Lots of talk – deservedly – about Steve Jobs’ decision to step away from his Apple CEO gig “for a few months” to improve his health. I’m no longer an employee, so I can finally respond worry-free to Joe Average comments such as this:
Let’s get real. I mean really real. Jobs did not invent ipod. Jobs did not invent iphone. Jobs did not personally man the whole marketing campaign and does not physically make the commercials and write the script. Jobs does not one handedly do the accounting or sells the stuff in the stores. Jobs does not program iTunes. Jobs. He is human. He is a visionary yes. But he is not the end all.
Yes, he is. The R&D team are terrific, Ops has improved significantly, and the management team is capable, but the miracle of Apple is that everything, EVERYTHING, passes through Steve’s desk. From top-secret future product designs to Apple-logo’d thank you cards, it all gets approved by Steve. He’s got a mock-up, mobile-walled Apple Store at Cupertino where he – HE – decides how each mall store is laid out. He’s been known to postpone product announcements because of unhappiness with inconsequential features, and send developed designs (as discussed by Jon Ive in the desklamp iMac evolution) back to the drawing board if he decides it could’ve been done better. Oh, and remember that, for most of this time, he was also running another high-quality, low-fool-suffering business in Pixar. I can’t be sure he was giving them exactly the same attention – certainly, Pixar’s top brass are far more promising as pinch-hitters than any of the Apple crew – but I do know he was far more fond of Pixar than Apple, as he admitted onstage to an Apple sales conference attendee who asked his preference.
Apple’s recent, monster successes – the iPhone, the iPod, and the developed Mac OS X software engine that drives them – are due to the micro-managerial supervision of a man who is also a visionary. I don’t think the term “visionary” is hyperbolic, here; He’s one of the few who defines market demand, rather than pander to it, and he insists on doing so with elegance and ease-of-use, which shows a huge amount of respect for his customers. (There’s a reason we Apple types are so cultish, you know.)
I’ve lived and breathed these products for far more than the 8 years I spent with Apple, and can’t imagine returning to the convoluted mess that defined the company during Steve’s 1990’s exile. My stockholder’s concerns for his health – while significant – are far outweighed by my fan-girl’s concerns for his health. Get well soon, boss.