There is a lot being written about Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ stepping down from the company he built, was subsequently exiled from, and restored to fairy-tale-like glory. Prodigal son, indeed.
I’m going to leave the eloquent waxing about Jobs, who is sadly ceding the reins to COO Tim Cook due to health reasons, to others with far more experience following Apple. And who are far more emotionally invested in it.
I will say this one comment on it: I’m not upset Jobs has stepped down. I’m upset at the circumstances with which he did so. Short of death, there are few things worse than not being able to do what you love due to poor health.
Interestingly, this changing of the guard follows roughly five months after CEO Larry Page took the reins from Eric Schmidt.
While under markedly different circumstances, neither the departure of Jobs nor Schmidt mark the end of eras, in my humble opinion.
Schmidt did, for the most part, a fine job at Google for a decade.
He did a solid job shaping the company’s vision and future products. He did well to guide YouTube and Google’s mobile strategy with Android, in spite of the current legal spaghetti mess.
Where he failed certainly is in the area that may matter most to the company’s future: social, where Facebook eats Google’s lunch.
Fitting then that three months after Schmidt moved over to become executive chairman that Google launched the Facebook answer he failed to foment in Google+, a solid social network of varying strengths and weaknesses. Under Page.
Onward and upward. On the whole, Google hasn’t missed a beat since April, as the company went on to enjoy a great second quarter. There are bound to be fewer “open mouth, insert foot” moments now that Schmidt isn’t Google’s primary mouthpiece, but that’s just a loss of cheap-shot cannon fodder we journalists enjoy.
But Schmidt took over for Page a decade ago, so it’s not like this is all new. End of an era? I’m not sure. Feels like more of the same, just better social strategy. Is that an end of an era? What marks the end of an era?
The passage of time, a change in corporate strategy, or both? I haven’t seen it with Schmidt passing the torch to Page, beyond a more streamlined management approach and better social savoir-faire.
End of era sounds as though it should be read aloud in stentorian tones by Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee or some other mystical wizard from the Lord of the Rings trilogy or some other fantasy series.
Similarly, Jobs may have resigned, but I don’t expect Apple to change much as long as he is alive. His hand is all over the company.
First, Jobs stepped down as Apple is on top. It’s got $76 billion in cash to spare, has run away with the iPad (not tablet) market, and the iPhone is the most popular single smartphone in the world. Macs are crushing it and iPods still sell. Incredible.
Second, Jobs isn’t leaving. He’s stepping back from day-to-day operations (again, albeit probably for good), but will no doubt advise new CEO Cook, who has done this before–a few times.
My feeling is the company’s products, if not operations, will still very much have Jobs’ fingerprints all over them.
So forgive me if I don’t consider this an end of an era. As the Apple Wiseman John Gruber noted:
“The thing to keep in mind is this: Apple tomorrow, a week from now and next month is the exact same Apple from yesterday, a week ago and last month. Tim Cook wasn’t named “CEO” until today, but he’s been the chief executive at the company since Jobs started this–his third–medical leave back in January, and probably even before that. Whatever Steve’s role is going forward, it’s only different in title than what it has been, in effect, for some time. Whatever it is that ails him, he’s been diminished.“
So I expect more of the same greatness from Apple, which never missed a beat a few times under Cook, as MG Siegler noted on Quora. And I expect Google to keep competing with Apple and Facebook with Page at the helm.
End of an era? Feels more just like the changing of the guards.