Shrinking Steve Jobs Back to Human Scale

Unbeknownst to me (I had to be told), {complink 379|Apple Inc.} has enjoyed an incredible rise on Wall Street, briefly reaching a valuation of $600 billion and a stock price above $600. A lot of factors contributed to this phenomenon, foremost among which is consumer passion for Apple's line of iProducts.

However, since Apple cracked the $600 billion barrier in early April, the numbers have slipped. As I write, Apple is worth a still rather awesome $544 billion. Stock is selling around $582. Time to panic? Hardly. Wise analysts are treating those spectacular April Fool's numbers as a sort of bubble; a market-wide infatuation once described by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan as “irrational exuberance.” Indeed, even at $570 a share, Apple stock might be — in a rational market — overvalued. It could also be undervalued depending upon whom you ask.

My view is that all the exuberance and overvaluation attached to Apple cannot be fully explained without adding in the Steve Jobs Factor. Remember that when Jobs died last October, he was uplifted — by almost universal acclamation — into a sort of secular saint. Even members of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, who reflexively revile the corporate chiefs of multinational companies, paused at their keyboards to render Jobs his moment of silence. He had, after all, bestowed upon them their laptop Macs, their smartphones, and their own personal music plugged directly into their brains.

For a while, the only person I knew who expressed any skepticism about the divinity of Steve Jobs was me. Listening to the barrage of schmaltzy eulogies on both Fox News and MSNBC (usually mortal enemies), I wondered: But isn't this the same Steve Jobs who refused to manufacture his American-invented products in America, but instead outsourced his Macs and iPads to sweatshops in Shenzhen, where workers get pennies per hour, work 12- to 16-hour shifts, and disappear, shattered and disillusioned, at age 24?

I also asked, hey, isn't this the Steve Jobs who, after finagling the cheapest labor costs in consumer electronics, charged the highest mark-up in consumer electronics? If Jobs is a saint, I asked rhetorically, who canonized him? The Almighty Dollar?

Of course, nobody listens to me. But lately, some misgivings about the mythology of Steve Jobs have popped up elsewhere. Gradually but inexorably, the creator of Apple is shrinking back to human scale. His stock will surely follow.

Let's remember that, notwithstanding the beautiful, user-friendly products, Jobs's charisma — his media-friendly personal style — was a big “secret” to Apple's success. Now that his Teflon surface has been buried with him, more commentators will feel free to note Apple's record, under Jobs, of anti-unionism, its outsourcing, its hostility to the open-source community. They'll also rediscover Jobs's domineering workstyle, his dearth of compassion, his aloofness, even from his own family, and the egomania that once resulted in the near-collapse of the Apple empire.

By all means, fellow analysts, seek out and dissect the many factors that contribute both to Apple's brilliant spring and subsequent slippage — whenever this becomes more obvious. But do not neglect, in your computations, a cautionary algorithm that has preceded the decline of virtually every empire in history: The King is dead.

15 comments on “Shrinking Steve Jobs Back to Human Scale

    May 4, 2012

    It is always healthy to hear opposing views and yours is certainly in a different vein from the many postings since the demise of Jobs.  That said it is absolutely phenomenal what Apple (notice I never said Jobs) has achieved in terms of company growth and value.  I do agree however that is must be nigh on impossible to maintain.

  2. Jay_Bond
    May 4, 2012

    This is an excellent article, and I'm glad to see there is somebody else out there who is thinking like I do. Not to be critical of somebody who has passed and can't defend himself, but there were many things Job's did that were overlooked because of the mighty dollar and the worlds love of anything with a little apple as it's logo. I feel that in the future, there will be more people speaking out about Apple and how they became so powerful, sometimes at the expense of American workers.

  3. Ariella
    May 4, 2012

    @David I agree with you about the deification of a person with many failings that we saw happen with Steve Jobs. No one is all good, of course, no matter how much success he may have achieved or how much charisma he exudes.

  4. prabhakar_deosthali
    May 5, 2012

    Now that Steve Jobs is no more with us , we should be concentrating more on his legacy, i.e. Apple.

    We should also remember that  Apple did survive those years (1986-1996) when Steve was not part of Apple.

    The stock value of Apple remaining at a high even after Steve's exit from this world is an indicator that the people now have the faith in the company “APPLE”  to continue to deliver innovative and premium products in the consumer electronics space.


    In the minds of millions of  people , Steve will still remain as an icon and his death at the time when Apple has been on the top of the world will make sure that he will also remain at that height where humans are treated like gods, no matter what happens to Apple in the future.



  5. _hm
    May 5, 2012

    @David: Are you a secular saint? Have not you any time took opportunity to get lower price product / service from China/India or elsewhere? If you do not prevaricate, do you have rigth to doubt achievements of Setve? To me this looks like oppotunist writing.


  6. ITempire
    May 5, 2012

    @ Prabharkar

    Though I am not a big fan of Steve Jobs but cant just undermine the inventions and success times of Apple that Jobs has under his title. Jobs didnt get the fame he deserved in his lifetime and like most people, got recognition after his death when critics and fans realized how big the loss was. 

    However, I am also an endorser to the criticism mentioned by David in his blog and am of the view too that Apple should do good without Jobs too. It isnt a one man organization; rather it is a corporate giant whose roots are sown into multiple nations. With new CEO's impressive start, the stakes are high on Apple.

  7. Daniel
    May 8, 2012

    Prabhakar, Apple products are world famous and using across the universe. But how many people know who is Steve Job. I don't think more than half of the Apple users may know about Job. That's true with Microsoft, Intel, Sun, Oracle, Toyota etc. Many people are using the technology and products across the world, but those who are putting the real efforts are still behind the curtain.

  8. Daniel
    May 8, 2012

    -hm, am not a fan of Apple products (Iphone, Ipad etc). For me quality technological products with a reasonable price tag are important rather than brand value. I mean which can justify the price tag with technology. When I plan for a tab, I have the option for IPad 2 or Samsung/Playboy etc. I done a market study and found that Samsung have similar features with an affordable price tag and I opt for it.

  9. _hm
    May 9, 2012

    @Jacob: I too have not purchased any Apple product as yet. But I always admire their design and give full respect to them. Also it is not only Apple who asks for premium. Almost in all product categories, there are premium products and they have their own customer base. But I will always adore Apple for their ingenuity.

  10. Daniel
    May 10, 2012

    _hm, yes we can say they are the trend setters/maker. They are the first one who introduced the Smartphones and tablets. Eventhough, thereafter many companies introduced many competitive products, nothing got clicked or superior to Apple products.

  11. Anand
    May 11, 2012

    It isnt a one man organization; rather it is a corporate giant whose roots are sown into multiple nations.

    @Waqas, although I agree with you that it isnt a one man organization but I believe CEO of the comapny can easily change the fortunes of the company. For example look the CEO of Nokia, his decision to go with MS has done more bad to the Nokia than good. He even claims that consumers aren't bothered about operating systems but the reality is OS and apps available on that OS is the first preference for users.

  12. Adeniji Kayode
    May 11, 2012

    Well, that has always been the issue in every production-many do the job but few get the credit.It is left to the boss or the the leader to share the glory among people working with him.

    aAnd like you rightly said a lot of people do not know steve jobs but many did after his death and was not hard for them to feel the loss because APPLE products are already in their hands or around them.

    The thing is somebody must lead, somebody must follow.

  13. ITempire
    May 11, 2012

    @ anandvy

      his decision to go with MS has done more bad to the Nokia than good .”

    The way Nokia was performing before MS came in, it wasnt bright at that time even. Although right now Nokia hasnt sparked back with MS but still, hopes are high in the market considering the familiarity users of smartphones have with Windows OS in desktop times and they can accept Windows OS with Nokia phone which itself has ruled for decade atleast. And you cant blame only the CEO of Nokia for the decision; there are many people who decide the fortunes of a company. CEO stands on the vote of directors and its the directors that take such a big decision.

  14. SunitaT
    May 13, 2012

    Gradually but inexorably, the creator of Apple is shrinking back to human scale.

    @David, I agree with your opinion. Steve got the attention of the World, I wish we had given the same attention to  Dennis Ritchie whose contribution to the world is much much greater than iPhones and iPad.

  15. SunitaT
    May 13, 2012

    The stock value of Apple remaining at a high even after Steve's exit from this world is an indicator that the people now have the faith in the company “APPLE” 

    @Prabhakar, I think we need to wait for couple of more quarterly results before we can say people have full faith in the new CEO because Apple is still making profits on its old products i.e iPAD and lets not forget that iPAD3 disappointed many analysists. Moreover Samsung is slowly but steadily increasing its tablet marketshare.

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