Would Apple’s momentous WWDC 2014 have happened under Steve Jobs?

“Tim Cook began the WWDC 2014 keynote promising ‘the mother of all releases for developers’ and ‘the biggest release since the launch of the App Store.’ He was not exaggerating,” Matt Drance writes for Apple Outsider. “In a 30 minute span, Apple knocked nearly every item off the community’s list of wishes and complaints. As I said on the Debug podcast last week, it’s as big a Monday as I can remember for developers. And I can remember quite a few.”

“Releases like this don’t come often, because the decisions and effort behind them aren’t applied lightly. The massive technical and political change required and subsequently generated by things like extensibility, third-party keyboards, and a new programming language, bears massive risk both inside and outside of Apple,” Drance writes. “That risk — to security, to battery life, to a consistent experience that customers know and trust — was constantly evaluated when I fought for SDK enhancements as a Technology Evangelist inside Apple. And more often than not, it was decided either that the risks were too high, or that there wasn’t enough time to solve the problem while sufficiently containing those risks.”

“This was my first WWDC since 2011. That keynote was Steve Jobs’ last, and it lacked the excitement needed to counter his visible lack of energy. Responses to the events since (and perhaps even a few prior events) paled in comparison to the response we saw last week from press and developers alike. Apple has needed time to cope not just with losing Steve, but with the idea that Apple wouldn’t be his company anymore,” Drance writes. “That process began some time before October 5, 2011. It ended on June 2, 2014. Josh Topolsky kind of said it, Ben Thompson kind of said it, so let’s just say it: This wouldn’t have happened under Steve Jobs.”

MacDailyNews Take: That statement lacks a full appreciation for all of Steve Jobs’ qualities. Did Intel-based Macs happen under Jobs? Yes, they did. Did Jobs change his mind from thrid-party Web apps-only for iPhone to an App Store and an iOS SDK? Yes, he did. All of this most certainly could have happened under Steve Jobs.

“What we saw at WWDC 2014 was built by thousands of people. The leadership at the top empowered those people to not only proceed, but to succeed,” Drance writes. “The attitude behind WWDC 2014 was one of increased openness and increased confidence — an attitude that managed to depart from the worst of the past while staying true to the best. Apple is undeniably the new company it deserves to be, and Tim Cook’s stewardship is on full display. I’m as excited for the future we haven’t yet seen as I am for the one we were just shown in San Francisco.”

Read more in the full article – recommended except for that bit about what would have happened under Steve Jobs – here.

33 Comments

    1. Indeed what has been announced as Swift, was started under Steve Jobs.

      That doesn’t take away from Tim Cook doing excellent backup CEO work & follow on after Steve left. I respect them both highly.

      1. Steve didn’t develop or approve everything. Yes he got the credit for everything. His ego was, after all, quite large. It’s much more pleasant to work at Apple now. People work just as hard as they did when Steve was there. Only now, those people get credit for their hard work.

    2. @althegeo
      Very few things make me laugh out loud. Your comment was an exception and expressed perfectly how I feel about the Cook transition. Jobs’ fingerprints will be on releases and decisions for a few more years. Though he may not have physically insisted on a feature, he clearly provided the atmosphere and inspiration among the troops and top decision makers that now walk the campus of Cupertino.

      Cheers.

  1. WWDC 2014 was great, and it’s just another example of Apple figuring out how to make improvements, and open their ecosystem just a little bit more without destroying the user experience. This is normal. Yes. This would have happened under Steve Jobs.

    1. In a way this sort of reaction is exactly that happenning instead of people saying Apple can’t operate without SJ they are now beginning to say they have gone beyond his influence. This is the beginning of the true post Jobs era when the company is based on what it is doing rather than what it isn’t. It really means that Apple is an entity in its own right not just the outward reflection of its founder. A big moment and this WWDC will be a landmark I think as long as its promise becomes physical reality in the products and Services that stem from it.

      1. Great post, Spy. That’s an incredible point. The narrative is shifting, and it’s shifting in such a way that will benefit Apple so long as they continue to deliver. That’s a huge deal, and it’s about damn time.

        As incredible as Steve Jobs was, he was one person and one part of the team–and a truly great team at that. Sure, he was the team captain, but the team that he left in place is more than capable of succeeding without him–and possibly even going in directions he wouldn’t have led them in and succeeding. It’s about time the media caught onto that, rather than harping on about how Apple can’t survive without the team captain.

    2. First, people like Matt Drance and John Gruber are not ‘the media.’ These are guys that have been deeply involved in Apple software development for many, many years, and have pretty well-honed perspectuves of the company.

      Secondly, I believe the original comment about “this not happening under Jobs” was meant to encompass the huge sea change that was WWDC. Most any of the things announced at WWDC would have happened with Steve at the helm, but most of those closest to the company think this mass of new stuff al at once, representing some pretty major changes in direction would not have burst out like this under Jobs. I think they are right, and this is taking nothing away from Jobs.

  2. Although I miss Steve as much as anyone, I am starting to get much more comfortable with Tim Cook. And, after this last WWDC I feel that he has Apple on the right path, and I look forward to the future.

    I would think that an intelligent man like Steve Jobs would have been well aware that his company would have to evolve with it’s success and growth, and picked Tim Cook accordingly.

  3. Well if Swift was started four years ago and Steve died less then three, I’m going to say that Steve Jobs did give the go ahead for it.. Which means that Apple may have had these things in mind for a while

  4. I think the article is spot on and is thankfully representative of the increasing sane view of developments diametrically opposed to that of the insane repetitive diatribe of some unthinking analysts and their acolytes on here like Bots, Jay and the rest who are little more than a physical incarnation of Pavlov’s Dog.

  5. For better and for worse, it seems like Apple under Cook is more responsive to feedback from customers, developers and partners. You can see this even in the WWDC 2013 Keynote. The 2014 Keynote had much more of this, but this seems to have been happening for a while now.

    While this is bringing us a lot of stuff many of us have been asking/begging for, there is a potential downside to this philosophical change… imagine iPhones with Flash.

    Hopefully we’ll see Apple making the right tough decisions that may be unpopular with some/many at the time, but later prove to be for the best, while continuing to be responsive when those decisions based on feedback are best.

    It seems to be working well so far.

  6. So, think about it this way. Regardless of what may have been on the burner with Steve alive, he was very sick his last year, and not full time before that.

    What happened was a significant amount of work and many decisions were required to complete all those projects long after Steve could have managed them. Without competent leadership, they would not have been finished well if at all.

    Second, look around the tech industry of computer hardware and software. Which team would you pick, starting from right now, to be the most competent heading into the future? Let’s see, MS, HP, IBM, Lenovo, Acer, Samsung, Dell, Nokia, BB, Motorola….. Go ahead, rank them against the Apple team.

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