Was Steve Jobs Really Irreplaceable? [Opinion]

Was Steve Jobs Really Irreplaceable? [Opinion]

Cook is doing a tremendous job as CEO, so was Jobs really irreplaceable?

When Steve Jobs passed away a little over year ago, he left Apple — the company he started in his parents’ garage back in 1976 — in the hands of Tim Cook, its former Chief Operating Officer.

The question on everyone’s lips at the time was how well Apple would fare without its co-founder at the helm. Jobs was unique. He was an innovator and a visionary, and he had this incredible ability to see into the future.

Jobs knew what we wanted — and what we didn’t — long before we did. He devised exciting new products that have changed our lives and sold in their millions, and he left rival companies playing catch-up. He revolutionized not just one, but a number of different industries.

He really did make a dent in the universe.

So naturally, when Jobs passed away, it was hard to imagine Apple without him. He had spent time away from Apple in the mid-eighties when John Sculley was CEO, and when he returned in 1996, his company was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Some feared that the same thing would happen again — that Apple would lose its way and struggle to maintain its edge without Jobs steering the ship in the right direction. But 12 months on, the company’s in a better position now than it’s ever been in.

So, was Steve Jobs really irreplaceable?

It’s been an incredible year for Apple — arguably the best ever. The company has gone from strength to strength, with hugely successful products like the iPad and the iPhone pushing its share price to new heights.

Cook hasn’t tried to emulate Jobs; he’s doing things he’s own way.

Back in August, Apple became the world’s most valuable publicly traded company of all-time, with its market capitalization reaching a whopping $619.37 billion. Since Cook took over, its stock price has climbed 79%.

There’s no doubt, then, that Cook has done a terrific job over the past 12 months. And he’s already making his mark on Apple. Cook hasn’t tried to emulate Jobs; he’s doing things he’s own way.

With that said, I don’t think Jobs was irreplaceable as a CEO or as a leader. But I certainly believe Apple has been missing something — a certain spark — since Jobs passed away. I think that is Jobs’s “reality distortion field” that we’ve heard so much about — his ability to sell a product no one else is really sure of, and to convince people to do things they didn’t want to do.

Digital music wouldn’t be what it is today without Jobs — period.

Look at the iTunes Store, for example. Digital music wouldn’t be what it is today without Jobs — period. Jobs convinced the record labels to sign up to a service they were reluctant to be a part of. They didn’t want to join the digital music revolution back then, and it was Jobs who convinced them that this was the way forward.

He did the same thing with the iPhone. Before the iPhone debuted in 2007, carriers had complete control over cell phones. Once they had been manufactured by Samsung or Nokia or Motorola or whoever, carriers then had the final say over what cell phones could and couldn’t do on their network — and they loaded them with terrible software nobody wanted on their phones.

Jobs convinced carriers to let Apple have complete control over the iPhone, and five years later, that’s still the case. When Apple releases a software update, you can install it straightaway — you don’t have to wait weeks for your carrier to test and approve it like Android users do.

Jobs’s fearless negotiation skills, and his no-nonsense attitude towards getting things done are things Apple has been missing since his death.

I can’t help but feel that Jobs would have ensured Apple’s new Maps service was complete before releasing it.

Take the recent Maps debacle, for instance: We know Jobs was responsible for putting together Apple’s Maps team, and the one who wanted to give Google Maps the boot. But I can’t help but feel he would have ensured Apple’s new service was complete — not just half-baked — before releasing it to the public.

We read about how Jobs pushed his staff to do the best work of their lives, and achieve incredible things within time scales they thought were impossible. Did the Maps team have that pressure and that motivation after Jobs’s death?

Then there’s FaceTime over cellular, one of Apple’s biggest improvements in iOS 6. Unlike most other carriers, AT&T has decided it’s going to force its customers to upgrade to new, more expensive shared data plans if they want to take advantage of the feature. Otherwise they simply cannot use it.

I don’t think Jobs would have allowed that to happen. This is one of the features Apple has been touting in all of its iOS 6 promotions, and a large portion of its customers cannot use it without changing their data plan. Jobs would have wanted a key feature like this to work “out of the box,” and I think he would have prevented AT&T from charging extra for it.

Or how about the Apple television, which is still yet to come to fruition? The biggest problem Apple’s having, according to the reports, is getting the television studios and cable companies to get on-board and allow Apple to show their content without the need for a set-top box.

If Apple still had Jobs’s negotiation skills, would those deals already be in place? Would the cable companies have been eager to sign up to the next big thing in television? He convinced the record labels and carriers to support Apple’s upcoming products and services — why couldn’t he have done the same with the cable companies?

Since Cook took hold of the reigns nearly every single piece of hardware the company has released was leaked prior to its unveiling.

How about all those leaks? I know there were leaks under Jobs — the most notable being the iPhone 4 — but I don’t ever remember them being this much of an issue. Apple was still regarded as the most secretive consumer electronics company there is.

Since Cook took hold of the reigns, however, nearly every single piece of hardware the company has released was leaked prior to its unveiling. And this is despite the fact that Cook said he was “doubling down” on secrecy.

We saw the display, components, and rear panels for the new iPad; components and front and rear panels for the iPhone 5; and now we’re seeing components and rear panels for the iPad mini.

Apple leaks have hit an all-time high, and I think that’s because component suppliers just aren’t scared of Apple anymore. Jobs would have come down hard on them for leaking these things, and I just can’t imagine Cook doing the same thing.

Jobs’s DNA is still engrained in his company.

It’s possible, probable even, that all of these problems would have been beyond Steve Jobs’s control too. The scope and size of Apple’s business now are absolutely unparalleled in the company’s history, and they may have proven too much for even a personality, an intellect and a vision as big as Steve’s.

One thing is for sure, though: with Steve at the helm, it always felt like he’d have the last word, that mistakes would ultimately be righted, and that the company’s prospects extended so far into the horizon they can’t even be dreamed of. It was the product of his irreplaceable Reality Distortion Field, and without it, Apple sometimes seems just a little less empowered than it was before.

Related
  • technochick

    No he is not. Even if someone else is CEO it is not Steve Jobs.

    Folks need to get off this notion of ‘the next Steve Jobs’ because it isn’t happening. There will never been anyone like him again. He is dead ad gone, move on. Stop with the ‘Steve wouldn’t’ and ‘Steve would’ crap. Stop using every little thing about him as hit fodder like a cheap tabloid. Stop expecting Apple to be exactly the same as it was. Yes he likely left plans for the next ten years behind and yes Cook will likely follow a lot of it. But he won’t follow it all and that is his right as CEO.

    and if folks can’t handle that they should just stop buying Apple’s ‘crap’ and stop reading about the company etc.

  • matrix3D

    “I don’t think Jobs would have allowed that to happen. This is one of the features Apple has been touting in all of its iOS 6 promotions, and a large portion of its customers cannot use it without changing their data plan. Jobs would have wanted a key feature like this to work “out of the box,” and I think he would have prevented AT&T from charging extra for it.”

    Uh, but he did let it happen with tethering (personal hotspot). What makes you think it would have been any different with FaceTime over cellular?

  • ipadman89029

    What has cook really done? He is only improving the devices left behind by Steve jobs. When cook and apple create a totally new device that has never been seen and it is better than any device jobs and apple had created then cook will have a true reason to be the predecessor to jobs.

  • Gregory Wright

    We are all replaceable and don’t forget it.

  • marsk

    Ever since Steve Jobs passing, everyone became Steve Jobs now to judge and pick on Apple everyday.

  • wesleyvercammen

    Yes, is the answer.

  • christophirefl

    Is within our human nature to constantly compare people with one another. Naturally this is even obvious when the person involved is a character such as Steve Jobs, who, as you said left his mark in the Universe. And now he’s recognized as not only a great leader but some sort of tech guru. A business savvy kind of guy and a perfectionist in all the extension all the word, among many other key trademarks of his personality. But he did had some mistakes as all humans have. Some of them once affected Apple, but he managed both his team and the audience view, to focus more on his achievements rather than his errors.

    The fact is that no one is replaceable. Nor is Steve Jobs, nor is Tim Cook or just about anyone for that matter. This is not The Expendables movie we’re talking about. Of course when it comes to big companies or huge corporations, we like to go with the mainstream and maybe more practical term of “replaceability” when the truth is humans are not machines. But again is our human nature to be prone to criticize the efforts of a woman/man who has taken an important role as an Apple CEO is, specially when has been led by such a charismatic figure as Jobs.

    For instances, when Freddie Mercury died, no one would dare to think of someone who could replace such a frontman, or Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham. But that’s not been the case of Steve Hogarth, who step in as the new vocalist for Marillion after an outstanding job from Fish. Even Mike Mangini now sits as Dream Theater’s drummer “replacing” founding member Mike Portnoy, despite numerous complains from fans. So in the end, such though decisions of whether or not to continue is up to the people that are left.

    Maybe it seems kind of lame comparing the music “industry” to Apple, still is a nice proof that no one would “replace” anyone. Fans still love Fish or Portnoy’s work. But bands have to move on. The same holds true for Apple. It has to move on forward, even without Steve Jobs’ persona. To speculate on how he would have managed the maps issue or any other is only a mind exercise but somehow futile. Reminds me of a now defunct Marvel Comics’ line called What If? in which both writers and artists fantasize on different scenarios of past events and how would have changed the future (present) as it is right now.

    Since no one has yet announced a time traveling machine other than Love we need to stop thinking Steve Jobs this, Steve Jobs that. Wasn’t he the one who put Tim Cook in charge after all. He truly believed he was the right one for the job (no pun intended haha) and as you nicely pinpointed, he’s truly doing great IMHO in spite of some minor flaws. So in case you’re wondering why I’ve mentioned Love as the time machine. It’s because it’s true. It’s embedded within our memory of the things we love, and the people behind those feats as Apple history and products are. Steve Jobs now has crossed the threshold for the better. We might as well have to start to think different! ; ) when it comes to comparing people.

    Nevertheless, congratulations on your article. Good day to you and the readers as well.

  • Kayneeezy

    Yes he is irreplaceable. Steve already did all the hard work, laid the foundation, now all they have to do is not screw it up..

  • djkikrome

    I remember reading that Steve left a plan years into Apple’s future for them to follow after his death. So technically, Apple is still run under Steve’s vision. When it moves beyond that, we will see what Apple is capable of doing with out his vision and influence.

  • Lady_Trillian

    Can Steve Jobs be replaced? Yes. He was replaced by Elon Musk. Long live Elon, a true innovator. Steve Jobs was just a good old fashion lying cheating thief of a business man, who likely would not shake the hands of most of the people who bought his products. Yeah, stop giving that XXXX so much praise. Damn!

  • iSteve

    Under Steve, secrecy was holy but with Tim, secrecy has been blasphemed.

    I think Tim is changing slowly the core values of Apple set by Steve.

    Also the “WOW” effect has been blown away under Tim and there is no more “one more thing”.

    That’s really sad..

  • iSteve

    Can Steve Jobs be replaced? Yes. He was replaced by Elon Musk. Long live Elon, a true innovator. Steve Jobs was just a good old fashion lying cheating thief of a business man, who likely would not shake the hands of most of the people who bought his products. Yeah, stop giving that Hitler-esque piece shit so much praise. Damn!

    Hey Trillian,

    Beat the crap. I’m sure you must be deranged to criticize Steve. Get yourself treated!

  • Shaun Green

    Nobody is irreplaceable. The world keeps turning, new innovators come along. That’s evolution.

    “Digital music wouldn’t be what it is today without Jobs – period.” Many would argue that the music industry has gone backwards since the start of the digital revolution. A generation of kids are growing up listening to crappy compressed music (Steve was responsible for that) rather than quality sound. Bands make little or no money from record sales now which is why we have a dearth of real talent and the resultant falling music sales. The digital “revolution” has turned music into a throw-away commodity like a cheeseburger which is why the charts are littered with talentless drones singing disposable pop. Gone are the days when generations of kids would follow their favourite bands from album to album, growing with them, learning to appreciate quality music. That is a giant leap backwards IMHO.

  • RadTech5000

    Apple will continue to be successful regardless of Steve Jobs and I think Tim Cook is doing a great job. Calm down everyone the sky is not falling as some people would lead you to believe. LoL

  • donnpattenden

    I remember reading that Steve left a plan years into Apple’s future for them to follow after his death. So technically, Apple is still run under Steve’s vision. When it moves beyond that, we will see what Apple is capable of doing with out his vision and influence.

    Jobs was a dynamic leader. A dead man’s plan is static.

    As long as we’re in the Post-PC Era, Apple will be fine. But the Post-Post-PC Era? That’s anyone’s game.

  • Gary R McCray

    Yes Steve Jobs is irreplaceable.

    That may or my not be a bad thing.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the UK. He has an interest in all things tech, but most enjoys covering Apple, anything mobile, and gaming. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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