Life after steve jobs: has apple lost its core

I found myself deliberating on something unexpectedly the other night. I was thinking about buying the iPad-which I’ve wanted for a long time-and it occurred to me: What’s the future of Apple?

Previously, the issue was whether I should I invest in iOS and start the conversion over from a lifetime on Windows. After all, my dad was a 30-year IBM vet, which put food on the table and paid my tuition. I grew up seeing mammoth mainframes, punchcards…glowing green DOS. No Apples of any color in our Big Blue household.

But on this occasion, it wasn’t a question of brand loyalty. It was the obvious: the loss of Steve Jobs.

I still find myself processing his passing both emotionally and practically. I remember how the AP alert popped up on my phone and it literally felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I admired him for living authentically, taking billion dollar gambles on ideas, picking himself up after billion dollar failures, and holding steadfast (stubborn?) to his vision.

I’m convinced his near-religious zeal over every minutiae of product design stemmed from the same social ethic that led to Apple’s creation: to make computers so easy and user-friendly that everyone could benefit from computing’s powerful potential. Not just the technical, highly-educated and elite. Computers for Everyman.

Attention to detail. Risk-taking. Singular focus. These are among the core values of the Apple brand. As I considered buying the iPad, I wondered: Are these values sufficiently infused in Tim Cook and the company DNA to continue on without Steve? Or will Apple employees slowly lose direction like followers of the North Star left without guide over too many cloudy nights?

The only constant in life is change, it’s said. And over the next 3-5 years, it’s going to be interesting to watch every stakeholder in the Apple ecosystem silently cast their vote about the saliency of the brand, and collectively determine the company’s future.

Consumers will judge with their pocketbooks whether iDevices remain revolutionary. Enterprises will decide to invest in the iPad…or not. Talent will vote with their pen, signing job offers from Apple…or not. App developers will watch marketshare and and competing platforms’ ability to drive revenue with app discovery and merchandising technologies. Suppliers will re-evaluate their strategic alliances and preferred partners.

And investors? Competitors like Google? Watching all of these subtle harbingers like hawks.

Acutely aware of his fragile mortality, Steve Jobs must surely have accelerated his succession planning and spent hours meditating on how best to expand a corporate culture of entrepreneurialism. I can only begin to imagine the burden of responsibility he (like all CEOs) must have felt to maintain job security for the nearly 50,000 Apple employees worldwide. And not the least, the utter determination he must have felt privately to ensure that his vision…his passion… continued beyond his lifetime. This was a man who worked on Apple until his last day.

In a 2008 interview with CNN Money, Jobs confirmed: “I mean, some people say, ‘Oh, God, if [Jobs] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble.’ And, you know, I think it wouldn’t be a party, but there are really capable people at Apple. My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do.”

Time will tell.

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Life after steve jobs: has apple lost its core