I had dinner with Phil on Thursday and due to me being away from Internet access for the better part of two days by this time I was unsure of the Apple world around me. Phil proceeded to inform me that Steve Jobs had just announced that he was taking 6 months off in order to deal with his health. Tim Cook is now in charge of the day to day stuff but the big decisions will still require Jobs' input.
I think it is a great thing on Jobs' part to take the time off. I sure know all about stress. The reason I was in Palmerston North and thus able to catch a meal with Phil was because I am involved in a project that makes me want to have my eyeballs ripped out through my nostrils by rabid wolverines. It was so stressful that come Saturday I woke up with a migraine and ended up puking all day... when I wasn't sleeping it off. So when I heard that the next six months were going to be largely sans Jobs I was excited.
The next six months are going to be very interesting but I feel that Apple is not going to fall apart without Jobs because Jobs is no idiot. The analysts are but then that's why those dinks don't run multi-national companies do they. They sit at a desk and tell people stuff that sounds good. Jobs has hired some amazing people and one of those people is Tim Cook (http://www.apple.com/pr/bios/cook.html).
An interesting article in AppleInsider (http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/09/01/15/industry_watchers_exude_confidence_in_cook_as_apple_chief.html) shows that it was largely due to Cook and NOT Jobs that Apple had a big turn around in fortunes. Jobs was the visionary but Cook was the get it done man and get it done he did. Business Week ran this article about Cook: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jan2009/tc20090114_965277.htm but the interesting part was this:
That was certainly the case early on when Cook helped reverse the company's financial fortunes. The fiscal year before he arrived, Apple had reported a $1 billion loss on sales of $7 billion, a drop of more than $2.8 billion from the year earlier. One of the company's biggest problems was managing its supply chain and product inventory. With sales dropping, Apple had ordered more components than it needed. It also had a bad habit of keeping more computers on hand than it could sell quickly, typically a month's worth. Cook cut the inventory kept on hand to about a week's worth, slashing costs, while at the same time tightening distribution channel arrangements.
By fiscal 1999 these changes had helped push Apple's gross margins up to 28% from 19% in 1997, and the company had swung to a $600 million profit even as sales slumped further. "Cook dramatically cleaned up the balance sheet," says Charles Wolf, analyst at Needham & Co. in New York. "He has been crucial to managing these things, and they translate directly into higher gross margins."
That was within one year on the job. Mike McGuire of Gartners had this to say about the man:
"I don't know Cook that well, but my guess is he isn't just an ops guy. I don't think you survive at Apple as just an operations guy. I don't think you get let into the inner sanctum as just an operations guy."
Let's face it Jobs is really nothing more than the keynote. He's a fantastic salesman and he has a lot of vision but he's never had the nouse to be able to build the products. It was Wozniak that did the work building the first Apple and it's largely been Ives and his team that have made today's Macs what they are. Come Macworld, WWDC, and the product releases all Jobs has to do is show up and look pretty... so to speak. It's Jobs' energy that we like to see when the products are being released but one thing that was shown at Macworld 2009 was that Jobs is not the only one with energy when it comes to selling Macs.
Phil Schiller is proof that Apple can be amazing without Jobs around. It's not like the first time when Jobs was kicked out in favour of lolly water salesman Sculley. Jobs hasn't surrounded him with limited vision CEOs, he's surrounded himself with visionaries that understand great product design. He's surrounded himself with people who know efficiency and how to get things done. He's surrounded himself with people who while they may have minor roles in the company understand that their role plays apart in something much bigger and much more exciting than churning out pathetic cheap PCs.
I've said it time and time again, Apple will survive without Jobs and the next 6 months will prove me right. Yes it will be sad to see him go but at the same time it won't be the end of Apple. Cook, Ives, and Schiller all make up a segmented Jobs. Three heads are better than one they say and I think in this case it is the truth.