It had to happen some day and, like Bill Gates leaving Microsoft, Steve Jobs’s resignation from Apple seems like the end of an era. Since Jobs will continue as the Chairman, he will still maintain influence, though how much remains to be seen since this development seems to be driven by medical reasons. He is one of the few CEOs who have made the company in their image, as Aaron Swartz notes:
In the same way that Google is a company driven by engineering or Amazon is driven by operations, Apple is driven by taste. Here’s how Apple products are created: a team of designers decide exactly what a product should do and how it should look and feel, their work is ruthlessly edited by Steve until he approves, and then the entire rest of the company is given the task of moving mountains to make that dream real.
There is no doubt that Steve Jobs’ “taste” has been extremely profitable for Apple, making it the biggest technology company by market capitalization, overtaking its past nemesis, Microsoft on the way. The iPod, iPhone and iPad are among the best selling technology products in history. Along the way, Jobs has also been very successful at Pixar. Of course, no mention of Jobs is complete without talking about his aggressive management style, but that is a topic for another day.
I think Apple will do just fine even without Jobs. They have an enthusiastic fan base and cater to a lucrative segment of the market. But like everyone else, Apple will make missteps. And at that time, critics will pounce asking, “What would Steve Jobs have done?” I suppose as long as Steve Jobs is around to answer, he will probably says that he agrees. But doubts will remain…