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Is Apple Second Rate Without Jobs’s Star Power?

As I was reading comments from {complink 379|Apple Inc.} CEO Tim Cook about the new iPhone 5 — “thinnest, lightest, fastest” — I couldn't help but think of Frances Gumm, Archie Leach, and Marion Morrison.

A question crept into my consciousness. If the founder of Apple had been named Tim Cook rather than Steve Jobs, would the whole outfit have amounted to a hill of beans? Color me dubious.

I mean, picture, if you can, someone called Frances Gumm singing “Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Oz , or mooning yearningly into James Mason's eyes in A Star Is Born . Can't do it, can you? No spark, no thrill. But if the girl doing that singing and mooning is Judy Garland, well… chills up and down your spine!

And if director Henry Hathaway had picked someone named Marion Morrison to play Rooster Cogburn in True Grit , what then? Very likely, everybody coming out of the theater would be asking one another, “who was the huge, manly woman in the eye patch?” But change Marion's name to John Wayne — which Morrison did long before True Grit — and there is no gender confusion. And several generations of insecure American men have a role model they can't let go of.

And Archie Leach? Wisely, he became Cary Grant. Likewise, when you think about the superstar among all the stars, past and present, of consumer electronics, the first name that comes to everyone's mind is the same: Steve Jobs — a moniker to reckon with. Tim Cook? Not so much.

So, I've got to ask? Can a super company founded by a superstar continue to be faster than a locomotive, leaping tall buildings with a single bound? Or is it destined now, inevitably, to shrink bit by bit 'til it's just Clark Kent with nothing under his suit but underwear?

If you think I'm suggesting that Tim Cook adopt a more impressive nom de guerre , you're right. Perhaps a name vaguely European and autocratic like Augustus DeHuister, or scholarly like Garrett Huxley, or something just more manly, Anglo-Saxon, and suggestively futuristic. Say, for instance, “Flash Gordon.”

Just think of the typical post-Tim Cook press release: “Wearing a pair of form-fitting jet-propelled, silver-titanium boots that he touted as 'the next big thing in personal mobility,' ” Apple CEO Flash Gordon literally flew into a press conference today in Hollywood, announcing his arrival two minutes in advance — directly into the minds of the collected media — through Apple's new 3-D HD Nano-tech brain-implanted iPhone X-27.

“Greetings, earthlings, and pardon my biodegradable jet exhaust,” said Gordon to a cheering throng of rapturous reporters…

OK, there's a serious point here. Companies with powerful and charismatic leaders — whose personal style is unique and impossible to replicate — leave behind, when they leave, a dilemma of identity and continuity for their companies. Although a company like {complink 2376|Hewlett-Packard Co.} today continues to make stuff, sell stuff, employ people, and trade shares on the New York Stock Exchange, today's version of HP is a stumblebum mockery of the widely admired, employee-friendly, and iconic organization that grew up under Bill Hewlett and David Packard.

Likewise, Japan's {complink 5114|Sony Corp.}, which became a household name under the guidance of a charming, self-promoter, benevolent tyrant and shameless peacock named Akio Morita, has faded steadily from prominence since Morita's demise in 1999.

Indeed, you could make a successful parlor game of listing companies that shriveled and dithered after their version of Don Corleone retired or died, leaving a void that required a comparably overwhelming personality. There just ain't that many Al Pacinos out there.

Even Apple, when the already legendary Steve Jobs hit the streets in 1985 — returning as his old company's savior a decade later — provided a classic example of a star-crossed startup whose superstar walked off with all the stardust. We know that, despite the stock sell-off that followed Steve Jobs's death, Apple will probably thrive for years on the offspring products spawned from the Jobs regime, like the iPad mini (which looks eerily similar to Amazon's Kindle).

But, last question: Can Apple, under the conventional leadership of a bland-sounding, charisma-challenged, apparently nice guy named Tim, reverse its current stasis and launch a second renaissance as the company every other company wishes it were?

Think of it this way: In a screen-test contest between Frances Gumm and Judy Garland, which starlet would you bet on?

40 comments on “Is Apple Second Rate Without Jobs’s Star Power?

  1. _hm
    December 19, 2012

    Apple needs innovative product like much awaited Apple TV. They should also look into Automobile electronics and how they can help there.

     

  2. SP
    December 19, 2012

    Defintely Steve Jobs had a charismatic power. No one can deny that. Apple products are known to be Stylish an dtrendy. Anyone who is design, media or showbiz related business goes for Apple products. As long as APple maintains that style quotient in their product they will keep going.

  3. ahdand
    December 20, 2012

    Well I cant say No or Yes to this since I feel they have the resources and capability to continue but their current stratergies does not seem that promising.

  4. FLYINGSCOT
    December 20, 2012

    One hopes that Apple will continue to do amazing things.  However even Superman must run into Kryptonite eventually and how much product hype can the world really stomach.  On cold analysis I do not believe their products are that much better than anyone else's but their street cred is hard to deny.  It's the marketing guys at Apple that should be applauded.

  5. kilamna
    December 20, 2012

    Works pretty much right out of the box. Over heats quite often. The Genius's are getting cranky. Applecare will be required or you wont even know how to 'reboot'. You will have three 'color' choices: white black and all sorts of cases. The radio might work only if you put your hand 'just so' on the door frame. Can talk with your phone, TV, Mac, and soon the refrigerator. Apple should, seriously, consider buying an appliance brand. 

  6. SP
    December 20, 2012

    Wow can you really talk to refrigerator and give directions. It will be great for busy people. Like we can just ask it to auto clean, give warnings if some stuff is lying inside for more than 4 days 🙂

  7. t.alex
    December 20, 2012

    Steve Jobs definitely did an amazing job in pushing the teams at Apple to realize his vision. I read some of the reveal on work the work environment at Apple. If something was 'for Steve', it was done amazingly fast. I wonder if the current executive team can achieve the same thing. What's more, Apple workplace stress the importance of secrecy. Things are decided top-down, and so employees seem not motivated enough do bring about big things.

  8. Anna Young
    December 23, 2012

    “So, I've got to ask? Can a super company founded by a superstar continue to be faster than a locomotive, leaping tall buildings with a single bound? Or is it destined now, inevitably, to shrink bit by bit 'til it's just Clark Kent with nothing under his suit but underwear?”

    Good analogy. I believe nothing is certain in life. With or without Jobs there is no assurance Apple would continue at the level it has been operating even if Steve were to be at the helm. Technology industry's pace of change keeps accelerating. I believe Apple will continue to thrive maybe not at the rate it did under Steve Jobs.

  9. Anna Young
    December 23, 2012

    “I wonder if the current executive team can achieve the same thing”

    I believe they can achieve something closer to it. Undoubtedly Jobs brought charisma, courage to be ruthless to Apple. He did what many in the industry will shy away from. However, let's not forget that without a strong team of management, it would have been practically impossible for late Jobs attributed achievements. For example without the vital role of Apple's head of industrial design, who brought simplicity, functionality and elegance over engineering, Apple would not have been Apple. Yes agreed, Tim cook, hasn't the qualities we saw in late Steve Jobs, however, he has the ability to improve supply chain. All of these combined brought success to the company.

  10. Anna Young
    December 23, 2012

     _hm, I agree, Apple need to diversify. But to automobile electronics? Why would you suggest automobile?

  11. Anna Young
    December 23, 2012

     @Nimantha.d, I don't think is a matter of “yes or no” All good runs come to an end. Could this simply be the case for Apple? I wonder!

  12. Ashu001
    December 24, 2012

    Guys,

    Tim Cook is a Bean Counter;He is precisely what Apple needs today.

    He presents a simpler,more humbler side to Apple[Note his apology recently].

    As a Company grows in Size and become a Corporate Giant[Which is what Apple is today];it can't adopt the same strategies which made it so Big in the first place[Look at Google or pick any case from the Book-Innovator's Dilemna].

    You have to change.

    And Tim cook is best placed to take them forward.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  13. Ashu001
    December 24, 2012

    Anna,

    Automobile Industry is not a bad sector for Apple to diversify into but I fear that (atleast in the West);its a dying industry today.

    How about Medical Electronics?

    Now that is an industry which looks set to do very,very well going ahead[As populations age;their medical needs go up dramatically].

    What do you think?

     

  14. Ashu001
    December 24, 2012

    Anna,

    Could'nt agree more!!!

    Tim Cook is exactly the right man(in the right place) and with the right amount of Internal Support to take Apple forwards here.

     

  15. Ashu001
    December 24, 2012

    Azmat,

    Sorry.

    It won't work for me.

    I need a Car to have fun;not be super-programmed like an Apple machine…

     

  16. Ashu001
    December 24, 2012

    Alex,

    Need not be the case all the time!

    Very often,the Smartest ideas come in an organization from people fiddling around(Bottom Up approach).

    I am not very familiar with the inner workings of Apple's work culture today(under Cook);but from whatever little I have read;he seems very clear on fostering a culture of openness at the Organization today.

    If that's true(and I Know that's a BIG IF);your rationale need not hold true all the time.

     

  17. Anna Young
    December 24, 2012

    I think Medical electronics sounds good. However, it would be great if Apple comes up with new innovations in e.g. own manufactured Television Screen etc .

  18. Anna Young
    December 24, 2012

    Hi Ashish, exactly my thoughts. I think so too.

  19. Ashu001
    December 25, 2012

    Anna,

    I disagree.

    The reason is Margins.

    Have you seen how pathetically low the Profit Margins on Consumer Electronics products are today???

    Its not a sector worth entering in because of tremendous over-capacity thanks to the Chinese.

     

  20. t.alex
    December 25, 2012

    tech4people, 

    yes let's hope Apple to be more open in the future 🙂 Nowadays, its secrecy does not bring about thrills anymore. There is the latest rumour about the next iPad release in March next year but not many are execited about it.

     

  21. Ashu001
    December 27, 2012

    Alex,

    Yes.That is very true!

    I could'nt agree more regarding this issue.

    Apple has to become more and more like Walmart/P&G ,etc today.

    They deliver Good Quality products at reasonable prices.After all,there is not much that makes them different from their chief competitors today. The “Wow” factor[The Innovation Premium] has come down significantly in all their products.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  22. itguyphil
    December 27, 2012

    I don't think (from what I've heard) employees fear being in an elevator with Tim Cook. So there will definitely be a different environment at Apple. How that will fare is to be determined over the next few quarters.

  23. hash.era
    December 30, 2012

    I dont think so. Are you reffering this way because Apple 5 hasn't been a hit as it promised to be or compared to their products ? I think if that is the case I feel its too early to come into such a conclusion. Jobbs only had the ideas in mind and instructed but the developers and the architects are the ones who made those thoughts into reality and developed the products.

  24. _hm
    December 30, 2012

    @tech4people:

    Yes, Medical electronics is very interestingfield. But it is specilized field with lots of agency approval and high risk of getting legal claims.

    Involvement of Apple in auto industry can revive it and it has lots scope for innovation. 

  25. itguyphil
    December 31, 2012

    I think the 5 wasn't as big a hit because it did not change much from the 4S. People view it as essentially a new phone with a bigger screen. That's not much.

  26. ahdand
    January 26, 2013

    I think its  YES right now since Apple are kind of struggling for innovation here. I saw Samsung has developed Note 2 with a feature of Face Recorgnition which shows the capability of them. If Jobs was alive he would have got that into Apple 1st dont you think so ?

  27. Anna Young
    January 27, 2013

    I think Apple's inability to innovate after Steve Jobs' death has very little bearing on its current position in the market. I agree Jobs charisma, style, drive and innovative mind transformed Apple. What is certain is the late Steve Jobs star power cannot continue to sustain the organisation forever.

  28. bolaji ojo
    January 27, 2013

    Steve Jobs reportedly left a bunch of products that should come out after his death. Not one market-leading product has been released by Apple since then, which makes me wonder how true it is that the company's product pipeline is “chock full” as many have said. In any case, I believe Apple may still surprise with another great product but the days of it stomping all over the market are over.

  29. Anna Young
    January 28, 2013

    It makes me wonder too (curious to know what might have become of these stock piles? :)). Yes I agree Apple may yet surprise with another great device! But not without fierce competition from Samsung. I read somewhere last week that Apple is working on a lower cost iPhones launching later this year. I think Apple is responding to Samsung's ability to deliver to both low end users and high end users in smartphones market. Apple has the capability to deliver. I'm keen to see them release the lower version of iPhones though.

  30. hash.era
    January 30, 2013

    Exactly Charles. The cost too was high just for a minor change in a phone model plus the hype it did create before launching was another factor which made its downfall.

  31. Ashu001
    January 30, 2013

    hm,

    Don't worry about Apple-They have the cash on their Balance Sheet(and already have the World's best lawyers on their roster)!!!

    I think Apple has more Future Scope in Medical Industry than in Auto sector(particularly given the increasing number of Ageing Citizens all across the Developed world today)..

     

  32. Ashu001
    January 30, 2013

    Anna,

    Its true that Steve Jobs charisma will be unable to sustain itself on Apple today but still one expects Apple to do a lot more in terms of innovative capability.

    I guess that's why the Stock has crashed over 30percent since September right?

  33. itguyphil
    January 30, 2013

    I think Jobs' involvement was all the hype that was necessary. There was an understood greatness quality and faith in Steve. Now, with the current regime, I think that edge might be fading.

  34. Anna Young
    January 31, 2013

    Apple as you're aware is losing ground to Samsung and other Asian smartphone rivals. Lots factors contributed to the stock crashing. Apple realised they are unable to contend with rivals, due to weaker demand for its devices; the company had to cut scale back on parts and components orders to balance inventory (according to reports). What is expected now is for Apple to strategize and innovate. If Samsung have been able to roll out multiple devices in a year, why couldn't Apple?

  35. Ashu001
    January 31, 2013

    Anna,

    That's right.

    But for that you need,Apple to step off their “High and Mighty” Pedestal and accept they got beaten at the Innovation Game by Samsung.

    Only then will they be able to Innovate.

    Don't see that Happening yet!

    Will wait and watch the action here.

  36. Ashu001
    January 31, 2013

    Charle,

    I agree entirely!!! Could'nt agree more!

    The Hype around Apple is gone for Good!!!

     

  37. itguyphil
    January 31, 2013

    I wouldn't bury the hatchet just yet. Give them a chance to revive their mojo. But as it looks now, there are some major concerns for them.

  38. Clairvoyant
    January 31, 2013

    I agree. I think Apple should be able to continue Job's legacy. I think we have yet to see some great products from Apple.

  39. itguyphil
    January 31, 2013

    Easier said than done. But I think they have the brains to do it. They just have to re-engage in the fear-for-my-job mindset that made Apple a juggernaut for so many years under Jobs.

  40. ahdand
    February 11, 2013

    Anna that is interesting indeed. Anyway lowering the cost means do they lower the features too ? I hope not

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