Top Apple Executives Make Graceful Exits

News Analysis: Apple Computer will look to a rising new generation of managers to ensure that the recent departure of two of the company's three most prominent managers won't spell the end to Apple's vibrant growth.

The departure this year of two of the three most prominent executives at Apple Computer raises the question about whether the next generation of senior managers will have the talent and experience to keep the company on its current track of vibrant growth.

Avadis "Avie" Tevanian, who shepherded the development of Mac OS X, and Jon Rubinstein, who oversaw much of the Macintosh hardware in recent years, have passed their responsibilities to others.

At some companies, such a loss of leadership could leave the company with a power vacuum or a lack of direction. However, Apple seems to be conscious that no single person—except, perhaps, CEO Steve Jobs himself—is irreplaceable, and that new talent can always be groomed for the future.

The issue of potential management succession issue took on greater urgency with the disclosure in August 2004 that Jobs had been diagnosed with a rare, but highly curable form of pancreatic cancer.

While by all appearances Jobs has responded well to treatment and his health is stable, the recent departures raise the question of who will lead the company in the future.

"Its my sense that Steve [Jobs] has quietly been dealing with the leadership issue at Apple," said John Markoff, who has written extensively about Apple for The New York Times.

"I believe that he has brought in a layer of thirty-somethings that will be Apples next leadership generation. He inspires intense loyalty, and I think despite the fact that he insists the company speak with one voice that he is busy planning," Markoff said.

Both Tevanian and Rubinstein owe more to Jobs than to Apple for their advancement.

Both were hired by Jobs for his company NeXT Computer, which he founded after leaving Apple in 1985.

When Apple bought NeXT in 1996, the three took top positions at Jobs old company, signaling to some that the deal had more been NeXT buying Apple than the other way around.

Tevanian was recruited for NeXT by Jobs based on Tevanians work at Carnegie Mellon on the Unix-like Mach operating system kernel.

At NeXT, Tevanian led development of the NeXTSTEP operating system, based on the Mach kernel.

One the major attractions of the new operating system was its object-oriented programming model, which was nearly unprecedented at the time, and its advanced PostScript-based display technology.

When Apple and NeXT became one in late 1996, Tevanian was placed at the head of the Mac OS software division, in charge of developing next generation Macintosh operating systems.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about Steve Jobs August 2004 disclosure that he had undergone cancer surgery.

This became known as Mac OS X 10.0. There were transition pains for users, who had to run existing software in an emulation mode known as Classic and found problems with the new user interface and lackluster performance.

Developers likewise had to adjust to an entirely new programming environment; Mac OS X-native applications took years, at times, to come to market.

Both combined to slow adoption of the new OS and the purchase of new Macs, especially in environments where backward compatibility was mission-critical, such as pre-press production houses.

However, the transition went smoothly enough for Jobs to declare, within only a few years, that the old Mac OS was dead, and that Apple now lived for the operating system Tevanian helped create and oversee.

"When Avie first arrived at Apple from NeXT," said Wil Shipley, the CEO of software company Delicious Monster, "he took over software and, seriously, kicked butt."

"I used to tell everyone who thought Apple was doomed back then, No, its going to rock, because Avie Knows How To Ship. This was my mantra. The boy knew how to test it, clip it and ship it," said Shipley.

Next Page: Putting both feet out the door.