Thursday, August 25, 2011

TidBITS Tech News: The Steve Jobs Resignation FAQ

The Steve Jobs Resignation FAQ

When important Apple news bubbles up to the mainstream media, it's often distorted — or flat-out incorrect — by the time it pops out at the surface. Steve Jobs's resignation from Apple yesterday made the front pages of major news outlets, and the amount of ill-informed "analysis" is piling up.

So here's an overview of the facts, broken down into questions and answers, to make it easy to answer a friend, family member, coworker, or anyone else who doesn't follow Apple and has only heard quick news snippets. Feel free to send them this article by clicking the Email button above, or by copying this link and pasting it into your favorite email program:

Question: Is Jobs no longer involved at Apple?

Answer: Although he has stepped down as CEO, Jobs was elected by Apple's board of directors to be Chairman of the Board. Apple has said that he will continue to contribute to Apple's products and directions, no doubt on his own schedule.

Question: Who is replacing Jobs? Is he any good?

Answer: Apple's board of directors announced that, following its succession plan, Jobs will be replaced by Tim Cook, previously Apple's chief operating officer. Cook has worked at Apple for 13 years, and each time Jobs has taken a medical leave of absence, Cook has ably taken over Apple's reins.

Q: Does this mean the iPhone 5/iPad 3/Mac Pro/iPod touch will be delayed?

A: No. Apple has been functioning without Jobs as the active CEO since January 2011, and they've done quite well, both in terms of releasing products and in continued stellar financial results. (See "Apple Reports Q3 2011 Record Financial Results ," 19 July 2011.)

Q: What about future products? Can anyone replace Jobs's vision?

A: No one can be the "next Steve Jobs," and neither Jobs nor Apple seems interested in finding one. Instead, new CEO Tim Cook and the rest of the executive team will guide Apple according to their own strengths. As John Gruber so aptly put it, "Jobs's greatest creation isn't any Apple product. It is Apple itself."

Q: Is Steve Jobs's health suddenly dire?

A: We don't know, and frankly, extensive speculation by anyone other than Jobs's family and doctors is irresponsible. It's possible that Jobs is pulling back to focus on other things, or that his health has gotten worse. Jobs has received treatment for pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant, and he stepped away from active duty as CEO in January 2011 due to health reasons. But he also appeared on stage to introduce the iPad 2 in March 2011 and at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in June 2011.

According to an article by Walt Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal, "To be very clear, Jobs, while seriously ill, is very much alive. Extremely well-informed sources at Apple say he intends to remain involved in developing major future products and strategy and intends to be an active chairman of the board... His health is reported to be up and down, and even an active chairman isn't the same as a CEO."

Q: Is this the End of Apple as We Know It?

A: Certainly not. The executives that Jobs has surrounded himself with have been with the company for many years and have been executing Apple's vision both while Jobs has been the day-to-day CEO and during his leaves of absence.

Also, if you look at Apple's recent history of products, you'll see that years of groundwork were laid to reach the point we're at now. Consider the iPad as an example. Apple began work on the iPad well before 2007; the multi-touch interface and a few initial apps showed promise, but the company chose to take that work and develop the iPhone instead. The lessons learned from the iPhone, and the foundation for creating and running the App Store, led to the iPad in 2010. Compare that to companies like HP, Samsung, and RIM, who have unsuccessfully rushed tablets to market since the iPad was introduced.

We're certain Apple has a secret roadmap that extends a few years into the future. And the company has been actively working to sustain its unique corporate ethos. In 2009, former Dean of the Yale School of Management Joel Podolny joined Apple to head Apple University, which, according to an extensive feature in Fortune magazine is an internal program that documents and teaches how the company functions and makes important decisions.

Of course it's possible, even likely, that Apple will change over the years, but that's to be expected. The Apple of today is significantly different than the Apple of 1985, when Jobs last left Apple, the Apple of 1996 when he returned to Apple, and even the Apple of 2006, before the iPhone was released. But change is one of the things Apple has done best.

As ever, we wish Jobs the best possible health, and if you have any other questions, please ask them in the comments and we'll address them as is feasible.