Apple: Perception is Reality

Apple: Perception is Reality

Summary: When a technology columnist known for his critical views on Apple makes statements to the effect that the company should consider defining and publicly communicating a succession strategy, many Apple fans might consider the subject too close to home and inappropriate. It will generate heated discussion in the inside baseball crowd on the ZDNet TalkBacks, but that will be the end of it.

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When a technology columnist known for his critical views on Apple makes statements to the effect that the company should consider defining and publicly communicating a succession strategy, many Apple fans might consider the subject too close to home and inappropriate. It will generate heated discussion in the inside baseball crowd on the ZDNet TalkBacks, but that will be the end of it.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

But when the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, Business Week,  CNBC and Motley Fool take notice a month later, and the company's stock loses 10 percent of its market value in a single afternoon (which admittedly rebounded somewhat in late day trading) on the basis of an observation that Jobs wasn't present on a routine earnings call (which historically, he never attends, but that's not the crux of the matter at stake here)  then it's not so inappropriate. It's not surprising what the real world impact on a company can be when it refuses to talk about the health of its most important executive who also happens to be its spiritual leader and guiding light, is it?

Look, if Steve Jobs's cancer has not resurfaced, then Apple needs to re-assure its investors that this is in fact the case -- not dismiss analysts with a blanket "Steve's health is a private matter" comment. Steve Jobs is the very symbol of Apple, its ideological compass and its chief visionary, for whatever talents and faults he has. His being there is absolutely critical to the company's success. So by dodging the question that everyone wants answered, it's going to make a lot of people nervous. VERY nervous. And if Steve really is very sick, then its critical that Apple nip this in the bud as soon as possible.

I've already said that a CEO succession plan must be made public. Not doing so is a disservice to its stockholders and the legions of Apple customers that are depending on his leadership. No Chief Executive could ever "Replace" Steve Jobs -- but all plans should be made public to demonstrate that the company is prepared to move forward without him should it become necessary.

Is Wall Street overreacting or does Apple need to come clean with Steve Jobs' health and produce a succession plan? Talk Back and let me know.

The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Topics: Apple, CXO, Enterprise Software, Health, Software, IT Employment

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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Talkback

20 comments
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  • RE: Apple: Perception is Reality

    Absolutely, Apple's response will do nothing to allay investors fears and in many cases will accelerate the rumour mill.

    Apple need to come out a flatly confirm or deny Steve's current health and produce, at the very least, a barebones succession plan to restore some investor confidence.

    This should be no brainer as they should already have all of this planned out.
    nmh
  • A note about Jobs on the conference call

    As long as I've been listening to Apple's conference calls I can't remember many--if any--where Jobs was on the call. Ditto for Pixar. He doesn't do conference calls. And for that chatter to pick up over him not being on the call is ridiculous. It would be news if he was actually on one.
    Larry Dignan
  • Kings and kinghood

    Good heavens, it's almost as if you're talking about the succession of power in a medieval kingdom.... And even in those kingdoms, the slogan was: le roi est mort, vive le roi!

    Kings are mortal, kinghood is everlasting. I've no doubt that the Apple company can supply an able successor to it's present leader.

    Stock exchanges are as nervous and irrational as old maidens. Nothing new about that: varius et mutabile semper femina, as the Romans used to say.

    The value of the Apple shares will survive these whims of Wall Street in the long run, with or without Steve Jobs. As long as they continue to manufacture products that the market wants.
    pjotr123
  • RE: Apple: Perception is Reality

    pjotr123 said:
    "The value of the Apple shares will survive these whims of Wall Street in the long run, with or without Steve Jobs. As long as they continue to manufacture products that the market wants."

    The problem with the second part of this statement is exactly the point of the op-ed. With all of the innovative thinking Steve Jobs has brought to the table, do you consciously think Apple will be able to continue down that same path without that figurehead in place. Do you think they would continue to be as successful with another less formidable replacement?
    i<3php
    • I should most certainly hope so

      No big company can afford to be so much dependent on just one man.

      That would be highly unprofessional, and I can't imagine that the Apple company management is as unprofessional as that.
      pjotr123
    • Do you really truly believe

      that Steve Jobs came up with ALL of those wonderful ideas from concept to a finished product? People spend too much time trying to pin Steve as some super human spiritual leader.

      I believe Apple could survive without him. I also believe they have had plans in place for quite some time for a post-Jobs Apple, it's idiotic to think otherwise.

      What good is it going to do, to submit a plan that everyone knows exists. Besides, things change, plans change, people change. Outlining a post-Jobs agenda would be along the same lines of MS outlining their grandiose plans for Vista that never materialized for whatever reasons.
      Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
      • One problem...

        [i]People spend too much time trying to pin Steve as some super human spiritual leader.[/i]

        And that's the point of this article: the perception is that Steve Jobs is the Almighty Apple God, and his denizens - a very intense, tightly-knit community - drank that Kool-Aid in massive gulps. When it comes to things like this, the perception really is reality. That's why the stock price dropped; if Steve has to leave for whatever reason, the loyalist Apple fans will nearly revolt, and sales will be sure to drop. If I were an investor, I'd sell too.

        History also goes with that line of logic; Steve left in the 80s, and had to save the company in the late 90s after they almost ran themselves out of business.
        superbus
        • umm no.

          "And that's the point of this article: the perception is that
          Steve Jobs is the Almighty Apple God, and his denizens - a
          very intense, tightly-knit community - drank that Kool-Aid
          in massive gulps. When it comes to things like this, the
          perception really is reality. That's why the stock price
          dropped; if Steve has to leave for whatever reason, the
          loyalist Apple fans will nearly revolt, and sales will be sure
          to drop. If I were an investor, I'd sell too."

          This is what a moron thinks & usually MS water boys. They
          can't seem to come to the simple realization that some
          people could care less about Windows & know a better
          product when they have used it. After all most people that
          use Apple products have used or are using Windows. You
          can't say the same for the other side of the coin.
          SquishyParts
  • The Dream Stock

    Apple is a very strong company with a very bright future and
    it has no debt. Dips and peaks are extremely easy to predict
    and appear easy to manipulate by analyst's reports or even a
    well crafted news article. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Buy
    low sell high right out of the book.
    CowLauncher
  • Companies do not publicize succession plans

    What's the succession plan at Berkshire
    Hathaway? Warren Buffet is whole face
    of the company.

    Who takes over Oracle if Ellison dies?

    Who's set to take over at ANY company
    if the CEO dies? We really don't know.

    The smarter thing for a company to do
    is promote the contributions of the
    people under the CEO. Jack Welsh at GE
    was brilliant at this. He'd say he was
    the dumbest person in the world who
    was just lucky enough to have hired a
    bunch of really smart people - even
    people well down the ladder. This made
    the market confident that GE would
    successfully continue when Welsh was
    gone.
    j.m.galvin
  • RE: Apple: Perception is Reality

    So, if somebody had said "Elvis is gonna die", all the
    followers would stopped to listening his music? After his
    disappearance did people stop buying his records? Who
    was his sucesor? Did he know that, it was going to
    happen? Did we?. Or for example, you are, I don't know,
    lets say, sick and maybe you are going to stop writting for
    Zdnet, has Zdnet to inform us that you are sick and it's
    probable that you would dissapear? because we -the
    readers- have to know that cause if they don't do it then
    we will stop reading any thing that they could be
    publishing after? is the world going to end when your end
    finally arrive? does it really matter? Did matter when Ford
    stepped down of his motor company? Nobody else bought
    a car after that? did Ford Company vanished? When was
    said that telling the future is possible? Who knows how the
    future is going to be? Are you serious? Do you really think
    that Apple is going to disappear without Steve Jobs? Apple
    learned the lesson in the past, I think that they know what
    to do next. It really doesn't matter to me -and to a lot
    more of us nor the investors- that you are sick and are
    going to leave Zdnet. If you must know how is it going to
    be tomorrow to do something today then you have
    problems, because I can tell you that nobody knows how
    tomorrow is going to be or if there is going to be a
    tomorrow at all. Just live today and if you like an Apple
    product, then buy it today, don't wait until tomorrow to do
    that, maybe tomorrow they are out of stock and you'll
    loose your only chance to get it. If you don't like any Apple
    product, then why bother at all? I can't tell you or to
    anybody that Apple is going be there in the future, or that
    their products are going to be a success because I don't
    know, If I, some day, buy an Apple product is because I
    like it or need it with or without Steve Jobs in the company,
    I'm buying a 'product', not a piece of a soul, person or call
    it an essence of his. The same for all the investors,
    stockholders or any interested in Apple's current success,
    because they have been successfull in some thing before,
    and MAYBE they will be successfull again with any thing as
    ANY other company could. The future doesn't exists yet,
    only the past.
    mag0mez
  • Who cut-out my first earlier quote?

    Just curious, did I use offensive language or something?
    dascha1
  • RE: Apple: Perception is Reality

    Apple really should step up and tell people something. But, as everyone knows, they think their audience is captive. Here's to one button for all the kingdom!
    khess
  • Wall Street is bunch of scared little babies

    Relying on the blogsphere for trading guidance is insane, especially when it is inaccurate!!!

    Jobs wasn???t present on a routine earnings call (which historically, he never attends). <b>NEVER.</b>

    REAL investors would know this simple little fact.
    Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
  • RE: Apple: Perception is Reality

    I just want to thank all the naysayers who
    pushed Apple down into the 140s in
    aftermarket so I could buy it cheap and make
    $18,000 in the last few days.

    I'll sell when it gets up to $190 or so and
    pray for more nasty rumors. I've been doing
    this with Apple for years. Bought at $9, sold
    at $22, bought at $12, sold at $50, bought at
    $36, sold at $95, bought at $50 etc., etc.

    So far this year sold at $195, bought at
    $116. Sold at $182, bought at $147.62 a
    couple of days ago. This is how you turn
    $16,000 into a whole bunch of money.

    So quit whining and understand that the
    analysts are going to whack Apple every so
    often and create great buying opportunities.

    Don't blow all your money on the ups and
    downs. Use half or so, in case you get an
    even better chance along the way.

    And don't forget to sell every time Apple's
    up 40 percent or so or is near a new product
    introduction or a quarterly report.

    The analysts will always find some reason to
    knock this company down. And since the
    company does go down, and people do sell,
    the analysts are right to say the stock is
    going to go down. Even though they're
    wrong about the company's prospects and
    achievements.
    roger that
  • Maybe he was hiding from the results...

    After all, this new Microsoft "World History" marketing campaign is going to crush Apple. I think he was afraid to face the music that the Mac is falling apart. My rep just sent me another commercial. This one has Jesse Owens winning the gold at the Olympics and holding up a Vista box on the winner's podium.
    Mike Cox
  • Apple = Steve Jobs?

    People who are concerned about Apple's succession plans have a good reason to be concerned. Apple went astray after Steve Jobs left, people without vision almost ran the company into the ground selling boring beige boxes, and if it had not been for the return of Steve Jobs, Apple would have joined DEC, Data General, XEROX, Commodore, and a host of others in the dustbin of computer history. Shareholders have reason to be worried, but I'm sure the board of directors has good ideas but are wise not to speak too soon. Secrets and Apple have always gone hand in hand, it's part of the Apple mystique. No other computer company knows design the way Apple does, and that is certainly a treasure we all want to keep leading the industry.
    cinemakinoeye
  • RE: Apple: Perception is Reality

    No advertising campaign, regardless of the amount of
    money spent, is going to equal, let alone reverse, the
    damage done to Vista by the most important side of this
    equation - the actual users who have had it up to here
    with their personal horror stories relating to Vista!

    I've meet so many people who, after installing Vista on
    previous equipment, to even larger numbers of people who
    have bought new Vista computers, only to give up in despair because of it's so many bugs.

    Microsoft has already, in the past, spent massive amounts
    on advertising campaign's for Vista, like the 500 million to
    one billion they spent on Vista's initial marketing
    campaign! It didn't do any good then, so why would you
    think that a campaign with less money is going to finally
    crush Apple?

    No campaign will erase the sting of all the woes that
    people have experienced using this piece of DRM crap, or
    negate the fact that some 90 % of all Window developers
    refuse to write software for Vista because they hate it so
    much!

    Rather than wasting good money on a bad OS like Vista,
    Microsoft would be wiser to spend it on dumping Vista and
    starting over from scratch!
    netzd
  • What Nonsense

    if Apple's CEO's health needs to be an open book does it
    need to be wide open? If shareholders need to know if
    there is cancer, do we also need to know other issues that
    may impact his performance? Do we need to know a full
    health history so that we can play armchair doctor and
    balance risks? Why stop there. Why not do a suite of tests
    for mental health. That may not be enough either, we may
    have to extend this to other employees. Can't know too
    much right?

    Have we gone to far? I don't know. Fortunately we have
    some guidance from Jason Perlow.
    Harry Bardal
  • Dear Steve,

    Please find enclosed some biotelemetry equipment we'd like you to wear at all times. The software it uses only works with Windows so we've included a Vista DVD for you to use with BootCamp. You probably think this is a gross invasion of privacy but please believe me when I tell you we're only doing this to safeguard the interests of our clients. The performance of your auto-immune system is of far greater interest than your company's performance.

    Gordon Gekko
    RocketEater