Jobs to Apple's Board: 'That Day Has Come'
Aug 25, 2011 9:43 AM PT
An era came to an end Wednesday as Steve Jobs announced his resignation as CEO of Apple, handing Tim Cook the reins of the company Jobs created and transformed into a leader of the tech industry.
Jobs will remain on as chairman of Apple. In a brief letter of resignation, Jobs wrote that the day has come when he "could no longer meet my duties and expectations." The company did not comment beyond the letter, though the wording of Jobs' memo led some to believe his chronic health problems are again taking a toll. The former CEO has survived a rare form of pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant over the past decade, and the industry icon has been on medical leave since January.
During that time, Cook has run Apple's day-to-day operations.
While the news was met with sadness and nostalgia from industry insiders, praise for Jobs came piling in almost immediately, with words like "genius," "visionary" and "legend" being tossed around.
Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook lit up at the announcement, with most posts thanking Jobs for his vision and creativity in the tech field. Many placed him in rare company, saying he deserves to be named with the likes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford as one of the greatest industrialists of modern times.
Others reminisced about his path to success that now reads like a Hollywood screenplay. He created the first Apple computer with cofounder Steve Wozniak in the Jobs family garage in 1976, revolutionized the personal computer industry with the Macintosh, was fired from his own company and later returned to lead Apple literally to the top -- Apple achieved the highest market cap value of any publicly traded company in the world just weeks ago.
A few also wondered how many people learned of his resignation on a device that Jobs himself had invented or made popular.
Apple Sans Jobs?
Since much of Apple's success is due to Jobs' drive, willingness to take chances and fanatic devotion to creating innovative products, murmurs about his resignation in the past have frequently questioned whether or not the company can move forward without him at the helm.
"You can't overestimate or underestimate his contribution not only to Apple but to the industry at large. He made everybody more competitive," Laura DiDio, principal analyst at ITIC, told MacNewsWorld.
Jobs' resignation comes at what is arguably his company's most successful period to date. Its stock recently hit an all-time high, it's far and away the king of the tablet market, and it's a forerunner in the handset industry despite entering the market relatively recently. With so much momentum, it's difficult to imagine the company falling apart due to a leadership transition.
"They're going to lose an incredible visionary, but the machine is in place and the momentum is certainly chugging along," Kevin Dede, analyst and managing director at Brigantine Advisors, told MacNewsWorld.
Part of Jobs' success as a technology leader lies in being unafraid to take chances while putting together an ecosystem of streamlined products and platforms -- the result being a solid foundation and user base that can outlast one visionary.
"He's going to be missed, no doubt about it, but Apple is not only going to continue to survive, but they're going to continue to thrive. They have too much momentum -- he's leaving the company in a very good state. Nobody is even coming close from a competitive standpoint," said DiDio.
The word "ecosystem" is used constantly to describe Apple, an advantage it has over competitors struggling to compete in just one space. HP, for instance, recently announced it would discontinue its webOS phone and tablet products. Its TouchPad tablet received relatively positive reviews when it debuted about two months ago, but it simply wasn't the iPad, it didn't sell well, and HP pulled the plug on it just weeks later.
Strategic marketing and sleek, user-friendly designs have captured the attention of a loyal, devoted and booming user base, and as Apple adds apps and components, it becomes more difficult for those users to straddle multiple platforms -- a webOS tablet, a Mac computer and an Android phone, for instance.
"People want the iPad, they want the Mac, they want the iPod and they want iTunes. It's a whole infrastructure," said DiDio.
Those products, Jobs or not, will continue to grow as Apple does.
"The proof is in the pudding. Look across the number of product refreshes and innovative designs, across the full breadth of products. You have all the design teams behind all those verticals; that momentum is running and it really speaks to the halo that exists around these different products that is so attractive," said Dede.
In recent years, Jobs has taken several leaves of absence for health-related reasons, and Apple has presumably had time to prepare for succession. Although Tim Cook has often been regarded as Jobs' presumed successor given his oversight of the company's day-to-day operations in Jobs' absence, the company's board has always said as little as possible about the condition of Jobs and what its official succession plans were.
"Apple is in far better shape than most of their peers envision, and they're not going to name anyone who isn't capable as CEO. They've had the plan in place for a while, and now it's just executing on it," said DiDio.
Cook has big shoes to fill, but he's been following them around for a while. Following the devastating earthquake in Japan, which left many worldwide industrialists scrambling to find suppliers and manufacturers to stay on top of quota, Cook took charge and left Apple almost entirely intact on the production end.
"Tim Cook is an incredibly capable individual. In Japan he had to find alternate sources for 100 different components, and Apple was able to continue aside from a small hiccup and totally recover," said Brigantine's Dede.
The biggest challenge for the company will be long-term, proving it can continue to force competition into innovative and unprecedented areas.
"Apple needs to show that even without Steve Jobs it can continue to create visionary products, and I think it's possible they can have a new leader who will champion those visions," Hendi Susanto, analyst at Gabelli, told MacNewsWorld.
Jobs has already set the wheels in motion for some new innovations -- it's now up to Cook to execute.
"If you look at Apple products, there are still expectations as to what can be done, such as with Apple TV, and what they can do with their cash, and the 4G LTE technology and iCloud technology. Those can be fantastic products" said Susanto.
"Sure, Android is winning in the mobile phone space now, but it won't have an iCloud. That technology is unbelievable. It's a really impressive ecosystem," said Dede.
Jobs will presumably continue to play a role in the adoption of that technology for as long as he can, but there's still a certain sense that an age has ended as he departs from his traditional throne.
"Everybody's reign at the top comes to an end sometime. There is no such thing as the irreplaceable or indispensable, but certainly Jobs came the closest to it. He is the Walt Disney of high-tech, with the creativity he brought. He built products that everybody loved. It's very, very nostalgic to see this rite of passage even though you knew it was bound to happen," said DiDio.