Can Apple be great without Steve Jobs?

Last of the a PC-era's founding fathers to retire with no answer to the biggest question about Apple.

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Any company that succeeds at that level is bound to be brought down a peg eventually, by a rise in the quality of the competition if not by some mistake of its own.

The only real weakness I could see was Apple's dependence on Jobs himself. Without Jobs there to stir things up, the company would have to rely on some level of Steve Jobs emulation – individual managers or groups within the company put together with the budget, goals and staff to generate the kind of disruptive technology Jobs always demanded.

 

 

It may not be really possible to create a permanent culture of creative disruption, though both Pixar has shown it consistently, even when Jobs wasn't spending much time managing it and even after he sold it to Disney.

I hate to quote myself, but nothing in the months since Jobs announced he was leaving for a temporary medical leave has answered the questions I had at the time:

If just keeping the lights on and the iPads rolling off the line would be a problem without Jobs there cracking the whip, Apple would have gone out of business long ago.

The question is whether it will be able to consistently produce new and compelling products without him at a time when the whole computer business is playing fast-follower on every hot product Apple has.

It's a maxim of any creative business that not all good ideas can come from one person, and that the problem is never a lack of good ideas. The problem is figuring out which of a huge pile are the good ideas and which, among them, are the great ones.

Jobs' talent has always been picking the brilliant from a pile of the simply adequate, then making radical changes in design, manufacturing, distribution and marketing to get the greatest impact out of it. – Jan. 18, 2011

I'm far from an Apple fanboy, but there's no question Jobs has been one of the great forces in a revolutionary time in an industry revolutionizing the rest of society. That doesn't mean everything he did was great, but it was always influential.

The question remaining about Apple – the reason its stock dropped after Jobs' resignation became public – is whether Jobs was just a brilliant product guy able to get a big company to deliver what he wanted, or whether he was able to build a company able to deliver brilliance on its own.

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