eWEEK at 30: Apple Strives to Carry on Steve Jobs' Legacy of Innovation

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2014-02-26 Print this article Print

I cannot think of a single IT leader during 19 years in this business who said that he or she hasn't been influenced in some way by Jobs—whether it was for or against his management style (and he did manage using fear, no question about it), marveling at his passion for clean design and product quality or admiring his loyalty for people he respected.

Apple's future without Jobs is anybody's guess, but the people who knew him best—his close friends and fellow Apple colleagues—have their own beliefs that warrant some consideration.

One well-chronicled opinion from one of Jobs' best buddies and fellow IT billionaires, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, made news in August 2013. When asked by CBS journalist Charlie Rose what he thought Apple's future was with Jobs gone, Ellison was his usual candid self.

"He was—he was brilliant. I mean, our Edison. He was our Picasso. He was an incredible inventor," said Ellison, a former member of the Apple board of directors who resigned from that position in September 2002.

"So what happens to Apple without Steve?" Rose asked.

"Well, we already know," Ellison said.

"What?" Rose asked.

"We saw—we conducted the experiment," Ellison said, referring to the 12-year period from 1985 to 1997 when Jobs was fired from the company by CEO John Scully and the Apple board. "I mean, it's been done."

"We saw Apple with Steve Jobs," says Ellison as he pointed his finger high into the air. "We saw Apple without Steve Jobs," he said, lowering the finger.

"We saw Apple with Steve Jobs," Ellison said, raising his finger again. "Now, we're gonna see Apple without Steve Jobs," he said, keeping the finger in the air for a few seconds before dropping it again.

Jobs had something that longtime Apple employees characterized as the "God particle"—something akin to a brush of divinity. Certainly, many millions of Apple customers and technology followers believed the same.

During the 12-year period when Jobs was away (when he founded Next Computer and bought Pixar Animation), and amid all the chief executive changes and departmental restructurings, product decisions and business indecisions, a core group of dedicated Apple staff members remained. They had longed for the old days when there was clear direction from the top, a shared corporate vision and a similar operational style. None of those characteristics were evident in the 12 Jobs-less years, according to several sources contacted by eWEEK.

"We all were looking for the 'God particle,' so to speak, in the new leadership that came and went," a longtime Apple department manager, who asked not to be identified by name for this article, told eWEEK. "None of them had anything close to it. To be fair, not too many people have it."

That would be a major understatement.

"It was a miracle that we were able to evolve the brand in the face of that tumult," said the manager, who worked at Apple from 1984 to 1997 and saw Jobs leave and return. "Steve was really good at bringing out the best in people, in getting them to reach beyond what they even knew they could do."

It's a safe assumption that all CEOs aspire to do exactly that.

Jobs, who brought that "God particle" back to the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, stayed on as CEO until the summer of 2011, when he turned the job over to a fellow longtime Apple exec, Tim Cook.

Jobs, who died that fall as a result of complications from pancreatic cancer, took his "God particle" talent and determination with him. We're not likely to see another person like him any time soon.



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