Can Apple live without Steve Jobs

Would Steve Jobs be happy with Apple today? Of course not!

Stephan Wiesend

Apple founder Steve Jobs passed away seven years ago today, and many Apple fans miss him - and not without reason.

If the new macOS update fails or something goes wrong with the iPhone product launch, one hears again and again from old Apple users: "It would not have happened under Steve Jobs". This is no longer original, but there may be a grain of truth in it. In recent years we have missed Steve Jobs in a few Apple moments: We miss his undiplomatic opinions. Would he have reacted to the data scandals surrounding the well-known social network with a "Fuck Facebook"? Would he have made friends with Elon Musk or even become enemies?

Under the watchful eye of Steve Jobs, Apple seemed to be somehow tighter. Today, as an outsider, one could almost get the impression that Tim Cook's Apple has become "careless" every year. A function is not ready? Then it comes a little later and if something doesn't work during the keynote, the rule "shit happens!" Obviously applies. Tim Cook also makes a far gentler impression than his predecessor. However, this external impression is simply nonsense. Tim Cook has Apple under control as well as he did under Steve Jobs. It is above all the external impact that has suffered in recent years.

There are numerous biographies about Steve Jobs, such as the very rich one by Isaac Jacobson. Nevertheless, Steve Jobs still remains a perfect projection surface: Tyrannical managing directors can rely on him as well as college dropouts and developers whose “visionary” product has been rejected. Even Donald Trump is a fan and occasionally tweeted quotes from him. Would Apple really be a different company today under Steve Jobs?

Today everything seeps through

It is unthinkable that, under Steve Jobs, entire product groups would be known or leaked before the keynote. If Steve Jobs were still at the helm of the company, the launch of the iPhone X would have been a sensation.

The truth: Apple is no longer a small company, but a globally networked corporation. Especially when a new iPhone is introduced, there are too many subcontractors involved to guarantee confidentiality: it is easy to see when a customer suddenly buys one hundred million camera modules. These quantities can then only be Apple. But it looks different with internal data gaps - apparently an Apple employee had sent a final version of iOS 11 to journalists shortly before the iPhone X presentation. It is quite possible that the person in question would not have dared to do this under the resentful Steve Jobs. The current leaks before the iPhone XS keynote, however, must not be attributed to the sloppiness within Apple, but to the resourcefulness of journalists. Even Steve Jobs would not have thought that someone from outside could guess the corresponding picture links.

Political commitment

Steve Jobs has stayed out of politics, but in recent years Apple has been on a confrontation course with the US government. Tim Cook may seem a bit confused, but when it comes to compliance with data protection and the protection of privacy, he doesn't understand jokes. The main reason for this, however, is the increasing importance of iOS for Apple. With a mobile operating system, however, a high level of data security is essential and Apple sees it as a competitive advantage. However, this automatically leads to disputes with the FBI and the US government - who define privacy a little differently. A problem Apple didn't have before.

But what Steve Jobs would say about Donald Trump can only be guessed at, but we suspect few niceties. Steve Jobs' widow is an active opponent of the US president.

environmental Protection

Europeans often smile at the environmental protection initiatives of US companies, but Apple has made remarkable progress in recent years. Apple is making an effort to reduce CO2 emissions during production, transport, etc., paying attention to environmentally friendly packaging, among other things. A complete recycling system and the elimination of harmful substances are also real progress. But Apple is following a long tradition here, as Steve Jobs had already affirmed in an open letter in 2007, Apple's appreciation for environmental protection. During the numerous unpacking videos of the Apple Watch 4 or the iPhone XS, hardly anyone noticed that apart from screen film, Apple hardly ever uses plastic in the packaging.

The quality drops

An iPhone 8 inflates when charging, Macbook keys get stuck and the Apple Watch has problems with cellular communications: It would not have happened under Steve Jobs.

In our opinion, this is just a myth: if you remember old Apple products without being glorified, Apple still has a small tradition of “blemishes”. Jobs tolerated the introduction of the round iMac mouse, which was as unergonomic as the current Apple TV remote control, and the boombox is a better way of covering the cloak of silence. The iPhone 5 approved by Steve Jobs had its weaknesses, the iCloud forerunner Mobile Me was actually unreasonable for customers and the first iPads were so sparingly equipped with RAM that they could only be used for a few years. At least with the iPhones, Apple has not really made any real defects in recent years. This may even have been at the expense of innovation, for example, under the somewhat more risk-averse Steve Jobs, Apple might have relied on the somewhat treacherous OLED technology earlier.

What Apple has learned over the past few years is crisis management smart. Compare the antenna gate on the iPhone 4 and the battery failure at the end of 2017. In 2010, an extra keynote was called, the last one with Steve Jobs, by the way. The main tenor was: "You think that is wrong" and "Others have the same problems" - not particularly helpful for the users concerned. There was a free bumper afterwards as compensation, but that was about it. Not so with the battery breakdown in December 2017. Apple has openly admitted that the performance is throttled as soon as the battery weakens. At the same time it was also explained why this happens: The battery cannot provide the required energy when the power increases, an alternative would be the complete crash of the iPhone. Instead of a bumper, Apple has launched an exchange program for all iPhone models until the end of 2018, the customer pays just under 30 euros and gets his device back with the new original battery.

Sign of weakness: Apple informs about upcoming products

Unthinkable under Steve Jobs: Apple presented upcoming products to the press a few months ago. So the Mac Pro will appear at the end of the year. We wonder, however, whether Steve Jobs would not have considered these revelations necessary: ​​The announcements were necessary to keep professional Mac users involved. The current Mac Pro hardly offers enough power for video and audio professionals. In the absence of future prospects, far too many Mac users have already made the switch to the Windows platform - and will not return anytime soon. Apple has become a little more open to upcoming products in recent years. However, the increasing number of corporate customers makes this essential.

What we can hardly imagine under Steve Jobs - an important product from the portfolio is announced, the sale does not start at the same time with other devices, but six weeks later like the iPhone XR.

Micromanagement: Steve Jobs would no longer have control over Apple either

At the end of the 90s, Apple was still a comparatively small company. Only in this way was it possible for Steve Jobs to intervene personally in job interviews and ask applicants about their sex lives - or to ask if they had ever taken LSD. Even then, many consultants criticized this constant interference in foreign specialist areas as “micromanagement”. From the point of view of business economists, this is completely wrong behavior for a CEO, since he is supposed to deal with more important tasks. Even today Steve Jobs would be forced to stay out of a lot. Apple has grown so much over the past few years that Tim Cook has had to give the heads of its operations a lot more control than Steve Jobs would have liked. Some recently discontinued Apple projects might have benefited from a little micromanagement - one thinks that a Steve Jobs would suddenly have discovered the iCar topic for himself.

But modern forms of advertising such as influencers as a marketing tool could also find the company's founder's displeasure. Steve Jobs was known to have little appreciation for market research and consultants. According to Isaacson, he is said to have once said to a reporter: 'Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the phone?' ”However, this attitude was often misunderstood: Jobs thought it made little sense to search for new products through surveys . The reactions of users to a finished product were always observed very closely. Today, Apple also uses the diagnostic functions of iOS and macOS to improve the user experience.

Boring keynotes without Steve Jobs

But what we personally have been missing in the last seven years are great keynotes. Tim Cook is an excellent company boss and not only more successful than Steve Jobs from the shareholders' point of view. But nobody would trust him to generate a “reality distortion field”. Unfortunately, he can't hold a candle to Steve Jobs at a keynote speech, there is a little lack of glamor here. Phil Schiller, who lists all the new functions of an iPhone in a staccato manner, is authentic, but not a missionary. Is Craig Federighi a little too frivolous and playful on stage compared to Steve Jobs? As a successful company founder, Jobs simply had more authority than any manager or developer - even in the minds of the audience. Ultimately, however, one should not overestimate the importance of the keynotes. What ultimately counts for the Apple platform are the products presented.

The seventh anniversary of his death is certainly a good occasion to look at Jobs' old Stanford Commencement Address again.