A year after Steve Jobs

The tech industry lost one of its most influential visionaries a year ago. During his lifetime Steve Jobs changed the course of at least three industries – technology, music and animation movies. He revolutionized how we interacted with computers with the Macintosh, changed the way we accessed and played music with iTunes and iPod, and with Pixar he took animation movies to a different level all together. It was he who came up with the iPhone that changed the entire smartphone industry. It was under him that Apple launched the iPad, a product segment that never existed in true terms earlier. Today tablets are outpacing PC shipment growth rates globally. It is hard to imagine the segment did not exist three years ago. A year after his death, we still hear about what Jobs would have done or who would be the next Steve Jobs. Of course, names keep getting tossed around but people like him come once in a century.

Ever since Jobs stepped down as Apple’s CEO, everyone questioned whether Apple could perform without him? A year down the line, Apple has never looked stronger. Under Tim Cook’s leadership Apple’s stock has grown by almost 80 percent, making Apple the largest technology company on the planet with a market cap a little shy of $630 billion. Apple has had record quarters and its iPhone 5 is the fastest selling iPhone model ever. Things are looking good at the moment but the company still faces some key challenges.

The biggest question on everyone’s mind is whether Apple can continue to innovate and create new markets like it did under Jobs. Is the current team at Apple capable enough of coming up with a revolutionary product rather than evolutionary updates?

The second thing that the current leadership probably lacks is Jobs’ ability to say no and not letting something pass till he was completely satisfied. Apple might have been able to avert the current maps fiasco had there been someone at the top that ruthlessly criticized his own team and pushed them to perform without committing sins like the current Apple maps. The fear of Jobs as well as the respect Apple employees had for him (we cannot let him down) seems to be missing with the current leadership.

Finally, Cook won’t just have to continue rallying his troops behind him but also ensure the company’s star players stick around. He faced a problem earlier this year when Apple’s hardware chief Bob Mansfield announced his plans to retire. He was supposed to be succeeded by Dan Riccio, Apple’s vice president of iPad hardware engineering, but Cook managed to convince Mansfield to stay on for a while longer. News trickling out earlier this week indicates Cook offered Mansfield a salary of $2 million a month as Mansfield’s hardware team complained about reporting to Riccio. How long would Cook manage to keep his superstars on Apple’s rosters remains to be seen.

Having said that, Apple’s best days are far from over. The company is expected to come out with its television sometime next year, which Jobs revealed to Walter Isaacson, who quoted him as saying that he had finally cracked the TV. Jobs’ legacy continues to live on within Apple and who knows, he might just change one more industry even after he’s gone!

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