The Next Steve Jobs Will Destroy Apple

Brian S Hall / January 6th, 2014

Apple is the biggest tech company in the world, worth at least $100 billion more than either Microsoft or Google. Apple has over 350 million active users. Within a few short years, I suspect a billion people will be using Apple computers every single day.

How did this happen? Thus: Steve Jobs proved us all wrong.

steve_jobs-wideIn so many ways, ways we now take for granted, ways that Google and Microsoft are rapidly trying to copy, it was Jobs who showed us the way — even as we all were convinced of his wrongness. Jobs proved us wrong not just on technical matters, but on profound aspects of both technology and business.

A few examples of Steve Jobs proving us all wrong:

  1. Building a global retail chain
  2. Requiring customers to pay for content
  3. Demanding high-margins for hardware
  4. Choosing margin share over market share
  5. Emphasizing design over commoditization
  6. Building a touchscreen-only line of computers
  7. Banishing pornography

All of these were business decisions that went against the accepted order. All were correct.

In this same way, Jobs taught us — for we did not initially believe — that:

  1. The big money resides at the top of the pyramid
  2. Walled gardens and well-controlled APIs are the future of the web
  3. Existing standards and popular features are of almost no consequence
  4. There is more money in consumer computing than the enterprise
  5. Set prices, clearly stated, benefit buyer and seller
  6. The web — websites, web pages, web standards — is less important than apps
  7. More users, more developers, more content providers directly benefit from a closed ecosystem than an open one

iphone_3g_s

And here we are today, following decades of Jobs wandering the wilderness, steadfastly implementing the many and varied pieces of his mad grand vision.

Now, developers choose Apple first, others second (if at all).  Apple towers above Microsoft. Apple isn’t just the biggest computing company, it may also be the world’s biggest, most popular, most profitable gaming company. Symbian, BlackBerry, Palm, Motorola and Windows Phone have been crushed by iPhone. Dell has gone private. HP remains MIA. Jobsian tremors are still being felt across multiple industries as content, data, apps and services all collapse inside the iPhone — or its copiers.

In what turned out to be one of his very last shareholder letters, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke with language clearly influenced by Jobs:

“We will continue to work with a vast ecosystem of partners to deliver a broad spectrum of Windows PCs, tablets and phones. We do this because our customers want great choices and we believe there is no way one size suits over 1.3 billion Windows users around the world. There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface. In all our work with partners and on our own devices, we will focus relentlessly on delivering delightful, seamless experiences across hardware, software and services. This means as we, with our partners, develop new Windows devices we’ll build in services people want. Further, as we develop and update our consumer services, we’ll do so in ways that take full advantage of hardware advances, that complement one another and that unify all the devices people use daily. So right out of the box, a customer will get a stunning device that is connected to unique communications, productivity and entertainment services from Microsoft as well as access to great services and applications from our partners and developers around the world.”

And, breathe…

Understand, I do not come here to mock Ballmer. Nor should the Apple faithful: Tim Cook is probably more like Ballmer than Jobs, after all. Besides, Ballmer did far too much to benefit the company he so dearly loved. And yet, in that single paragraph above, where Ballmer references billions of users, seamless experiences, delight, the integration of hardware and software, sounding so much like Steve Jobs, he grounds everything in the obvious, and the near-term. Contained within that same single paragraph Ballmer specifically mentions…Windows, PCs, tablets, phones, Windows, Xbox, Surface, Windows, Microsoft, partners, partners, partners, partners, and developers.

Ballmer’s statement is the beatification of the current product set, the glorification of the existing order, and fully aligned with the rational. This is not surprising. It’s nearly impossible to not be rational. Certainly this is true if you are the CEO of a publicly traded company.

Steve Jobs was not rational. His vision of the future was not dependent upon existing products, existing form factors, partners, developers, nor the established wisdom.

I lived through the years when Microsoft absolutely controlled the direction of personal computing. I was there for the rise of Google — and its destruction of the value of content and user privacy. I would not have dared believe that the radical visions of Steve Jobs would so thoroughly flourish in this world. It’s all so profoundly non-rational.

Steve Jobs was firm in his vision, proudly revolutionary, shrewd enough to avoid the trappings of both success and failure, and fully prepared to prove all of us completely wrong, no matter how long it took.

I am sorry for ever having doubted him.

All of which is prologue to the obvious: Apple is today’s monolith. All must acknowledge, possibly fear, every move Apple makes, each market it enters. We hang on the company’s every word, spin tales from its silence, and have grown comfortable in the knowledge that, as is the new natural order of things, Apple will succeed with each new release, each blessed launch.

Which is prologue to the less obvious: The next Steve Jobs, when she or he finally arrives, will have Apple squarely in their sites. Then blow it to bits.

Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about mobile devices, crowdsourced entertainment, and the integration of cars and computers. His work has been published with Macworld, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, ReadWrite and numerous others. Multiple columns have been cited as "must reads" by AllThingsD and Re/Code and he has been blacklisted by some of the top editors in the industry. Brian has been a guest on several radio programs and podcasts.
  • Rudolf Charel

    Unless he/she works for Apple.

    • Disagree.
      In fact, if ‘the next Steve Jobs’ works at Apple, he or she will almost certainly want to profoundly remake it.

      • Rudolf Charel

        But then, he would not be able to blow it to bits now, would he. He did not when he came back the first time. Profoundly remake, yes, but “blow to bits” is too much to ask.

      • Space Gorilla

        Then that person wouldn’t be the next Steve Jobs. Jobs was a pragmatist and shaped Apple to follow that path. No true pragmatist would radically alter Apple, because that would mean no longer doing what works best.

  • RAZ

    Jobs chose strategies that have worked well for Apple, which are not necessarily the strategies best suited to all companies. Demanding high margins and choosing margin share, and being successful at garnering both, is one way to thrive. In my own small non-tech company I choose to go this route and am successful. But Samsung does it differently, Amazon does it differently.

    I’m impressed with both Whole Foods and Costco, and shop at them both. Both are successful despite vastly different business models.

  • Mauryan

    The web — websites, web pages, web standards — is less important than apps
    From what I have read and heard, Steve Jobs did not like the idea of apps. He had to be convinced of it by his subordinates and he agreed to it reluctantly. Then the apps market took off beyond anyone’s imagination. Steve Jobs is credited unnecessarily with many things he did not invent or think of. In his biography some of his employees say that he would hear of their ideas, reject them and then later on claim them as his own. He was a cranky person with no people skills or managerial talent. He is one of the luckiest people who got away with his limitations. He was a terrible manager (tyrant to be precise), betrayed his friends without any thought, did things unconventionally and they clicked. So now, like the emperor’s new clothes, everything he did is projected as an act of a great visionary. He was a cranky icon, who could have been a homeless shelter. He was on the edge. He is no engineer. He is no computer scientist. He is no manager. And he was thrown out of Apple initially for the qualities that did not fit with people management. Steve Jobs is a classic example of sheer luck where whatever he touched turned into gold and so people place a crown on his head for being a genius who always called the bluff correctly. He made risky decisions that could have backfired as well. Initially it was his policy of vertical integration that made Apple disappear from the PC industry to the fringe. Different ideas and polices work based on the realm in which they operate. The mobile platform works well for vertically integrated approach. Even the iPod is not Steve’s idea. Anyway, he somehow made it to the top and could call the shots. Somehow he did things very unconventionally and things worked. It is not a model for everyone to emulate. Because everyone does not have the luck he was riding on.

    • Don’t confuse personality with results.

      • Mauryan

        “Apple” was synonymous with “Steve Jobs”. Things sold because of his name and image. Apple is a very creative company and that talent has always been there and will be there. My opinion is that Steve Jobs created the company and his quirky nature worked. If every time you roll the dice and you are able to call it right, it can create an impression of you having psychic powers. It happens sometimes. Apple will do great and I don’t think they will ever allow another Steve Jobs in. One was more than enough.

    • GlennC777

      Mauryan, I think you have got Jobs completely backwards. You are correct in many details but absolutely incorrect, in my opinion, in what you make of them.

      Jobs had the ability to see things, sometimes, that nobody else could. He drew from a unique combination of raw intelligence and what might be called intuition, or judgment (we don’t really have a word for his ability to integrate his understandings from many spheres of human activity into sharp insights on one generally un-related one). Saying that he wasn’t an engineer is like saying that Henry Ford wasn’t a mechanic.

      I am personally in Steve Jobs’ debt because of the many small ways in which his insistence on quality and on the user experience has improved my life. “Visual voicemail” is something I benefit from every day, although imagine many people now take it for granted. I still love iTunes, because it made it possible for me to discover and buy music on vastly better terms than the opaque, greedy “old” music industry wanted to allow. Like everybody, I used to hate trackpads, those tiny, barely-usable little rectangles of agony that laptops came with; until Jobs’ Apple turned them into the immensely intuitive and useful multi-touch devices of today: I use one of Apple’s trackpads even with my desktop, it having supplanted my old Apple mouse – itself another Jobs innovation (no, he didn’t invent it; there’s a difference between invention and innovation).

      Jobs wanted things to be better, and he made them better. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Tim Cook as a leader for Apple, and I’m not sure I agree overall with the main thesis of Brian Hall’s article, here, but Jobs was absolutely brilliant in the ways in which he was gifted. You needn’t be the type to throw out “genius” too easily to legitimately credit him with that distinction. He many not have been a good manager in the traditional sense, but he inspired people to help him do great things, which is good enough if you ask me.

      If anything, I think his one greatly under-appreciated genius was his ability to negotiate and convince. The “reality distortion field” he created was a product of his whole-minded devotion to the things that he believed would make things better, and without it iTunes – and the ability to buy almost any song, by itself, for a dollar – along with the original Apple II and the reinvention, literally, of entire industries, would not have been possible.

      That is one thing I’m not sure Tim Cook has, but Apple is a mature company now, and although it would be nice to have it, I don’t think he needs it. I admire Apple, I admire Steve Jobs, and I admire Tim Cook. All three have done great things, all three have made things better for us, and the two that are still here among us, I am quite certain, have plenty left to give.

    • JKL

      After introducing the iPhone but before it went on sale SJ said numerous time that Apple was working on a way to bring 3rd party apps to the iPhone. He had nothing against apps but insisted that the priority was shipping the iPhone first, App Store after that. It’s called focus.

    • Steve Jobs is credited unnecessarily with many things he did not invent or think of.

      Except for the fact that Steve Jobs created the company staffed with hand picked talent that challenged him and his vision regularly and allowed Apple to be as successful as it is.

      Steve Jobs is a classic example of sheer luck

      Bullshit.

      • Sean Farrow

        Steve Jobs is the classic example of an evil man who got what was coming to him.

  • Space Gorilla

    What Steve Jobs/Apple did and are doing is fairly simple: Do what works best. Sounds easy, but the execution of that is incredibly hard. Even Apple fails at it sometimes. Apple’s approach to computing has always and continues to follow this path, with hiccups here and there of course, but it all comes down to making the computer for the rest of us, doing what works best, simplifying, abstracting the computer, making it an appliance.

    I’m fascinated by how many people argue against Apple’s approach and still believe it is wrong, even with the reality of Apple’s success right in front of them. It’s as if they refuse to believe that Apple has actually succeeded. And even the ones that admit Apple is successful, they attempt to explain away Apple’s success. It was luck. Marketing. Mass hypnosis. A fashion trend. And on and on with the excuses.

  • Herding_sheep

    The “next” Steve Jobs will probably not be in the same market Apple is in. The consumer technology industry already HAD its Steve Jobs. Someone like Steve Jobs only comes around once in our lifetime, so when that next profound anti-conforming visionary leads the way, it will be long after Apple has been dominating consumer technology. It will be in some new emerging industry that we have yet to even imagine.

    I’m not saying there aren’t many many smart people right now and in the future that will become influential in the consumer tech market. Its just going to be hard to top Steve Jobs. He laid the railroads, its already been completed. The most someone can do is build off the foundation thats been laid by Jobs. The next time a new foundation will be laid, a new set of rules/paradigms solved, will be in something completely different.

    There’s also the chance that this next visionary will end up leading Apple. We love to give Jobs credit for his vision, but it seems people give Jobs less credit for his ability to build an incredible organization that can grow and learn on its own. I have no doubts in my mind of Apples abilities without Steve Jobs, because well, Steve Jobs built the damn company. And being a true leader, which means building an organization and culture, was one of Jobs’ strongest gifts.

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree (and touched on that above) that Jobs does not get the credit he deserves for his business acumen.

    • Space Gorilla

      If I had to place a bet, I’d say the next ‘Steve Jobs’ will be in energy. All the pieces are there, but it’ll take a couple decades at least to put everything together before we see a disruption. Right now in energy we’re kinda in the ‘dominant Windows’ stage, when everything was clunky and awkward, functional but not smart or elegant.

  • JoeS54

    The flawed premise here is that Apple and/or Jobs were somehow “disruptive” revolutionaries “challenging the status quo”. That’s not what they did. They didn’t upset existing products, they developed new types of products where none existed. The way Jobs succeeded in his second tenure at Apple was by not competing with Microsoft – and getting into areas where Microsoft had little interest. Apple essentially became a consumer electronics company. Music players and smart phones are a much better fit for Jobs’s vision of computing than full-powered, full-featured PCs.

    By breaking technology down into bite-sized chunks, you can make a really useful and usable consumer device. The “walled garden” is a plus in that environment, where it’s a detriment in the much more open world of traditional PCs and the internet.

    Therefore, the “next Steve Jobs” won’t destroy Apple, just as Apple has not destroyed Microsoft. The “next Steve Jobs” will come up with some new way of doing things that no one had previously succeeded in.

    The only “revolution” Jobs participated in was the same one Bill Gates and numerous others participated in – personal computing. Bringing computers to the masses. And that happened 30 years ago.

    • Your line is great: “Therefore, the “next Steve Jobs” won’t destroy Apple, just as Apple has not destroyed Microsoft. The “next Steve Jobs” will come up with some new way of doing things that no one had previously succeeded in.”

    • Quicksingle

      This article is about Apple and it`s amazing success story. No need to deride Google. I strongly disagree that Bing is equal to Google. By your comment any advertising must be sleazy. Google`s cloud services are not buggy, junk services. They are very good. As Benedict Evans has said on more than one occasion, ” Apple`s cloud services are crap ” But Apple does many other things brilliantly well. There is room for all of these players to advance our experiences.

      • JoeS54

        Apple’s cloud services are crap, but so are Google’s. Microsoft’s are better. The problem with Google is their fundamental business model – mostly free software and services supported by ads. That is always going to result in lower quality than something people pay for directly. And it creates bad incentives for the company. What matters to Google is not quality, but rather sheer numbers. The lowest common denominator. Providing the least they can get away with per eyeball. They are the polar opposite of what Steve Jobs aimed for.

        • Paul Roche

          This article was tabloid-style click-bait, I thought he was going to explain how or why the new Steve jobs would destroy Apple, instead he told me how Steve jobs “destroyed” Microsoft and Google (which jobs didn’t do, they seem to be doing just fine)

          • JoeS54

            Yeah…the phrase in the article: “Apple towers above Microsoft” is a doozy. The whole thing is hyperbolic Apple-worship. But I’ve got to stop getting annoyed by that kind of nonsense and learn to ignore it, the way I ignore the National Enquirer or Maury Povich.

          • Apple is worth nearly $200 billion *more* than Microsoft. Microsoft’s primary moneymakers are rapidly being disrupted. Them’s facts, not Apple worship.

          • JoeS54

            Apple has a very high stock valuation. As anyone should know, that doesn’t always equate to reality. They overcharge for their products, which creates a lot of revenue despite the fact that they don’t have nearly the market share of Android. That approach is what ultimately did them in on the PC, despite the fact that they started out strong there too.

          • steve_wildstrom

            Joe, you really ought to develop a little respect for, or interest in, facts. Apple was never “done in” on the PC. The Apple ][ lost to the IBM PC because Apple had little perceived value in business and much the same was true for the Mac outside of a few business niches. It wasn’t price. The Mac established itself as the “computer for the rest of us” at a time when the rest of us weren’t buying many computers. It is only in the last few years that Apple has gained major market share in the high end markets where it competes and where its products are very competitively priced.

          • JoeS54

            I don’t know if the writers on this site realize how obvious their pervasive Apple-boosterism is to readers. It is really bad.

            With respect to the details of your post – the Lisa was a failure because it was extremely overpriced. That was followed by the Macintosh, which was still overpriced. Microsoft, as Bill Gates often recounts, had more developers working on the original Mac than Apple did. When Mac sales failed to take off, there was a void that Microsoft ultimately filled with Windows.

          • If Jobs’ products have such limited functionality, seems awfully damn foolish that Microsoft, Samsung, Google et al copy them so aggressively.

          • isitjustme

            Who else has the smarts on the latest mobile gadgets?

            None.

            Everyone in the game is copying Apple per se or reacting to whatever is next up Apple sleeves.

            Some like Intel knowing they are into some sunset industry begin to throw as much mud on the wall as thy can to find which stick.

            No one knows which is the next ONE but counting Apple out without SJ is plain crazy in view of another word.

            One more thing desktop will going away not today but it is why because the mobile ones are the future as they get better and the first shot is fired the 64 bit chip by Apple.

    • klahanas

      One of the best comments on Apple I’ve ever read. Don’t agree with it all, some of the details, but it was well thought out and fits the observables. Especially liked the parallel to Gates. These were shrewd, ruthless businessmen, present at the right time.

    • Roger

      “Android is a horrible OS compared to those produced by Apple and Microsoft.”

      And yet, it has a file manager. LOL!

  • stefnagel

    Ideas are easy; implementation is hard. Tim Berners-Lee realized that no piece of information need reside in more than one place. But it will be fifty years before that insight rules the internet. Steve Jobs wanted a computer for the rest of us, back in 1976. Almost forty years later, we are beginning to get there.

  • Bud White

    The next Steve Jobs, the next Mozart, the next Walt Disney, the next Einstein, the Next
    Edison. Kind of a long wait, n’cest pas?

    • JoeS54

      I don’t think Jobs quite fits in that company, but he certainly had a vision that was unique, and finally figured out how to make it work. I think he was integral to Apple’s success in a way that is not true of most companies, and since his death I have seen nothing from Apple to change my mind. I won’t go into another rant about how bad iOS7 is, but I’ll just say it’s proof of what I suspected would happen after Jobs died.

      • klahanas

        He definitely formed Apple in his image, and I attribute both the good and the bad with Apple to the same aspects of Jobs himself. What I loved about him was his vision, his taste and his willingness to break any and all rules. What I loathed about him was his insistence on ONLY his taste, his vision, and his rules.
        The problem with that is, once I pay, it’s mine not his any more.

  • TheEternalEmperor

    Maybe they will destroy Toyota. Or Wal-Mart. Or Pfizer. Or Exxon.
    Why pick on Apple?

    • All true. And yet…when we think of Steve Jobs we think of Apple. My point is that Apple has now become the dominant player. Thus, “the next Steve Jobs” would not go after Microsoft or IBM, for example, but Apple itself.

      • TheEternalEmperor

        Have to tell you, don’t think that is necessary true. Let’s pick the guy who designed a better car. Why would he go after Apple? Driverless cars has huge potential They would change the world. A vaccine against the common code would change the world. Wheat that could grow in the desert would change the world. None of these things have any direct competition from Apple.

        For what you say to be true, the next “Steve Jobs” would have to ONLY entire Apple’s market. Apple makes: computers. smartphones. AppleTV. Tablets. All of that stuff is just a form of computer.

        You are basically excluding: EVERYTHING ELSE in the world. You are suggested that computers is the only thing that could benefit from a sense of good engineering or design.

        That just seems flawed to me.

        • isitjustme

          Just my personal opinion – driverless cars have very little potential.

          Why?

          will you leave the safety of your family in the hands of a computer?

          If you do then it has vast potential.

          If not then no potential.

          Words and opinions are one thing but reality is just reality.

          But then it makes great PR/BS.

      • Herding_sheep

        Like I said in my prior post, the “next” Steve Jobs will not be in Apples markets (computer hardware and software). He will be in something entirely different. Computers already had their visionary light the torch. There are so many other problems and potentials out there that still need a visionary to light that torch. The next disruptor will be in an entirely different field. Someone brilliant may end up going after Apple, but they’ll never truly be the “next” Steve Jobs since the torch had already been lit. The most he could do is build off of that and help the torch glow brighter.

        The automobile industry had its Henry Ford. Obviously the advancements since his time have been profound and there are many brilliant people in that field. But none of them “lit the torch” like Henry Ford did, the torch had already been lit.

        I have no idea why I used “lighting the torch” as a metaphor, but I did. 😛

  • mrkta

    and then we will need another steve jobs to destroy that steve jobs as well

  • Keith

    I think Ives has always been the heir apparent at Apple. I believe that Tim Cook is/was always the safe choice to keep the board and stock holders happy while products that were already in the pipeline were introduced. As the “pipe runs dry” they will need more of a Jobsian influence…Ives is a perfect fit.

  • Masaniello

    Web less important than apps? Please. I stopped reading right there. Rubbish article.

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