Haunted Empire, book review: Apple's post-Jobs prospects

Haunted Empire, book review: Apple's post-Jobs prospects

Summary: The death of a charismatic CEO leaves a big hole, and few holes are bigger than the one left in Apple by Steve Jobs. A new book from Yukari Kane examines the Jobs' legacy and the options for the company he co-founded.

Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs • By Yukari Iwatani Kane • HarperBusiness • ISBN: 9780062128256 • 384 pages • $27.99

The death of Steve Jobs has left a huge hole in Apple, and the question remains of how to fill it.

Yakari Iwatani Kane spent two years putting together Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, interviewing over 200 sources — an achievement, given that the Apple community is close-knit and journalists are not usually welcome. 

That exhaustive research shows right from the start in the detail about Jobs's final battle with pancreatic cancer, which I found touching and respectful.

Haunted Empire is an excellent read. Of course, Apple's story — its garage-based genesis under the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak), the NeXT interlude, Jobs's return to lead the company to unprecedented success — has always been engrossing. In her book, Kane describes how Apple, at the peak of its success, was swept off-course by Jobs's illness.

Kane writes well and, thankfully, is not judgemental — in marked contrast to many Apple fans.

I only met Jobs a couple of times at conferences, but I miss him — and not just because he was good for copy. He had personality in spades, including a sense of humour, and could command the attention of any room he was in effortlessly.

Much of the controversy around this book concerns a couple of areas: Jobs's famously prickly personality, and what Apple is going to do without him at the helm.

Jobs was certainly difficult — a fact that I witnessed in person, as did many others on a daily basis. But when you think about it — so what? Thanks to Jobs, Apple came to dominate the IT market in a way, and with a style, that no other company could match.

So what happens next? Kane's view is that Apple can no longer be the same company. She believes its best days are behind it and she comes up with some convincing-sounding arguments.

Jobs: irreplaceable?

Kane's main argument is a simple one: Steve Jobs was arguably the most charismatic leader the technology world has ever known, and Apple can't replace him.

If you lose a CEO like Steve Jobs, you have to do things differently, which Apple is doing — by replacing him with a team. New CEO Tim Cook has an impeccable track record overseeing the operational side of the company, while Jony Ive is the man behind the industrial design of the iPhone, iPad and iMac (and now the software experience too). Together, Cook and Ive should have what it takes to guide Apple successfully — after all, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer did the job for Microsoft.

Many disagree with Kane's analysis — including Tim Cook himself, who told news TV channel CNBC: "This nonsense belongs with some of the other books I've read about Apple. It fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company. Apple has over 85,000 employees that come to work each day to do their best work, to create the world's best products, to put their mark in the universe and leave it better than they found it. This has been the heart of Apple from day one and will remain at the heart for decades to come. I am very confident about our future."

People in the IT business are usually quite relaxed about adverse press comment. They get it all the time, and most think the best solution is to ignore it — if you talk about it, you draw attention to it and give journalists a reason to write more about it.

Whatever the reason behind Cook's comments, Apple remains one of the most successful businesses, finding the knack of making money almost indecently easy.

I would never have bet against Steve Jobs when he was alive, and I wouldn't be too quick to bet against his successors.

Topics: Apple, Reviews, After Hours


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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  • Jobs wasn't a good guy

    Steve Jobs was a very immoral person and does not even deserve a remembrance!

    quotes from print and FBI files:

    - Steve Jobs: "We are shameless about stealing" (So why do you patent stolen ideas like Rectangle, Side to unlock or Pinch to zoom, it is in a contradiction of the patents' meaning)

    - Steve Jobs FBI file: Lies, drugs and bomb threats.

    - Steve Jobs was a real blackmailer abusing market position

    - Steve Jobs' LSD habit, why he indulged in Marijuana, and his 1975 arrest
    Jiří Pavelec
    • Jobs = a very rotten and immoral person again

      “Well, you’re fired!” Jobs shouted, halting the young man in his tracks. Stepping out towards the young man, Jobs continued, “Go pack up all of your stuff and leave,” he said pointing towards the elevator."

      Jobs funny caught which he deserved, here:

      Jiří Pavelec
    • Totally out of context..

      THe actual quote - which was dishonestly misrepresented, by the way (so who's the immoral person here?) was "we are shameless about stealing good ideas, like any succesful company".
      Bill GAtes has also said similar things,, and by "stealing", really, he meant "incorporating".
      Any good idea that isn't nailed down , in the tech industry, is *always* "stolen" by the other companies.. Haven't you noticed how cellphones all look the same, how operating systems all look and feel the same, etc etc?
      As far as the rest.. yeah right.. like there's anybody that made it throuigh the 60s without indulging in those items ? Pretty self righteous attitude. Must be a tea partier ;-)
      Nick Ettema
      • so you admit Jobs (Apple) was shameless about stealing

        so you admit Jobs (Apple) was shameless about stealing, thank you for the confirmation :)
        Jiří Pavelec
    • I would love to see links to the above "quotes"

      I'm no fan of jobs but to have the above w/o links is - well garbage.
  • Is not judgemental, in marked contrast

    to many Apple fans.

    I quit reading at that point, since a phrase like that always means what you are talking about is highly judgemental, but in a way that you like
    • Good point but not true

      My point was that many of the Apple sites carry a lot of pro-Apple comment that does not pretend to be impartial. I am paid to be impartial if I can manage to be on Apple or anyone else.
      For that reason my house is full of PC, Apple and Linux stuff (all of which I paid for - apart from the stuff my wife bought me) to try to keep me in the neutral corner.
      Of course the point is that I use a PC every day for work and my Mac Pro is for my photography and my fun.
      I'm sorry I stopped you finishing the piece. Colin Barker
    • yes, Apple has a lot brainwashed fans according to study:

      yes, Apple has a lot brainwashed fans according to study:
      "Study: iPhone owners have ‘blind loyalty’ and will buy anything Apple makes"

      a normal company would not survive but for a company (Apple) with so huge brainwashed herd it is unfortunately possible
      Jiří Pavelec
      • Again, I would love to see some links

        and not something you pulled out of your rear-end, because it sure does stink.