I was going to call this article, “What happens when Steve Jobs retires?” or “Apple after Steve Jobs,” in deference to taste, but then I decided that I wanted as many people to read it as possible, so… I succumbed. I just want you to know that I felt a pang of guilt typing that headline on a Mac.
Steve Jobs is Apple. Apple is Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs without Apple still managed to produce the foundation for what Apple became NeXT (after they paid him $400 million) while, in his spare time, heading a movie studio that only produces runaway box office hits. Apple without Steve Jobs produces Performas.
As a very minor Apple stockholder, I get the proxy statements, I check off the “yes” boxes to give Steve jets, millions of options, jet fuel, more options, whatever he wants, and I wonder what in the hell happens if Steve gets hit by a bus biking on over to the Palo Alto Apple Store some Saturday.
Steve Jobs is 48 years old. Reportedly, he is a vegan and in very good health. May he live to be one hundred! May he live forever, but that’s probably unlikely. So, I’m back to the beginning; what happens when Steve Jobs dies? Or, a bit more hopefully, when he doesn’t feel like leading Apple Computer, Inc. anymore and decides to kick back and relax? Since Jobs returned to lead Apple, every Apple shareholder, employee, and avid company watcher has asked themselves this question at some point, “whither Steve Jobs?”
Pixar has John Lasseter and a crop of young, talented directors to carry on post-Steve. But, who will lead Apple? Is Steve grooming someone, yet? Is it too early to worry about it? And what about that bus, God forbid?
I mean, come on, we all lived through the Scully, Spindler, and Amelio years; Apple barely did. On the face of it, the closest Apple has to a successor-in-grooming is Phil Schiller. No offense, Phil, but the RDF hasn’t rubbed off. Leading Apple is a very tricky proposition. Only one man so far has pulled it off successfully. Twice. The key ingredients seem to be a quest for perfection, a passion for the technology and the company, and the ability to relate Apple’s ideas to the world with style. Jobs is truly the charismatic force that propels Apple forward in the face of tremendous odds.
Right now, it looks like Apple’s best hope, and a very good one at that, is Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Vice President of Industrial Design, the London Design Museum’s “2003 Designer of the Year,” and chief designer of the original and current iMacs, iPods, iBooks, PowerBooks, Power Mac G5, and more. He seems to work well with the engineers responsible for the hardware. He is obviously a meticulous genius. And he has “that certain something” which, importantly, comes across on camera and in person. Whether he has the extremely rare “vision thing” that Jobs possesses; well, that’s still an open question.
Watch Ive in the Power Mac G5 intro video. Ive first appears about 40% in, at the 2:50 mark of the 6:33 minute video. Note that he is almost wearing a black mock turtleneck already. Contrast his presentation style and enthusiasm with the other Apple presenters. Can you sense the almost Jobsian, call it Junior Jobsian, aura? Ive has “it” while all of the other Apple employees in the video are just nice people talking about a computer. And Ive should only get better with time. Could we be watching Steve Jobs’ successor, Apple’s future CEO, in the 31-year-old Ive? Watch and see if Ive begins to join Steve on stage during keynotes soon.
Jonathan Ive, Apple Computer CEO circa 2025. It has a pretty nice ring to it, doesn’t it? You heard it here first. I think Mr. Ive could pull it off. And I think Jobs thinks so, too; in about twenty years, bus drivers willing.
SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.