It was time for Steve Jobs to go
In my six-plus years covering Cupertino here and elsewhere I can tell you I did not expect to write a story like this for quite a few more years yet. Apple is Steve Jobs, and Steve Jobs is Apple.
But let's talk turkey here: Jobs' health has been an issue, almost a morbid fascination among the tech press. Whole stories were devoted to analysis on his appearance as it obviously changed from keynote to keynote.
That near-constant speculation cast a pall over the entire company. With the relative silence surrounding the man himself, investors were getting nervous. Was there a succession plan? Worse yet, would an Apple sans-Jobs be able to survive?
I'm just going to say it, and this is with all the respect Mr. Jobs truly deserves: it was time for him to go.
No company has been so singularly tied to one individual as Apple has. This is the reason why you're seeing such volatility in Apple's stock price in the wake of the announcement or heck, such attention on the change of leadership like what is happening here.
If Jobs had hung around longer, as his health declined the uncertainty would rise about Apple's future.
Yes, the company is extraordinarily successful but investors don't like not knowing what is going on. The stock price has moved from time to time just on rumors about Jobs' health, seemingly ignoring the company's actual successes. Imagine if Apple would have lost Jobs while he was CEO.
There's another reason this needed to happen now, and that's Apple's workforce. They need time to adjust to new leadership. After all, Jobs and new CEO Tim Cook have two totally different leadership styles: the former very hands-on and involved, the latter more in the background and administrative.
On that point, I should confess something: I'm not the biggest fan of Cook at the helm of Apple. I don't really think he is the right person long term. The company's culture leans a lot on a vision itself and a central figure.
Jobs provided that, and I don't think Cook can. How is the company going to operate now with a CEO that stays out of the spotlight -- likely also meaning guiding Apple's vision will become a team effort, oh so prone to disagreements and clashing opinions.
Remember what happened last time running Apple was more of a team effort? After Jobs was ousted in 1985. The company was near bankruptcy when he returned as interim CEO in 1997. Apple cannot be run in the logistical fashion that I think Cook will as CEO, and remain as visionary. As innovative.
If you ask me, I've always been a fan of iOS chief Scott Forstall. The man has impressed me in his increasing number of public appearances at Apple events: he has the charisma, and shares Job's vision and knows how to express it well.
Forstall is the next long-term CEO of Apple, and not Cook. But I digress.
I realize that Jobs will be in the background as chairman, but he knows as well as we do that he has to step back dramatically. Continuing to publicly appear on behalf of Apple, or have significant sway in the day to day business will only cause trouble.
Apple investors will spot this, and see it as a sign of weakness in leadership. That will hurt the company as a whole. So this needs to be a clean break. But at the same time, having Jobs there for the time being will give investors some comfort as the world gets used to life without Steve Jobs.
Believe me, it had to happen sooner rather than later.