commentary As Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs has transformed the way we think about computers, portable music, and mobile phones. So I read with great interest a profile of Jobs in the Sunday Times of the United Kingdom this morning.
While there are a few interesting bits of information about how hard Jobs is to get along with and how driven he is, the piece missed the boat on a couple of very important points.
The story labels Apple's secrecy as "the mafia code of silence" that is "ruthlessly enforced, with employees sacked for leaks and careless talk. Executives feed deliberate misinformation into one part of the company so that any leak can be traced back to its source."
The Times piece correctly surmises that Apple's secrecy is "all about preserving the magic of each new product." Part of the magic of Apple, of course, is the constant buzz that surrounds the company.
Other companies in the tech market would give almost anything to have a small percentage of the buzz that Apple is able to create. Public-relations firms are hired to raise the profile of executives and have reporters write stories on all their clients' latest gadgets.
That works, to a certain degree. But as soon as something breaks that concerns Apple, every major publication in the world drops everything and starts writing.
The interesting thing is that Apple does it all without saying a word. That is part of the magic. It is the mystique that surrounds Jobs and the entire company. Take the buzz surrounding the rumored music event in September. There are hundreds of stories, but Apple hasn't even confirmed that there will be an event.
Jobs could announce a press event tomorrow, and the world's press would jump through hoops to get there. Why? Because they know that whatever Jobs is going to talk about is likely to be game-changing. No other executive has that reputation.
The secrecy of Apple is definitely put in place to protect the company's product development. If history is any indication, it needs that protection.
As soon as Apple releases a new product, the market scrambles to either denounce it as trivial, copy it as best they can, or in some cases, do both. The iPhone is a perfect example of that.
I don't see any company racing to copy a new Dell product. Why? Because it generally misses the innovation mark. When is the last time the world's press swarmed to see Michael Dell introduce something? I have no idea, either.
Apple without Steve
I was completely shocked to reach the end of the four-page article to find a prediction that when Jobs eventually leaves Apple, the company will seek a merger with Google.
That is flat-out wrong. Apple will not seek a merger with Google--or other company, for that matter--unless it is the dominant party.
The belief that Apple would shrivel up and die when Jobs leaves is giving no credit to what the man has spent the last 30-plus years building. Unlike chief executives who may fear being surrounded by other smart leaders, Jobs insists on it.
The executives at Apple could easily run most other companies, but they choose to stay with Apple. Take a few of the top names as examples: Tim Cook, chief operating officer; Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software; Jonathan Ive, senior vice president of industrial design; and Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing. In addition to Greg Joswiak, vice president of worldwide iPod product marketing, and Bertrand Serlet, senior vice president of software engineering, they are regarded by many as the best at what they do in the market.
With all of that talent, it's no wonder that Apple is an incredibly innovative company. And it's not just with hardware, either. Apple has taken some of most mundane but enjoyable tasks and made them easier.
Take as examples iPhoto, iDVD, and iMovie. With a click of a button, you can make slideshows and movies, and then burn them to a DVD. One of the biggest Apple success stories over the last decade has to be iTunes. We buy our movies, songs, and apps for the iPhone, all without leaving the comfort of our homes.
Jobs doesn't do it alone. The iPod is a perfect example of this. Tony Fadell is the father of the iPod, a product he and his team began building in 2001 under Jobs' tutelage. Fadell brought the idea to Apple, and Jobs had the vision to understand how big it would be.
While Jobs is certainly the driving force behind the company, he doesn't spend all night dreaming up products, then sitting in his garage soldering chips and components together so he can walk into the engineering team and say, "This is what I want."
Although his style is not to everyone's liking, Jobs is a visionary who gives people great devices. He does it with the help of some of the smartest people in the technology market.
Apple is changing the way we think of how we do things. Whether that's on the computer, iPod, iPhone, or the rumored tablet, it is positioned to continue doing so for a long time to come.