Thursday, January 3, 2013

Is Steve Jobs Really Gone??


The always honest and diligent Brooklyn Investor has a new post. He’s (even more) bearish on AAPL. After studying Polaroid’s destiny post-Edwin Land, and after reading Walter Isaacson’s detailed descriptions of Steve Jobs, our man in Brooklyn is convinced that Apple won’t be able to continue its success. The “Key Man Risk” is being fully realized.

You see, often the most successful companies are built upon (and therefore existentially depend on) the genius of a single person. Apple has other very smart people – Tim Cook, the operator-guru, and Sir Jon Ive, of industrial design nobility – but they need Jobs to tell them what to do.

Fair enough.

But I spot a flaw in TBI’s logic. Let’s take his premise for granted – I think he’s mostly right, anyway: Jobs was a unique genius; a vital component to Apple’s success.

Now consider two other important facts: Jobs knew he would die prematurely, and he also knew, as TBI repeats, that Tim Cook is Not A Product Guy.

Putting these two facts together, what do we find?

I think the only logical conclusion is that Steve Jobs must have done everything he could think of (quite the arsenal, you’ll admit) to ensure his influence would live on as long and as toweringly as possible. 
Remember, the guy was megalomaniacal about Apple, too.

SO: If there were ever an award for systematically diminishing Key Man Risk, wouldn’t you have to bet on Steve Jobs receiving it? (An aside: Ray Dalio is probably up there too – but consider that he is looking to retire, and we all know that passion like his (and Jobs’) never really retires. Jobs was facing death – nothing half-way about that.)

Put differently: it seems logically inconsistent to assert the vital brilliance of Steve Jobs, and then assert that he was not able to minimize his own departure.

OF COURSE, I’m not saying that Apple will go on forever, as it would have if Steve Jobs were still around. Hey, times are always a’changin – even Steve Jobs would never be able to predict what the world will look like next decade.

But a few years?

You don’t think he did everything he could to come up with Apple’s Next Big Thing? And the one after that?? And that he didn’t get Cook and Ive and whomever else in a room, saying, “Guys, look, here’s how the next ten years go”??

Here is how I think of it:

Steve Jobs went from living to dead in a moment. But his influence on Apple is different; it must have a kind of half-life; it diminishes by a decay function. I don’t think Apple makes it without Steve Jobs – but his plans and ideas will still lead the company for a while.

How long is a while? Well, it’s been two years, and I’d guess, conservatively, that Jobs still had one Big Idea up his sleeve… We haven’t seen that yet.

Just keep in mind: Steve Jobs influence on Apple has serious momentum. It’s decaying, and exponentially so – but it is still there. And that influence, even at 90% – even at 50% – is significant.

I wouldn’t count him out quite yet.

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