Will a “Jobless” Apple Survive and Thrive in the Name of Innovation and Customer Reach?

21 Feb


Shortsighted corporate management and the failure to accurately forecast market demand for Apple products by successive CEOs in the 1990s, caused Apple to take a severe beating, not only in terms of revenue losses (around $1 billion in 1997), but also lose its reputation for technical innovation and brilliance, not to mention market share, to competitors such as IBM and Microsoft. This was the period between 1985 and 1997, when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had left the company after an unsuccessful power struggle with Apple’s board of directors and then-CEO John Sculley; the latter being hired by Apple at Jobs’ behest.Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, when the company acquired neXT and took over as CEO in 1997, reorganizing the company from the ground up and introducing the revolutionary iMac. Apple hasn’t looked back since…

Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple transformed from being an exclusive maker of desktop and portable computers, into the leader of the consumer electronics/personal entertainment market, introducing one innovative product after the other, the iPod, the iOS, the iPhone and recently, the iPad.

Jobs’ announcement in January this year, of going on an indefinite medical leave of absence, caused heavy jitters in the market (and Apple’s share value), sparking a huge debate as to the future of Apple minus Steve Jobs; invoking memories of the debacle last suffered when Jobs was out of the company. More so with the increasing completion from manufacturers such as Samsung on the one hand, and Google’s Android platform on the other.

However, the present-day situation differs vastly from that ‘period of exile’, in quiet a few aspects. First, Jobs continues to hold the reins as far as strategic direction and decision-making are concerned. Second, during the six-month period in 2009, when Jobs has announced a similar break for medical reasons, the company’s COO Tim Cook handled company operations admirably, delivering outstanding financial results for two successive quarters and overseeing the launch of upgraded iPhone software, among other things.

This time around, Cook is tasked with the same responsibilities and Steve Jobs seems to be very much involved, turning up at the unveiling of the iPad 2 in San Francisco, just a few days ago. Concerns over the lack of a transparent succession plan and a successor for Jobs, led a group of shareholders to table a proposal pertaining to the above. The board and a shareholder majority voted against this proposal in February 2011, pointing out that transparency would provide “unfair advantage” to competitors.

Another point in support of the fact that Apple will continue to thrive even in the absence of Steve Jobs, was driven home in a recent survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets and ChangeWave, where a whopping majority of 84% respondents said they’d continue to buy Apple products, even if Steve Jobs was not heading the company!

It’s a clear indicator of how Apple has garnered mindshare as well as market share and investors’ confidence, thanks to the genius and legacy of Steve Jobs.

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