After a decade of being the clear leader driving market trends in computing, Apple’s influence could wane in the post-Steve Jobs era, according to a thoughtful piece posted Tuesday at TG Daily.
Industry analyst Rob Enderle describes Apple’s amazingly diverse impact on wider market trends:
* The iPhone immediately became the gold standard for mobile phone manufacturers, resulting in an explosion of new devices and innovation across every mobile software platform;
* Apple created integration between power and graphics in computer processors that would not have been possible without the company’s commitment to OpenCL, a framework for writing programs that execute across CPUs and GPUs;
* Apple’s focus on design and higher margins resulted in the introduction of products such as the recently released Dell Adamo, a PC notebook designed and marketed to emulate Apple’s attention to every detail from the packaging inward, down to the absence of stickers promoting Microsoft Windows and Intel;
* The elegance of the user experience in Mac OS X virtually doomed OEMs’ embrace of Linux to a competition not with Apple but with Windows, an outcome which will affect the introduction of Google’s Android when it comes to market next year as well.
In short, Enderle writes, “Apple is at the core” of all recent change in the computer industry, that “as a result Apple’s efforts, the products we will see from a variety of vendors will be vastly more amazing than they otherwise would have been.”
None of the above is really subject to debate. Enderle goes on to question whether Apple can keep it up in the post-Jobs era, however, and this writer disagrees. Follow the jump to find out why.
Enderle sees the general lack of excitement from Apple’s last couple of release events, produced without Jobs, as indicative of waning leadership skills. He believes the introduction of Windows 7 may drive Apple — in the absence of Jobs — back to the position the company was in in the mid-90s. Now that other major vendors understand Apple’s approach, he writes, without Jobs or an apprentice who can continue his work, the changes we have seen in the past decade may stop coming.
It’s a given that no major corporation, in recent history, anyway, has been associated with a single individual the way Apple has been with Steve Jobs. And Apple will evolve into something different than it is today when Jobs’ influence becomes the stuff of legend rather than live and in person on a daily basis.
But even in the period of Steve Job’s greatest influence, Apple’s impact has come from the products themselves. If the products — the hardware and the software — as well as the business model of innovations such as iTunes and the AppStore, had not been transformative, the rest of the computer industry would not have been forced to innovate to stay competitive — no matter how brightly Steve Jobs’ personal aura shined in a keynote presentation.
And while no one waiting in the wings at Apple has the personal magnetism or child-like enthusiasm of Jobs on the presentation stage, as long as the company continues to innovate in the design studio and on the product front, because it is so far ahead of the competition today it should be able to continue driving innovation among the rest of the industry.
It says here that iPhone 3.0 and the inevitable iPhone hardware refresh are going to leave everyone scratching their heads, wondering how in the world to meet the new standard.
Enderle believes Windows 7 is going to be more like Win95 and less like Vista, but if Snow Leopard delivers a new user experience that continues to differentiate the Mac OS and helps increase the perceived value of Apple’s offering, Apple’s rich margins can be preserved and the company will retain the financial position it needs to perpetuate the cycle of design excellence and feature innovation that Steve Jobs put into motion.
People may one day grow tired of look-alike drones imitating the Steve Jobs dog and pony show, but they will never grow tired of using beautiful products that work the way they are supposed to work and that let people do cool things they never thought they might be able to do, or do so easily.
Apple, and the computer industry itself, ought to be less concerned with who may one day replace Steve Jobs and more with how to keep delivering ever more amazing products. And it doesn’t have to be three or four amazing new things a year, either. One or two every couple of years ought to do just fine.