The Mac vs PC argument has been around for a long time. The argument goes around and around, generating plenty of heat and very little light. To my mind, the core issue was never one of Operating Systems or hardware – it is one of Ethos.
When Steve Jobs was running Apple, things were done his way. And it was his way or the highway. That was proved by the John Scully era, both positively and negatively.
With Steve gone, how is his ethos supposed to be maintained? Ultimately, I don’t actually think it can be. Sure they may have four years of designs and other projects and objects stored up to work on, develop and commercialise. But that is, and was, always beside the point.
Apple was intrinsically about value judgements, Steve’s value judgements.
Jobs considered it important that certain things were done certain ways. And as he said, it was the things he said NO to that he was often most proud of. To my estimation, that was never so much about hardware and the like, it was about business practices.
Apple doesn’t pay a dividend, it retains earnings (for strategic business reasons). Apple doesn’t (didn’t) release products prematurely – Steve didn’t care if it was necessary to hold back a product release and spend time and money reworking it until he was satisfied. As one article I read said: he would spend the time and money on tiny details that would have the CFO of other companies crying over their spreadsheets. For Steve, money was there to be spent – on the things that HE considered important.
The unique thing always was his particular take on what was important. That was always the thing that came up in any discussion of Jobs, just how different his values and take on things were. Obsessing about details that no-one else considered important. History shows that most often he was right.
Unfortunately, most often those anecdotes focus on minutiae that probably are relatively unimportant, while the big picture implications slide right on by most people. What Steve was really saying no to was greed, avarice and complacency. He was an enemy of the opportunist and the fraudulent. He didn’t care about making money for moneys sake. He certainly cared that people should pay money for value, but considered that to be an equal two way street. If you paid good money, then it was absolutely incumbent upon him to provide you with the very best that he could produce. Actually providing real value for money. (“one more thing” wasn’t just about neat new gizmo’s, it was also holistically about offering more, something extra beyond what you expected.)
There was no – close enough, good enough, or Microsoft approach… “what are they gonna do, go elsewhere, haha, sure it is crap, but we have got them locked in and can bleed them like a pig”.
And interestingly – by doing the Right thing, he was ultimately vindicated in his beliefs. That Microsoft managed to get to be as big as it did is an indictment, that Apple survived to eclipse Microsoft (and every other technology company) is the complete endorsement of him, and of genuine value.
But he is gone.
What is left is no doubt a wonderful legacy, and a mass and momentum that will endure for a long time. But it is also a concentration of human frailties – and an absolute mountain of CASH.
There is no way to stop the Jackals circling. And not just from industry competitors -they in fact are the least of the worries. Whatever moral delinquencies they may or may not have, they at least will be subject to market disciplines. The danger is rot and cancer from the inside.
With so much money sitting there in a pile at Apple, every crook, shyster and opportunist will have their eyes open for their chance to weasel and worm their way into grabbing a slice of it. But more, just ordinary people will contribute their share to the pressure and erosion of the Apple/Steve Jobs way. Shareholders will want a dividend (and then a bigger dividend – hey, we can afford it…). Exec’s will want bigger salaries and bonuses. Departments will want bigger budgets. Justifications will pour in for spending money on this or that (mainly self serving), then excuses will mount up for cutting corners or failing to execute. It is human nature.
Empire building within companies, arse covering, patch protection – it is what people do, it is why bureaucracies form and why they perform so badly. There are always reasons, justifications and excuses. The performance of most big corporations (and every government) in the world is a direct demonstration of this.
Apple was the shining exception – because Jobs wouldn’t accept it – and he was exceptional.
In the end though, Apple will succumb to human nature I think, unfortunately (and why I shed a tear for his passing).
It would be great – and amazing – if Steve’s vision of an Apple University could be brought to fruition, and did actually develop and educate personnel with ethics and morality modeled after his. The world is crying out for that sort of leadership and ethos.
A pity we have got what we have got.
Interesting that Jobs was a Buddhist – they have a theory regarding the great Buddha’s: that they come to us in a great cycle of thousands of years, that when they are here they spread wisdom and peace; and that with their passing, the world slowly loses its grace and reverts to a more brutal and ignorant state.
Until such time as the next great Buddha comes along, to bring hope and enlightenment back into the world…
Or I may have that completely wrong, haha… 😉
(Edit: on the other hand…)