to do with anything? Apple didn't want the thumb keyboard on the iPhone so they didn't produce it with one. They knew full well that some people would prefer it but as was already pointed out to you those people have choices. If Apple in some way prevented any other manufacturer from including the thumb keyboard on their devices you might have a case but as usual you don't.
      non-biased
  • now you are talking...

    you are writing insightfully. Congrats
    yaque
  • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

    Fooey. They released plenty of stuff that wasn't good enough. iPhone 4 antenna problem Jobs must've been aware of, but they shoved it out the door anyway. Jobs was a cult leader. There have been studies about it. I saw a guy on Facebook recently that used the Apple logo as his profile picture, for chrissakes. That is the biggest issue facing Apple now. They no longer have a cult leader. Although, Jesus died 2000 years ago and Christianity is still doing OK, so maybe Apple will be fine after all. The media is obviously still enamored by the guy.
    lippidp
    • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

      @lippidp <br><br>Take Siri, for example. It is a Beta product. Even so, Apple released it knowing full well it's not done, which is the definition of a Beta product. Maybe Jobs wasn't involved, but I bet he was.
      lippidp
      • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

        @lippidp What about your Samsung knock-offs obsession to lambast Apple with pointless fanaticism--I saw both your posts and all you cheapos do is put down Apple to make knock-offs like your Android look good--guess what it backfires and make Android cheapos look annoying and insecure!
        Lesmet
      • Nothing wrong with releasing a Beta product as long

        @lippidp ... as the vendor in question makes it known said product is indeed a Beta which Apple did. As for the problem that wasn't:). Let's see now. Apple extended the time customers could return the phone and yet the returns were no more even less than the previous 3GS model. Hmmmm? Apples sales of that phone have been very good indeed. Hmmmmm? Customer satisfaction surveys show that phone is satisfying a great many. Again hmmmmmm? So the issue that wasn't:)

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

        @lippidp

        If Siri is a beta product and doesn't work properly, don't use it. A consumer still gets Apple's latest product, at the same price as the last version. No extra money was paid for a non-working Siri.
        mstrsfty
      • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

        @lesmet
        What does Samsung or Android have to do with any of this?

        @Pagan jim
        True. I'm just taking issue with the author's assertion that "Jobs would not follow the standard industry practice of releasing a product that didn???t fully meet customer???s needs, and then fixing it later." The antenna problem was real enough for Consumer Reports to not recommend iPhone 4. Apple "fixed it later" by offering a work-around instead of a recall. There was a problem with the antenna; that is a fact. Apple clearly released product that was "good enough" for their fans, but clearly lacking.

        @mstrsfty
        Siri is a beta product. That is a fact. It's just interesting that Apple would release a beta product since, according to the author, "[Jobs'] refusal to release products that didn???t live up to his expectations is legendary." I guess his expectations are that beta products are A-OK for release to the masses and touted as a major feature on their flagship product.

        I'm not saying Apple is bad. They're not. Clearly, they make many great products. I just take issue with the author's assertion that Jobs was some great QA "genius." He cared about QA when he thought it would impact sales. If he thought his fans would overlook an antenna problem, obviously he would green-light a faulty design anyway in order to make sales. You could argue that many companies do that; fine. Just don't make Jobs out to be some sort of saint looking out for the common man. I say fooey to that.
        lippidp
      • RE: The big risk for Apple without Steve Jobs

        @pagan Jim if there was no issue how come I could recreate it on my friends AT&T IPhone 4 but when the Verizon version rolled out the problem was gone? Here's a clue for you man, it was gone because there was an issue and now it is resolved!

        Oh and as for the Beta, nowhere in the ads did they make that known... You had to go to the Siri page to see the Beta graphic. With that said, when Siri works, it works well and does learn from you... However, when it is broken the entire thing is broken hard and even tasks for the phone do not work.
        slickjim
      • James Quinn: A beta product should never be used as their main feature for

        a marketing campaign.<br><br>Beta is test software, and should never be charged for, nor used in marketing to get people to purchase a product which isn't really ready. It's not ready if it's being called beta. <br><br>The fact is that, iPhone4S's best known feature is Siri, and, even if they have upgraded hardware and improved the OS, without Siri, the sales numbers would likely not have reached anywhere near what they did, because, to most people, without Siri, the iPhone 4S is not significantly superior nor more useful than the iPhone4. <br><br>So, Apple is pulling a fast one on their customers and the customers are NOT being told, in very clear terms, that Siri is still in the test stages, and that, for the most part, beta software should not be getting charged for. <br><br>There is only one reason for Siri being out there, and that is to try to make it sound like a real upgrade to the old iPhone4, but, without Siri, 4S and the old phone are basically the same. Thus, Apple is pulling a fast one on their customers. <br><br>And, Ed above is not even mentioning that, iPhone4S is not really what it's purported to be, and thus, it's not meeting the criteria that he's talking about in describing Jobs' desire not to release anything that's not ready for consumers.
        adornoe