When Apple lost Steve Jobs, it did not lose its culture. It lost its soul. Apple as we know, love, and revile it was Steve Jobs, and the key to Apple’s future is resolving a disconnect between its past and present created by the void he left. Jobs was not a good manager. He screamed and swore at his employees until they delivered minor miracles. But as noted, he had vision. His brilliance, originality, even his technological savvy, are open to debate, but the direction of Apple’s product portfolio in the last two years clearly reflects his absence.
And what has Jobs’ absence meant for the company’s products?
The new offerings have lacked the trendsetting impact Jobs’ obsessed over, as well as the ethereality of something “insanely great.” The newest iPad is wonderful but derivative. Early customers experienced annoying power management issues, unable to operate at full tilt without battery drainage, even plugged into a power socket. A device that runs out of power plugged into the wall? Steve Jobs would have been inconsolably livid. The MacBook Pro with Retina Display is also a great product. It actually does set a new standard for top-end notebook computing. But integrating what is essentially an iPad screen into a super-thin, wicked-fast midsize laptop is hardly revolutionary. Anyone could have thought of it, which is a problem.
One problem…as we know from Bloomberg Businessweek, these were all Steve’s products.
Much about the company’s direction and even its products still reflects Jobs’s decisions and design preferences—the iPhone 5 was the last model to receive detailed input from Jobs, say two people familiar with its development. The company has yet to release any product Jobs didn’t personally bless. But Cook has executed Jobs’s plan even better than expected.