Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has been gone for almost six years and in the interim his company has become the most valuable on planet earth, has collected riches beyond that of many developed nations, has over 1-billion customers, and despite the naysayers, critics, and nattering nabobs of negativism, hasn’t dropped dead yet.
My Mac-loving history goes back to the days before Wired magazine’s infamous ‘Pray‘ article, before Steve Jobs second coming, before Intel Inside, back to when Mac OS wasn’t classic yet.
Through the years since we’ve read all the reasons why Apple should have gone out of business, should have been sold off, and Michael Dell’s famous answer when asked what he would do with Apple:
What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.
Dell may or may not have meant what it sounded like he meant, but the meaning was clear for many. Apple’s days were numbered. Dell:
The meaning of my answer was that I’m the CEO of Dell, I don’t think about being the CEO of any other company, I’m not a CEO for hire, so if you asked me what I’d do for any other company, it’s not really something I think about.
Except he thought Apple needed to be shut down, so there’s that.
Yet, here we are, 2017, and it seems the Apple is doomed meme won’t go away. Why not? Windows PCs could do about anything and everything a Mac could do, right? One could point to Steve Jobs’ second coming as a watershed moment for Apple, but there’s more to it than that.
To keep it brief, Jobs took control of Apple and set a course. He surrounded himself with competent designers and engineers and kept the company focused on products that mattered– as in, worked well together, made customers happy, brought in profits. Jobs was willing to take risks– something we don’t see quite the same way under Tim Cook’s Apple– which included the Apple Stores (brought about because PC sellers couldn’t sell the Mac), the iMac (an affordable personal computer without the baggage of Windows), the iPod music player (which caught on only after it, iTunes, and iTunes Music Store moved to Windows), the switch to Intel Inside the Mac, then iPhone and iPad.
From Jobs death in 2011 to today, Apple’s legacy of incremental innovation continues, and except for Apple Watch, the disruptive products we saw during Jobs era have been less visible, less obvious, and, well, less disruptive.
Watch has plenty of potential, especially as a health care device and extension and accessory for iPhone. But Watch, well integrated into Apple’s ecosystem and iPhone, is not yet a standalone device. AirPods and the Beats acquisition brought in more accessories for the iPhone juggernaut, but what we have yet to see from Time Cook’s Apple is a massive disruption brought about from products launched under Steve Jobs’ reign.
That may not be a requirement going forward. Thanks to enormous riches that came in Cook’s era, Apple can afford to buy its way into any upcoming product category that it did not create. Under Cook’s reign, Apple crossed the 1-billion customer threshold and is an economic powerhouse that knows how to squeeze profits from a premium line of affordable luxury products for the masses and professionals (yes, I lust after a Mac Pro that would be priced double my current iMac).
Apple hasn’t dropped dead yet because Steve Jobs built a very good company with an array of well integrated and legendary products, a moving target that continues to move forward under Cook. All that’s missing is Jobs’ hubris and willingness to bet the farm; a stark contrast to Cook’s seeming reluctance to gamble at all.
It’s math. Apple isn’t going away any time soon. A major component of product marketing is differentiation, and Apple is well differentiated against the competition on all fronts. The Mac continues to defy the Windows PC trend of dropped sales (11 straight quarters and counting), the iPhone may not have every super duper new feature found on a few smartphones here and there, but Apple has 1-billion customers on iOS and they’re not likely to jump ship because the other ships don’t offer a compelling reason.
Apple hasn’t dropped dead yet because the house that Jobs built is on solid ground. Critics, analysts, investors need to understand that.