Steve Jobs Won’t Be Playing Bridge Anytime Soon, Maybe
Today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced he would be taking a medical leave of absence from the company. As with his 2009 leave of absence, Jobs has appointed Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook to take on the day to day operations of the Cupertino, CA industry giant.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to add his voice to the list of speculators and commenters who have reacted to the announcement of Jobs’ third medical leave of absence, Slate.com’s Farhad Manjoo claims Jobs isn‘t coming back.
Manjoo claims that by revolutionizing the world of computing Jobs has accomplished everything he set out to do upon his return to Apple in 1997. This conclusion leaves Manjoo with the obvious question of “What more is there left for Jobs to do?”
Of course, Manjoo admits this his entire argument is based upon “educated speculation” after “watching the company for years,” because he doesn’t “have any inside information” on the matter.
Call me old-fashioned, but adding “educated” before the word speculation doesn’t change the fact that Manjoo is literally just guessing Jobs may not return without any possible fact other than his own geekiness to back it up.
If having followed the company for years is all that is required of making claims about the future of Apple then get ready for a barrage of Apple polishers in multi-colored t-shirts who try to push Apple Care, .Mac MobileMe, and iWork on you at your local Apple store to flood the television airwaves any second now.
As one of those former retail drones in a brightly colored t-shirt allow me to “educatedly speculate” on why unless Jobs is gravely ill, Manjoo is most likely incorrect in his assertion.
As every outlet from the Washington Post to TechCrunch, to The Republic have pointed out, Steve Jobs is no ordinary CEO. In fact, aside from Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, and Richard Branson, Jobs maybe one of the only heads of a company that has come to be so closely identified with his brand and its image:
During his absence, Apple struggled to compete and lacked a clear sense of identity. Since his return, the company has become one of corporate America‘s greatest comeback stories.
“Steve Jobs, on the other hand, is his own brand. He’s almost as big a brand as Apple.”
“Apple needs Jobs — until they can prove otherwise.”
Also, as Manjoo himself points out, Jobs has an “obsession with the smallest details of every big Apple launch.” Manjoo further states that unlike his peers in the tech industry, “Jobs appoints himself the chief product manager of all major releases.”
So if Jobs is “just as much of a perfectionist as you‘d imagine” who “meets weekly with engineers and designers, and he “lets loose a storm of criticism every week” and refuses to “release anything until he‘s sure the company has gotten it just right,” he is very much aware both of his role at Apple and (possibly even more importantly) the world’s perception of the importance of his role at the world’s most valuable tech company.
Whether Jobs is truly “the glue that holds the entire operation together,” as TechCrunch asks, or not, he knows that for much of the world that is exactly who and what he is at Apple. Therefore, given his obsessive nature and his knowledge of the public’s perception of his place at Apple it’s pretty safe to assume that Jobs would not leave until he could clearly identify his successor, and possibly even his successor’s successor.
Think about it, Jobs is a controlling hands-on CEO who has turned his own obsessions into one of the world’s most powerful and revered brands. Add to that the doubtless fact he knows the public thinks of him as the savior of a company that 13-years-ago Michael Dell famously said he’d “shut down and give the money back to the shareholders.” A company that under his leadership, is now worth more than Dell and Microsoft combined.
It only stands to reason that Jobs would want to know that his company is in good hands for the foreseeable future. Therefore, unless he can be secure in the fact that he has a successor (or line of successors) in mind who will follow through with his vision and standards for Apple, it seems highly unlikely that barring a severe medical condition Jobs would leave Apple now.
Also, unlike Bill Gates, who co-chairs the world‘s largest private foundation, Jobs doesn’t have seem to have anything else lined up to keep him occupied if he truly was leaving Apple because he can. On another note, though Jobs may have his critics, his image is hardly in need of the kind of rehabilitation as Gates‘ when he finally stepped down as the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft in 2000.