Ignore the doomsayers; Apple will be just fine after Jobs

Pundits will tell you the creator of the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad will drift now that Jobs has died -- don't believe it

When Steve Jobs resigned as Apple's CEO on Aug. 24 due to a terminal cancer that finally slowed him down too much to do the job he loved, the second-guessing had already started: Apple will be fine for two years, then drift into failure. Apple and Steve Jobs are one and the same, and now that he's gone the company is leaderless. I heard these whispers again today when the news broke that Jobs had died, such as the ridiculous NewsFactor story saying "Apple loses its heart and soul." As one email I received today put it, "Is there anyone at Apple now who won't be afraid to break a few eggs to invent the future?"

Well, of course there are -- plenty of them, in fact. Yes, Jobs has had an incredible effect on Apple since returning as CEO more than a decade ago, reversing its late-1990s death spiral. Jobs was in fact a singular person, but not the only person at Apple with drive, vision, tenacity, and a desire to change the world.

[ Read Galen Gruman's own up-and-down history with Apple and Steve Jobs. | Keep up with the latest Apple news and insights in InfoWorld's Technology: Apple newsletter. ]

Over the last dozen years, Jobs has pulled together a crack, tightly knit team to keep the Apple innovation going for some time. Could Apple at some point drift into complacency or lose its edge? Sure -- look at Palm, Research in Motion, Nokia, Sun, and Hewlett-Packard. But you can also look at IBM and Oracle, the former a company that had strong leaders yet didn't become a cult of personality dependent on that strongman.

Apple is like IBM in that regard. Jobs may have been a strongman, but he has an equally solid junta consisting of now-CEO (and previously COO) Tim Cook, chief designer Jonathan Ive, iOS chief Scott Forstall, and many others. The leadership and their staffs are typically long-lived at Apple, so the culture Jobs instigated runs deep. And his high bar for excellence means the Apple workforce is not likely the kind to simply drift off because a key leader has gone; I don't expect the kind of technology vision and execution deficits that Microsoft experienced when Bill Gates handed the reins to Steve Ballmer, for example.

I've known enough Apple employees over two decades to really believe they're able to continue the success of the last decade. I've also seen Apple at its worst, and I know those ghosts continue to serve as an object lesson of what not to let recur.

I fully expect Apple to change over time; any company does that as its leadership shifts, even when that leadership comes from within. Cook and the others are not Jobs clones -- just strong, effective colleagues. That's good -- a "what would Steve do?" caretaker would fear making the tough decisions.

I think we'll all be surprised that nothing bad happens. I'm confident the Apple leadership will build on Jobs's legacy, adding their own insights and skills to the company that, after all, they too helped build.

Call me a fanboy (I know some will), but if Apple fails at some point, it's more likely to be that the company ran its course naturally, not through the self-inflicted wounds of those dying and dead giants I've mentioned.

Apple knows it's all about the product and therefore the customer, not Wall Street and Silicon Valley, even if they must be paid attention. As long as that is its culture, Apple's not going anywhere but forward.

This article, "Ignore the doomsayers; Apple will be just fine after Jobs," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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