Some people are still in denial. They think that Steve Jobs retiring as Apple's CEO won't change Apple much. I beg to differ. I think it changes everything. Further, I think it changes far, far more than just Apple's role in the world.
First, while Apple's new CEO Tim Cook looks to be a fine choice, he's no Steve Jobs. No, I don't think the sky will fall on Apple now that Jobs is no longer CEO, but for almost 20 years now Apple has been Jobs' company. Ever since he came back from exile in NeXT, Jobs, and no one else, has led innovation at Apple.
You don't replace a Steve Jobs easily. Actually, you can't replace him at all. Love him or hate him, he's a genius and you can't just go out on the street and hire genius. So, in the short run, Apple will be fine. They'll still dominate smartphones and tablets. Two, three years down the road, it will be a different story.
As I said, though, Jobs moving out of the spotlight will affect far more than Apple. Here are my quick thoughts on what his departure will mean for the other technology players.
Android manufacturers and developers:
Break out the champagne, get the party started, sure the iPhone 5 is coming. Yes, the iPad 2 is still the tablet of choice. But, and this is a big but, Jobs will no longer be regularly appearing to say the magic words "One more thing" and have everyone with a credit card ordering a new iOS device
This is Android manufacturers and developers' big chance. Don't blow it. As my buddy David Gewirtz points out, there are a lot of reasons not to buy Android devices. Make him, and everyone else who might buy an Android smartphone or tablet, happy and fix these problems.
Michael Dell must be one happy CEO. Not only does HP give up on the PC market, but now Apple won't be quite as aggressive as it has been for the last few years. The PC market's margins are still as razor thin as ever, but it seems certain now that Dell will get a bigger share of the PC pie. Life is good.
Google bought Motorola Mobility for its patents, but now that Apple no longer has Jobs at the helm, I wonder if they'd be tempted to really add being a serious smartphone manufacturer to the company's ever increasing to-do list. I doubt it, but still, I wonder...
HP is looking even dumber than before. Bad enough that HP's CEO Leo Apotheker had already blundered by killing off its tablet business and announcing that HP was spinning off its PC business, but now HP has surrendered to Apple on PCs and tablets... just before Apple's general retired from the field of battle. I don't think Apotheker cares at all. He want to recreate his old company, SAP, or become a cut-rate version of IBM, but anyone who ever cared about HP's orphaned business lines should really be asking themselves what the heck is going on here.
You know what? IBM won't be effected one darn bit by Jobs' retirement. I mention Big Blue only because there was a time when they really were mortal enemies. How things change! Today, IBM has transformed itself into a services giant, much to HP's envy, and Apple owns the hearts and minds of the consumer market.
Too little, too late. Yes, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango looks promising; yes Windows 8 looks interesting too. So what? I can't find anyone, except the most die-hard Windows fanboys, who is interested in Windows phones. Windows tablets? They're still out there but they've never sold well.
As for the PC, I think it's very telling that XP has only now fell beneath the 50% market share mark. It's pretty darn clear to me that PCs are indeed becoming legacy devices. At the same time, it clear that people are buying Macs, iPhones, and iPads in greater quantities than ever. Windows-based hardware just isn't moving the way it used to be. I don't see Jobs leaving changing this trend.
I could be wrong about the details here. My crystal ball has had cracks in it before. The one thing I do know for certain, though, is that Jobs leaving the CEO office changes everything in technology, and not just what's been happening with Apple.
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