Steve Jobs Exits Apple

The abrupt departure of Steve Jobs from Apple marks the end of an era, although his leaving is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the company’s product line, according to analysts.  Jobs, 56, submitted his resignation to the Cupertino, CA-based Apple board of directors and asked that they name chief operating officer Tim Cook as his successor.  In announcing his resignation, Jobs said he wanted to stay on as chairman and an Apple employee.  “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs said.  “Unfortunately, that day has come.  I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.  And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.”  Jobs has been on medical leave from the company since early this year.

Jobs, who has been treated for pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant, rocked Silicon Valley with his decision.  Recently, Hewlett-Packard said it was exploring options to sell or spin off its multi-billion-dollar PC division just as the PC industry was celebrating its 30th anniversary.  Jobs played a key role in creating that industry.  “Hewlett-Packard has given up because of what Apple has done,” said Jay Elliot, a former Apple senior vice president who worked closely with Jobs from 1980 to 1985.  “The reality is this guy was so committed to making the best products in the world.”  Perhaps no tech figure in recent history carries as much power as or has made a greater imprint on his company than Jobs.  Since returning to Apple 14 years ago, he almost single-handedly has resurrected the company from near-extinction to a company worth more than $330 billion.

Apple is expected to unveil its iPhone 5 over the next few months and a new version of its popular iPad 2 tablet. Nevertheless, a smooth transition is likely.  Cook, 50, has earned praise for his steady leadership at Apple, acting as temporary CEO, while Jobs was on medical leave.  Apple is also renowned for its impressive group of engineers, marketers and other executives.

“The next wave of Apple products are well into the product-development cycle,” said Charles Golvin, analyst at Forrester Research.  “The next iPhone is certainly done.  The next iPad is certainly along the way.”

Writing in Computerworld, Jason Snell says that “The greatest fallacy in the story of Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO, the one you’ll find in endless media reports, is this: In 1985 after Steve Jobs left Apple, the company went on a downhill slide that led it to the brink of bankruptcy.  Therefore, the Apple of 2011 is at risk of doing the same.  But the flaw in the History Repeats Itself storyline being promoted in some corners as Jobs steps down as CEO is that the Apple of today is nothing like the Apple of 1985.  By 1997, Jobs ran Apple with absolute power, the kind of power he had never had during his first go-round at Apple.  Jobs was a co-founder, yes, and his time working with the original Macintosh team is the stuff of legend. But the Apple of 1985 wasn’t Steve Jobs’ company, not hardly.  When he took the interim CEO job more than a decade later, Jobs didn’t make that mistake again.  Older and wiser, and with the complete support of Apples board of directors, Jobs remade the company to his specifications.

“The iMac was a first quick sign of the turnaround.  The original iPod and the decision to open retail stores began the real momentum.  The release of the iPhone and the iPad marked Apple’s ascendance to what it is today:  The most important technology company in the world.  The Apple of today is hugely profitable, with tens of billions of cash, a 90 percent share of the tablet market, a rapidly growing smart phone business around the world, and the only truly profitable personal-computer franchise left.  This is where Steve Jobs leaves Apple as CEO: on top, with momentum to carry it further up.”

“The Macintosh turned out so well,” once told the New York Times, “because the people working on it were musicians, artists, poets and historians who also happened to be excellent computer scientists.”  The people who bought the first Apple Mac computers tended to be architects, designers and journalists.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who created the Apple Macintosh computers in the 1970s, came up with a line of products that – though initially clunky –appealed to buyers, and continue to excite those engaged in design and the media; those who were optimally placed to sow the Apple seed.

Bob Boilen of NPR’s “All Songs Considered, offers this perspective. “I find the news of Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple’s CEO particularly sad.  In some ways, I feel something like I felt when The Beatles broke up.  Sure, I’d always have the band’s music, but damn, what a special time.  What special chemistry.  It will never be the same.  We listen to music in the 21st century in a profoundly different way than we did in the 20th century.  And, though Apple didn’t invent the portable music player, the vision of Steve Jobs (a music geek himself) and his company of designers and engineers changed our listening landscape dramatically in 2001 with iTunes and the iPod.  Some of those ways are wonderful: Portability of huge libraries, shuffling, quick access to millions of songs, and custom playlists are a few of the upsides.  For some, shuffling may be a bittersweet downside, like compressed sound files or isolated listening, but I think the good far outweighs the bad.  Of course, Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but they sure made it work.  The creation of iTunes in January 2001, and later that year the release of the iPod, made organizing music, making playlists, and happy random accidents a listening joy.”