Every year since Steve Jobs died in 2011 we’re treated to articles here and there which decry the state of Apple, which also point out all the problems that Apple wouldn’t have if Steve Jobs were still CEO. Hindsight is perfect vision, right? Instead of lamenting the state of Apple and how Jobs wouldn’t have allowed the company to make some of its choices, let’s revisit the equation and bring Apple’s iconic co-founder back to run the company a third time.
Instead of cancer and death, let’s say Jobs decided to go on a five year sabbatical and walk across China and then India and then work his negotiating charms to bring about world peace in the Mideast. Hey, he couldn’t have made it any worse. Then, with all that walking and talking out of his system, Jobs returned to Apple as CEO.
What would Jobs find at Apple circa late 2016?
He would be greeted by an amazing bounty of riches. Apple has a few hundred billion dollars in cash. And tens of billions in debt. Plus, tens of billions more were siphoned from the company’s treasury to buy back stock and pay dividends to shareholders.
What would Jobs do about that situation?
Based on what we know of Jobs’ past, one can argue forcefully that the stock buybacks would be discontinued, and the dividends would stop immediately. Sure, that action might impact AAPL but since when did Jobs care about the stock price?
Jobs would lament Apple’s current product line. I can imagine this scenario:
Tim, are you telling me that Apple hasn’t introduced one new product since the iPad I introduced in 2010? What have you been doing? No, Watch and AirPods don’t count because both are accessories to the iPhone, which, by the way, I introduced in 2007; about a decade ago. So, I’m going to ask the question again; ‘What have you been doing?’
Ouch. But it’s true.
Certified Apple watchers know what Jobs did when he returned to Apple in 1997, a decade before the iPhone launched (a period where Jobs launched the Apple Store, the iPod, the iTunes Music Store, switched the Mac to Intel Inside, the iPhone, the App Store, and the iPad; much of that while suffering from cancer), he killed products and criticized the company’s development efforts.
What would Jobs find at Apple today?
iOS 10 – A complicated mess of options that looks much like the iOS he introduced on the original iPhone with the only innovation being flat icons vs. skeuomorphic designs, which he loved
macOS – It looks more like an iPhone than a Mac, what with LaunchPad and flat icons
Mapless – Aging Macs, last year’s iPhones sold as new, no upgrades in years, a focus on fashion, not substance; and a product line that is all over the map
iPad – Sales of the post-PC era iPad skyrocketed while Jobs was at Apple, but have failed dramatically in recent years thanks to a directionless product line and lack of hardware innovation to keep pace with iPhone
Old Products – Jobs wasn’t afraid to kill a product or two, but the post-PC era isn’t what he thought– it’s mobile, not iPad, but Apple’s entire product line is full of aging products, save the iPhone 7.
No Uniformity – Some Macs have standard USB ports from 1998, while others have modern USB-C ports and Thunderbolt ports, while iPad and iPhone have Lightning ports
Stupid Siri – Not much has changed with Apple’s digital personal assistant since Jobs introduced Siri way back when. He would ask, “Why hasn’t Siri been integrated into everything at Apple?”
Design Flaws – There are more than a few that Jobs would have sent back to the Chinese engineers who apparently design Apple’s gadgets these days. The new Magic Mouse? It has the charging port on the bottom so it can’t be used while charging. There’s no magnet to hold Pencil to the iPad. MacBook has a single USB-C port
Tesla – Rather, Jobs would find Tesla to be the darling of electric car makers, staffed with hundreds of former Apple engineers. Jobs would ask, “Instead of giving money to shareholders or buying stock, why not just spend less and buy Tesla?”
The state of Apple might be good from a financial standpoint, but Google’s brand is worth more, Samsung is still in business and prospering, Android OS rules the mobile world, Microsoft has made a comeback after Steve Ballmer was tossed out, and the Apple that Jobs built has rested on its laurels since he left.