The Blog

Jan 14, 2009

Farewell, Steve Jobs 

by Maxim Porges @ 10:15 PM | Link | Feedback (0)

As I'm sure you will have seen in the news today, Steve Jobs announced his decision to take a leave of absence from Apple to focus on his health, with plans to return to the company in June 2009. However, as sad as it may be for Apple fans to accept, I believe that this is the last we will see of Steve Jobs at Apple in the role we have come to know him since his return to the company in 1997.

Steve has done an amazing job restoring the company back to its former glory in the last eleven years. Apple is back on the rise, with recent reports indicating that Macs make up 10% of the world's computers; this is astonishing considering that they were in the low single digits before Steve's return. Add to this the roaring success of Apple's music business with the iPod and iTunes, and the sensation they caused with the portable computer-with-a-phone that is the iPhone, and you have one hell of a legacy for any CEO to claim proud ownership to.

Steve narrowly escaped death several years ago during his brush with pancreatic cancer. The strain Steve contracted of this normally incurable and fatal disease turned out instead to be a rare and treatable form, but his battle with it has clearly taken a physical toll from which he may never fully recover. Many are speculating that his latest problems, while not a resurgence of the cancer, are side effects of his former condition.

So, what will the future hold for Apple? I believe more of the same success they have had in the recent past, although perhaps with slightly less personality than they have had with Steve at the helm. Many do not realize that Tim Cook ran Apple for some time while Steve was secretly dealing with cancer, and nobody knew the difference. There's no reason why things should be different now, especially since Apple is so much stronger now than they were during their last stint without Steve.

Steve's role at Apple is a visionary one in which he makes decisions about the long term direction and strategy for the company in a world of technology that is constantly changing. But Steve's not writing code, building hardware, creating marketing pieces, or managing the daily operation of Apple's vast network of stores. People need to realize that the team Apple has built in recent years is capable of doing all of these things independently of Steve, and doing them very well. One need only watch a video of Jonathon Ive describing one of Apple's products to see that the passion, talent, and ability for sheer greatness at Apple is not limited to Steve Jobs alone.

So, while Apple will certainly be different without Steve, they won't be so different as to not be able to continue their present successful course. I can easily see Steve staying on with Apple as a member of the board, lending his insight and strategic vision to the company while Tim Cook and the rest of the executives continue to operate Apple as a media-savvy, cash-rich, and quality-conscious powerhouse.

I can't pretend to not be saddened by this turn of events. My life has been enriched by Apple's products, without which I'd be forced to languish in Linux, wallow in Windows, poke at an inscrutable interface on any of the hundreds of crappy mobile devices out there, and/or deal with second-rate productivity software instead of the polished beauty of OS X and its surrounding apps. As a technology professional, my world is truly better because of what Apple has brought to the market. Having been a Mac user for the past eight years, I find myself leaning toward the qualities of Apple's best products when making decisions about the software that my team is building at Highwinds: simplicity, immediacy, and beauty.

But enough about Apple. Steve Jobs was one of two guys who literally changed the course of the world in the late eighties. Steve has almost singlehandedly added a strong force of yang to the technology industry's many proponents of yin. He's also a husband and a father, and at the present time a human being dealing with the scary proposition of health problems in the time of his life when he should instead be looking forward to a long and well-deserved retirement.

They say that the light that burns twice as bright lasts half as long, but I sincerely hope this is not the case for Steve Jobs. I wish him both a speedy recovery and a long and happy life.