What happens when Steve Jobs dies?

By SteveJack

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.


  1. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Noah Wylie. He did a hell of a job(s) in Pirates of Silicon Valley. And didn’t he appear at the beggining of one of the keynotes with out anyone really noticing the difference? ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  2. This is something I’ve pondered about from time to time and I’m sure it’s been discussed inside Apple … probably under a hush though.

    I have to admit that I’ve never considered Ive as a successor, but he does seem to have the same sort of fire and determination that Jobs has (based on the limited exposure we’ve enjoyed).

    While we say that he’s not CEO material, this is still being said of Jobs himself. Sometimes the best CEO isn’t baptized traditionally.

    I think that there would be a lot of tension if Ive rose above the likes of Phil and Avie, who both seem like logical choices on paper (if Apple decided to choose internally), but Ive would probably better connect with the “mac faithful”.

    Just like the president, you can always build a support team to handle the details.

  3. Read the book “Good to Great”.

    No company in the last 50 years that has brought someone on board as a savior has ever ended up being overly successful. In fact most fail. Instead, all the above average successful companies that have made CEO changes have promoted from within, the CEO was not groomed to be so, and the CEO were people with great passion for not only their field but for their company.

    Ive seems to me to fit in here in some ways. I can’t say wether I think he’d be a good CEO or not because I have never met him and would simply be going off what I’ve seen on TV and Quicktime clips, and that’s really not enough content to draw such a conclusion.

    The bottom line, no matter who replaces Jobs, the personal must be equally charismatic and driven to lead not only the company but the industry. I just don’t see that being the case. Certainly the next CEO may be successful, but to follow up Jobs with another Jobsian CEO seems like a galactic longshot.

    Here’s hoping.

  4. What happens when any of us die? Life goes on. Yes, the article title is a bit scary butperhaps, Steve Jack could take over the position when Steve Jobs is gone, at least the monograms could all remain!

  5. i’ve thought of this “problem” many times before… steve is really the entire “pc” industry’s “vision” … so his passing would effect more than just Apple. My feeling is he’s basically mid point in his career. Barring a Bus or Jet accident… him leaving in 40+ more years will be considered a “full life” of great achievement. Granted if his Jet blows a gasket flying to Paris, he will become a legend, and probably have a longer mark on history than if he lives until 90. People have said, he’s really an Artist and the PC is his Canvas. It’s easy to see the effects he’s had the world over by bringing easy to use computing to the masses, so even if he did leave tomorrow, he’s done more than 20 million normal men do in a life time. Anyway… I wonder if he’ll read this article and all these messages… If so, Hi Steve, stay with us for as long as possible! you’re making life on this planet quite a bit more fun. GR

  6. Even though Steve runs Apple part time (he has been spending half his time at Pixar for a long time now), and there are thousands of brilliant people at the company that do the real work, perception is everything.

    Even if it was announced he was cutting back his Apple commitment to two days a week to spend more time at Pixar, the world press (and especially the Mercury News) would go berserk with sky-is-falling articles… Even preparatory spin control would be hazardous. What to do?

    Perhaps they are working on the Emergency CEO Hologram. “Please state the nature of the corporate emergency! You’re sh*t! F*ck!” ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  7. Here is the thing, which you appleficianados always miss. It does not matter that the products, or the head of the company, or the commercials, make YOU feel good. The vast unwashed of pc users and those who are not yet using computers are the people who have to be appealed to. Apple has to improve its market share in the US and take advantage of the HUGE yet to be developed markets overseas. If it does not either the products are not as good as you think, or, more likely, the way apple advertises sucks. I have always thought that Jobs is much more interested in being a player, hanging out with Yao Ming and Minime, winning awards for ads and case design, and enjoying the above mentioned perks, than he is in running a business that competes. He has created a cult that supports his lifestyle nicely, while demanding little of him. Things would be different without Steve, and they might be a lot better. It might be worth trying (again) before Apple becomes insignificant.

  8. I think that this article takes on a lot of points, some obvious and some needed to be thought about.

    Now we all know that Steve cannot die, but just incase this can happen here is my take on it.

    I disagree with Greenscreen and Dawn, and for the fact of you compairing chicken to computers, well thats just a really stupid statement.

    Chicken, sorry Steve, is food. Kill it, cook it, and eat it. If it was that easy in computers, dont you think that Jobs and McNeal would of had Gates for dinner?

    If and when it does happen and all of Steve’s lives are cashed in like a “get out Jail Free” card, someone(s) will never be able to fill those sneakers.

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