Following former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ death in October, pundits and analysts stumbled over themselves to theorize about how his passing would affect the company’s bestselling product lines.
They wondered whether, without Jobs’ unique combination of creativity and micromanaging impulses, Apple could continue to produce successful generations of the iPad, iPhone and Macs.
Speaking at a breakfast conversation hosted by a Fortune editor Nov. 10, Walter Isaacson, author of the bestselling biography on Jobs, told the audience that current CEO Tim Cook and chief designer Jonathan Ive operate as “the two halves of Steve’s personality.”
He also termed the two Apple leaders as “joined at the hip,” which would presumably facilitate their ability to serve both the business and creative sides of the company.
While Jobs was alive, Ive would present his leader with a set of different prototypes. “If we’re working on a new iPhone, for example, he might grab a stool and start playing with different models and feeling them with his hands, remarking on which ones he likes best,” Ive is quoted as saying in Isaacson’s biography. “Then he will graze by the other tablets, just him and me, to see where all the other products are going.”
The casual and intuitive nature of that process, so divorced from the endless meetings and focus groups that define product creation at other companies, is necessarily hard to replicate without the input of a single “brain.” Reports suggest that Jobs and his team plotted out years’ worth of the product pipeline before his death. Nonetheless, the time will almost certainly arrive when Apple will need to demonstrate it can push industry-leading innovation without signs of Jobs’ hand at work.
Jobs gave Isaacson unprecedented access to his life, granting him dozens of interviews-the last of which took place during the CEO’s final summer. The biography details Jobs’ long battle with cancer and attempts to revive Apple in the late 1990s, as well as the quest to develop both the iPhone and the iPad. The book quickly shot to the top of bestseller lists even before its release.
In the short term, Apple has more than kept on its feet despite the loss of its co-founder. The iPhone 4S managed to sell 4 million units by the end of its first weekend of release, reaffirming the smartphone franchise’s popularity among consumers. During Apple’s Oct. 18 earnings call, CEO Cook suggested the company is doing everything to ensure iPhone 4S supply remains adequate for holiday demand.