An adage that I’ve tried to live by is “always leave a good time” based on the idea that exiting on a positive note is better than skulking out the door. It’s like leaving a party when it’s still raging as opposed to leaving when there’s only a few people sticking around, the music has been turned off and there’s no beer left in the fridge.
In many respects, Steve Jobs has picked the perfect time to leave Apple. The company has become a cultural, technological and business monster with an aura hand-crafted by Jobs over the past decade. Apple is firing on all cylinders, seemingly unable to do anything wrong. The iMac, MacBook, iPad and iPad have established Apple as the world’s coolest brand and a design titan.
But where does Apple go from here?
When you’re at the top of your game, it can be a huge challenge to keep getting better. Arguably, the only place for Apple to go may be down given the competition over the horizon from players such as Google and Samsung.
On one hand, it would be probably be pretty cool to be Tim Cook, who is replacing Jobs as Apple’s CEO. On the other hand, Cook may have the world’s toughest job. Every move he makes, every new product and every quarterly result will be scrutinized and compared against the Steve-o-Meter. No matter how well Cook performs, it may never be good enough.
But that’s the reality of replacing an icon. There is no way you can compete so Cook needs to put his head down and let Apple continue to be Apple.
One thing that will be interesting is whether Apple employees, including Cook, will be allowed to enjoy the spotlight. During Jobs’ reign, he was the centre of attention, and it was rare to read about some of the other uber-talented people who were driving the company’s product development and marketing. Maybe Jobs’ departure will give them a chance to shine.
Jobs will be missed, although it doesn’t look like he’s disappearing. That said, no one is irreplaceable, even Steve Jobs. Apple will continue to roll along but it may never enjoy the same kind of amazing momentum it has seen over the past five – with or without Jobs as CEO.