Apple After Steve Jobs

Almost two years have passed since the sad death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. At the time of his death, there was much debate on how Apple would move forward, whether they would lose their way or be able to continue pushing boundaries and creating their own areas in the industry. In this opinion piece, I’ll be looking at what Steve Jobs meant for Apple as well as how Apple have coped after losing their mentor and figurehead. Read on for more.

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Steve Jobs and Apple

The impact that Steve Jobs had on Apple (and the world) was huge. On the surface as co-founder of the company, he was directly responsible for devices that millions of us use each and every day. If you’re reading iPad.AppStorm on an iPad right now then Jobs’ impact on your life is easy to see. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Steve Jobs, this site wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this article on a MacBook Pro. Such is the influence that Jobs and his company had and have on the world we live in.

When Steve returned to Apple in 1996/1997, he was tasked with returning the company to profitability and saving it from its impending bankruptcy. He did this primarily through innovation as well as the termination of a number of unfeasible (in his eyes) projects such as the Apple Newton, an early PDA. Innovation and Jobs seemed to walk hand in hand at Apple. In 1998, for example, just two years after Steve returned to the company, Apple launched the hugely successful iMac, a product line which survives to this day.

After saving Apple from Bankruptcy, Jobs’ innovation brought us the iMac.

After saving Apple from Bankruptcy, Jobs’ innovation brought us the iMac.

The new millennium brought the iPod — this changed the way we listened to music in the same way cassettes did with vinyl and, shortly afterwards, CDs did with cassettes. Alongside hardware, Apple under Jobs also brought us iTunes which really revolutionised the way we store our music as well as, from version 4 onwards, how we actually purchased it as well.

The key aim for Apple under Jobs was not following trends, but setting them. The iPhone’s release in 2007 really set a precedent for what smartphones were to become. To this day, most smartphones released by other manufacturers follow some of the principles set down by the iPhone’s design and functionality. The iPad — to which this site is dedicated — stood, at launch, more or less alone as a easy-to-use consumer tablet and was a product of Job’s impact on Apple and his constant desire to innovate.

Apple after Jobs

So, to address the topic of this article more thoroughly: how has Apple performed following the departure of Steve Jobs? From a financial perspective there is only one true answer — very well. In the months following Jobs’ death, the share price of Apple rose and rose to the point where Apple stood as the most valuable company on the planet. Admittedly, that high share price has since slipped away to return to a level that sits slightly above the level it was at before Jobs died. Despite this, the impressive performance from Steve’s death up to October 2012 should serve as proof in itself that Apple without Jobs is still a formidable company.

What about in terms of innovation, which was so central to the company under Jobs? Well, on the hardware front we’ve had the iPad with Retina display, the iPad mini, a new line of MacBook Pros with Retina display and a new Mac Pro. You may think that some of the above don’t count as innovation but merely continue the line that Steve Jobs had begun to draw, but I’d disagree. The iPad mini is a clear example of taking a Jobs product and tweaking it for the post-Jobs era. The Retina MacBook Pro laptops really set a standard for laptop displays that other manufacturers have, as of yet, not quite managed to replicate. Even new incarnations of products released under Jobs such as the iPhone and full size iPad have been updated — the iPhone 5’s design was significantly updated from the familiar housing of the 4 and 4S and the introduction of the retina iPad resulted in a truly stunning device that is loved by millions the world over. More recently we’ve seen innovation from Apple with the announcement of iOS 7, which clearly demonstrated that Apple wasn’t afraid to switch from the status quo.

Would such a problem ridden project have been released under Jobs?

Would such a problem ridden project have been released under Jobs?

Despite a number of success stories, Apple without Jobs hasn’t been all plain sailing. We’ve had the problem-hit Siri, which looked as though it had been released in beta, and afterwards there was the huge issues that arose with Apple Maps. Problems like these were jumped upon by Apple’s criticisers as examples of the company losing its way following the death of Jobs. I think there is definitely some credibility to these criticisms and perhaps under Jobs the train wreck that was Maps would not have happened, but it wasn’t as if problems of a similar magnitude didn’t happen when Jobs was at the helm (Ping and MobileMe anyone?). To the credit of Jobs’ successor Tim Cook, he did release a full apology following the Maps scandal which I find hard to believe would have happened if Steve Jobs still had his foot on the gas. Perhaps what Apple has been missing without Jobs is a brand new market to enter. That’s arguably where Apple cut its teeth and where it has the most success — in the markets that it creates itself.

Conclusions

From new products and software to buggy releases to the most valuable company in the world, Apple after Steve Jobs has been a roller coaster ride. I think that initial doubts about Apple’s ability to continue innovating immediately following Jobs’ death were most certainly overblown, if not unfounded. However, until Apple create their own market for a new, unreleased product, the criticisms won’t go away. But with rumours of a wearable device on the horizon, perhaps things are about to change for Apple under Tim Cook. What do you think about Apple without Steve Jobs? Leave your comments below.