By most accounts a book written by Yukari Iwatani Kane about Apple is more of a hatchet job worthy of Dan Lyons drivel, than of a book presenting a compelling argument — but I haven’t and won’t read it so I reserve further judgment.
The idea does beg an interesting question, which many critics have sidestepped in reporting on the book: what’s the most immediate loss felt by Apple in the post-Jobs era?
You can make the rather foolish argument that there is no change, but I think that’s easily disproven. Of course there is change, the CEO changed, but that doesn’t mean that this change is a positive or negative for the company.
The answer to what immediate loss Apple suffered seems pretty obvious to me: the reality distortion field is gone.
It’s not just gone, it’s been obliterated.
The way the news reports on Apple, and its products, is notably worse after Jobs, and I attribute this to the loss of Jobs himself — more so the idea of Jobs than the man himself. The belief was always that it was only the mind of Jobs that could make the ordinary into the extraordinary and with Jobs gone, people are questioning everything instead of blindly believing.
The followers of the Apple ‘cult’ lost the leader they once followed, and now are skeptical of the new leader(s) — can those people make the amazing things Jobs made? Forget the same people are roughly still in charge as they were when Jobs was around, and forget that Jobs didn’t do everything — people like to believe it was all Jobs. And at the end of the day it is that belief that matters here. People are skeptical because the “new” leaders don’t have the track record and aura that Jobs possessed.
From the loss of Jobs forward any product Apple makes must be better on day one than the product they would have made with Jobs at the helm — if that product is to survive the press onslaught. It was easy to stand by a product in the past when Jobs held it in his hand, but when someone that is only known for his hair1 holds it in his hand — well that’s a touch less comforting.
Think about that for a moment.
Apple has to be better than they would have been with Jobs in order to escape the fact that they no longer have the infamous “reality distortion field”. Put another way: Apple could not get away with introducing a smart phone with no copy and paste in this post-Jobs era.
Can they overcome this handicap?
That’s subjective, but to my eye they already are. The new Mac Pro is a huge shift in thinking for that level of computer, and yet I haven’t heard a chorus of pro users damning the machine — most seem to love it. The iPad Air is phenomenal and I have yet to experience a single issue with it.2
The next iPhone will be the most telling though as we would expect a new design.
The big question for me is: can Apple, post-Jobs, convince people they need and want Apple in a new product category?
By that I mean: I can’t imagine how poorly received the Apple TV would be received if it had been launched without Jobs, as it seems like it would be a product ripe for mocking. This is the “Google” problem, they release tons of half-baked products and no one full buys in at first because they are half-baked. Apple has always been fully-baked, but without Jobs people will be skeptical of whether that is true or not.
Once again, Apple now has the unenviable task of having to be even better than it has been in the past if they want to find success with new products. That’s the real effect of losing Steve Jobs.3