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Steve Jobs bows out gracefully as Apple CEO

- August 27th, 2011

steve jobs sep 2010

While Apple product announcements and rollouts are almost always shrouded in secrecy causing the rumor mill to constantly remain intensively active, one thing is for sure; there was no secret about the challenging health of Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

This past January, the Board granted Jobs, another leave of absence from his regular duties to tend to his health.  Yet he still managed to surface onstage at the Worldwide Developers Conference back in June.   And while there was much concern for the well being of this incredible man and one of the most successful CEOs in history, there was also uneasiness about his ability in his state to actively continue to lead the world’s most valuable technology company.

Jobs was Forthcoming

Through all this, Jobs continually maintained, that if he couldn’t do the job he would be totally forthcoming about it, and he has, in a letter he released Wednesday to the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple community.

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come,” Jobs wrote.

Jobs goes on to offer his resignation and recommends that the Board move forward with their succession plan and give the job as top dog, to Apple’s longtime Chief Operating Officer (COO) Tim Cook.

At the same time, he offered, if the Board would have him, remain a director and Apple employee and serve as Chairman of the Board.  And it was so.

Originally Ousted from his Job

Looking back, Jobs’ contribution to the company has been invaluable.

Art Levinson, chairman of Genentech said on behalf of Apples’ board, that “Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple.”

Back in 1985, when Calvin & Hobbes made its comic strip debut and Michael J. Fox, as Marty McFly was going back in time in a DeLorean, the tech industry was in a slump.  By then, Jobs was butting heads with then Apple CEO John Sculley, whom Jobs himself recruited for the role.  Jobs lost out and was removed as the head of the Macintosh Division. After an unsuccessful power struggle with the board, Jobs resigned as Chairman and decided to leave. He went off on his own and started NeXT Computer. Apple struggled, but managed to enjoy a moderate but short-lived success. By the mid 90s it was obvious that Apple was hanging from a thin thread. Apple bought out NeXT Computer, whose operating system, Open Step, would provide the basis for Mac OS X (codename: Cheetah) and Jobs was brought back into the fold where he was named interim CEO in 1997. The following year he introduced the colorful and floppy-less Bondi-blue all-in-one iMac. The term “interim” was dropped from his title in 2000 and the rest is history.

The Future of Apple

So the question remains, how will Apple do without Jobs at the helm?

I think things are a little different this time around. Jobs will be around, albeit in a different role. Apple itself is on a roll and in really good shape.  Apparently they have more money in the bank than the U.S. Government as well as a huge momentum with the success of their current product line and the forthcoming iPhone 5. And while Steve might be the man with the master plan it took a continual effort of an entire team, not just Steve to get Apple where it is today.

Furthermore, Cook is a pretty sharp dude and seems to be the right guy for the job. He’s had 13 years of success serving Apple.

Cook comes with good credentials. He was previously responsible for all of the company’s worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Apple’s supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets around the world. He also headed up Apple’s Mac division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships.

Cook also has Jobs’ blessing and besides, he’s already acting in the role.

And Cook won’t be on his own.   There’s a strong Board of Directors. He’s got 8 senior vice presidents working under him, the likes of Scott Forstall, Senior Vice President iOS Software, Jonathan Ive, SVP Industrial Design and Phil Schiller, SVP Worldwide Product Marketing to name a few. There is also a team of engineers, technical, sales and admin people and more, whom I’m sure have all been touched by the leadership of Mr. Jobs.

So will it be the same? Well, maybe not exactly.  I’ve been following the story of Steve Jobs, for over a quarter century,  and actually met him for the 1st time in 1986. It’s hard, no it’s impossible, to even come close to creating a clone of the charismatic Steven P. Jobs. Think about it.

While his title will change, Steve will still be Steve. He’ll be, motivational, inspirational, creative and likely still demanding. However, his voice will now come from a different place, but will still be heard. Furthermore, there’s no doubt the culture he’s created within Apple will likely be engrained in the corporation for years to come.

So things seem to be looking good!

Market Reaction

The market seems to think that overall, all will be well. Apple’s stock closed at $376.18 US on Wednesday, subsequent to the news.  The announcement, which came after the close, resulted in a 5% price drop in after hours trading, but by the time trading ended on Thursday, the stock closed down only minimally at $373.72 US. By day’s end Friday, it rebounded to $383.58 US.

While this chapter may have ended, this story is far from over.  I’m sure at some point, we’ll be in for “one more thing.”

Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg.

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