I reject the \”great man\” theory, particularly when it comes to technology, gadgets, and business. The great man theory is used to credit individuals for the successes of many, like a company turnaround, market advancement, or revolutionary new gadget. Even a cursory look behind the scenes reveals that any success on the scale Apple achieved under Steve Jobs was due to many great and talented men and women, and should not be solely attributed to one individual.
It\’s through this prism I viewed Steve Jobs\’ resignation as Apple CEO and his subsequent and untimely death. Last year I wrote:
But Apple is a large company, and the iPad, iPhone, and the rest of Apple\’s successful product lineup were not created by one man. Jonathan Ive, Apple\’s principal designer is still on board, and he is credited with the look and feel of the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Still, the fact remains that Apple\’s products were crafted by talented teams of engineers and designers that have been steeped in the Apple culture of innovation.
To be sure, Steve Jobs played the primary role in cultivating the talent, and building a culture of innovation and excellence at Apple, but Apple\’s successes were not a one man show. I wrote it then, and it still stands, \”Despite the loss, Apple will not stop being Apple.\”
That\’s why I hate any questions pertaining to Steve Jobs and what he would have done had he still been in charge. Would he have releases a slightly thicker third-generation iPad? Would he have launched beta Siri? Would he have let all those iPhone 5 leaks occur? Would he have let the Apple Maps debacle happen?
First of all, these questions imply that Steve Jobs never messed up, that he never experienced failure during the Apple resurgence. MobileMe, Motorola Rockr, G4 Cube, stolen iPhone 4 and Antennagate (to name a few) suggest otherwise. And let\’s not forget the fact that Jobs himself signed off on both Siri and Apple Maps before his passing. One could quibble over the implementation and seemingly premature release of both – but both Siri and Apple Maps will only get better through crowd-sourced user data, and lots of it. Nevermind how Steve Jobs would have done things differently, with Apple Maps and Siri, he couldn\’t have done things much differently.
Perhaps most importantly however, the question is absolutely irrelevant. Apple is Tim Cook\’s company now, working with many of the same talented men and women as Steve Jobs. Nevermind what Steve Jobs would have done. Let\’s look at what Tim Cook and Apple will do.
What will they do to address an ever-changing and increasingly competitive market? Apple is not the number one smartphone maker by sales, Samsung holds that title, and there are more Android handsets in users\’ hands than iPhones. Experts roundly agree that the iPhone is no longer the single best smartphone available. One of the best? Sure. But unlike 2007 through 2009, consumers have viable alternatives.
The same is happening in tablets, where the iPad still leads. But that lead is shrinking as low-cost, brand name tablets from Amazon, Samsung, Google, B&N and ASUS eat into market share. Just this week, Pew Research claimed Android tablets now comprise 48% of all tablets owned, up from 15% last year. Apple\’s 52% is still impressive, but it will soon face even more competition from Microsoft and its partners in the form of Windows 8 tablets.
Going forward, we should be looking at how Tim Cook and Apple respond to these challenges, not how Steve Jobs might have responded. We should watch how Apple grows and adapts, and I do mean watch how Apple grows and adapts, Tim Cook only included. Because no matter what future successes the company experiences, they will be Apple\’s successes, not solely Tim Cooks\’. Like Steve Jobs, he may be a great man, but it takes more than a great man for Apple to succeed.
For other perspectives from the TG team, read One Year After Jobs\’ Death: The New Apple on NotebookReview and Apple Still Strong a Year After Steve Jobs\’ Death on Brighthand.