There has been lots of recent speculation about whether Apple can go on without its CEO should he not return from medical leave. Steve Jobs may be visionary and iconic, but Jony Ive's value simply can't be overstated. Apple's vice president of industrial design has influenced most of the major hardware product designs since joining the company in 1996. I have long felt that Apple could more easily go on without Jobs than Ive, but never really had cause to state so until today, following a report from the Sunday Times of London that is spreading like wildfire across the InterWebs.
Ive is the creative genius behind designs for iPad, iPhone and iPod, which, combined, accounted for two thirds of Apple revenues during calendar fourth quarter. He takes credit for Macs, too -- aluminum PowerBook, iMac, Titanium PowerBook and unibody MacBook Pro. Ive is an indispensable employee -- like Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter is to Pixar -- someone Apple shouldn't want to lose. If the Times report is even marginally accurate, Ive and Apple are in a tuff over whether he works in Silicon Valley or his native United Kingdom. The outcome raises questions about his departure from Apple.
Today, Apple finally brought MacBook Pro up to speed with Windows laptops. After skipping the last generation of i Core chips, Apple adopted new Intel "Sandy Bridge" processors for some MacBook Pro models. In a surprising, but rumored move, Apple swapped out nVidia graphics for integrated Intel and AMD graphics. Apple updated all three MacBook Pro lines -- 13.3-inch, 15.4-inch and 17-inch. Apple also introduced a new peripheral port called "Thunderbolt."
The new configurations represent hefty upgrades across the board -- for example, bumping up storage capacity in the entry level MacBook Pro from 250GB to 320GB and doubling the memory on some other models. However, in a disappointing move, Apple did not upgrade 13-inch models' display resolution from 1200 x 800 to match MacBook Air's 1366 x 768.
Sadly, I must reaffirm my position stated during Apple CEO Steve Jobs' last medical leave, in January 2009: His health situation isn't a private matter, and, frankly, it's even less so now. The seeming suddenness of Jobs' more recent medical leave, which this time is open-ended, raises reasonably disconcerting questions about how long he can continue as chief executive and whether Apple has in place an appropriate succession plan. I didn't expect to return to this topic again, and surely Macheads will beat me aside the head with snide and accusing comments or rebuttal blog posts. So be it.
As leader of a public company, Jobs has no inherent right to privacy where his ability to act as CEO is concerned. Jobs' share in Apple was, last time I checked, well below 5 percent. He isn't principal owner of Apple, tens of thousands of shareholders are. If not Jobs, then at least Apple's board of directors has a responsibility to appraise shareholders about such an iconic CEO's realistic ability to continue in the role. Right now, Jobs has essentially abdicated the responsibility for an undetermined amount of time. In a January 17 letter, Jobs explained that he had "asked [COO] Tim Cook to be responsible for all of Apple's day to day operations." Not some responsibility but all.
Today is an important, perhaps defining, day for Apple. As US stock markets open, investors will give their vote of confidence about the company's future. Yesterday, in a stunning and unexpected announcement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took another medical leave, but this time with no set time period like the last one. "When, or perhaps that should be if ever, will Jobs return and what does it mean for Apple?" is question of the day. Later, after the stock market closes, Apple plans to announce holiday quarter earnings results.
"Strange they left it until a day that the stock markets are closed," observed Betanews reader Brian Butterworth. Commenter rrode74 made similar observation: I have zero doubt Apple announced this [yesterday] when US markets are closed. Apple manipulates even when Steve's health hangs in the balance. With the stock having climbed so high so fast, even with Steve it will hit a peak and come down. This could bring it down much faster." Apple opened at $327.05, or about 5 percent off the previous close.
Two years ago this month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs left Apple for a six-month medical leave. Today, the company revealed that Jobs is going again, but for indeterminate time. The open-ended time period may unsettle some investors -- in a stock that has been high-flying for the better part of 18 months. Apple made the announcement during a US holiday, official observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, and a day before announcing holiday quarter earnings.
Jobs had survived a rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable; he revealed his cancer fight in mid-2004. But by summer 2008, Jobs' gaunt appearance caused a rash of rumors about his heath -- that and how little time he spent on stage during Apple events. Jobs caused another stir in December 2008 by announcing he wouldn't give the Macworld 2009 keynote. About a month later, when he announced the medical leave, health emerged as one, if not the major, reason.
There's a saying that the more you have, the more you fear losing it.
Apple's CEO made a surprise appearance during yesterday's fiscal 2010 fourth quarter earnings call. Jobs said he couldn't resist participating, given Apple's record $20.34 billion revenue. But he leveled most of his comments at competitors, and in quite defensive posture. Now why is that? Apple's iPhone blew past Wall Street estimates by as many as 3 million units. The iPad outsold Macs and, according to Gartner and IDC analysts, sucked sales away from Windows netbooks and low-cost notebooks. Apple controls the largest and most successful applications store on the planet. The company sits on a cash horde of more than $51 billion. Then there are the quarterly results, which topped consensus estimates by nearly $2 billion.
In a rare appearance in Apple's quarterly results call with financial analysts, CEO Steve Jobs briefly took over the call to take the offense in the cell phone debate which increasingly looks to be turning against the company. Some of his most pointed comments came over Google's claims that it is more open than iOS.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently referred to iOS as a closed platform, Jobs turned around and pointed out that no matter how open the code is itself, manufacturers and carriers still can choose to add their own proprietary code -- and even restrict certain features.
Yesterday, I recommended five things Apple should do during today's press conference about iPhone 4. Within hours of the post, Apple already had done two -- release a software update and informally deny that there would be an iPhone 4 recall.
During today's media event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs fully did two others: Offer free iPhone 4 cases and reveal number of iPhone 4 returns. For the other -- bringing out engineers -- Jobs instead personally discussed the engineering problems and showed that other phones display similar behavior, where human contact with certain areas of the phone can cause the signal bars to decline.
Today, Compete put to shame Apple CEO Steve Jobs' ridiculous April assertion that "search is not happening on phones." According to the analyst firm, search is indeed happening on mobile phones, and, as I'll explain, it's one major reason why Android has a strategic competitive advantage over iPhone.
Compete announced release of its "Smartphone Intelligence" report, which I have requested copy (After I posted, a Compete spokesperson e-mailed that "we cannot send you the report." But Compete provided additional data that I later incorporated below). Compete asserts that during first quarter, Android and iPhone users discovered two or more new local businesses via search. The keyword is local.
Yeah, but will Apple's CEO love Adobe back?
The Adobe-Apple breakup has taken on strange tabloid-like qualities over the last 30 days or so. Quick someone call in the paparazzi, but first ask if they'll be editing those photos in Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Lightroom or Apple Aperture. Today, Adobe cofounders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock responded to Jobs' Aptil 29 "Thoughts on Flash" memo with their own: "Our thoughts on open markets." Adobe is supporting the memo with a marketing campaign -- "We love Apple" ads and "Freedom of Choice" Website." Adobe's response is measured and embracing, subtly placing the blame for the breakup on Apple. In the court of public and developer opinion -- perhaps shareholders in both companies -- Adobe may prove the venerable of the two parties here.
It's the question I'm asking after the New York Post reported that the "Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are locked in negotiations over which of the watchdogs will begin an antitrust inquiry into Apple's new policy of requiring software developers who devise applications for devices such as the iPhone and iPad to use only Apple's programming tools."
Yeah, yeah, some people can scoff and, say, "It's just the Post!" But the New York Post was packaging gossip and jamming scoops long before Gawker publisher Nick Denton was in diapers. The Post claims that regulators "are days away from making a decision about which agency will launch the inquiry." At issue is Section 3.3.1 of Apple's developer agreement, which prohibits cross-platform technologies like Flash and Java. (See Scott Fulton's excellent analysis about the antitrust issues.)
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has made numerous disparaging remarks about Google's Android platform because of the availability of X-rated material on it, statements that obviously downplayed the ubiquity of pornography.
"You know, there's a porn store for Android," Jobs said. "You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That's a place we don't want to go -- so we're not going to go there."
Apple CEO Steve Jobs' "Thoughts on Flash" memo is a rare glimpse into the mind of the rarest breed: A high-tech, cult figure who isn't a geek. Apple posted the nearly 1,700-word essay earlier today, in response to the ongoing debate about Adobe Flash on iPhone OS devices. Or perhaps more directly: Adobe's April 20 announcement that it had abandoned Flash development for iPhone OS devices; primary focus is shifting to Android.
The Flash debate got ugly earlier this month after Apple announced iPhone OS 4 would not support the Adobe technology and made developer agreement changes that prohibited use of cross-platform tools that could enable rival platforms like Adobe's. Last week, Mike Chambers, Adobe's Flash platform Principal Product Manager for developer relations, sounded the retreat in a blog post.
Today, just as Adobe released a preview of Flash Player for Mac OS X that features H.264 video decoding, Apple CEO Steve Jobs released a letter called "Thoughts on Flash," which explains the many reasons why there's no Flash support on any of Apple's mobile devices, and why H.264 is a better format.
The letter is emblematic of Apple's increasingly verbal approach to the frantically interested but highly misunderstanding public: "Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven -- they say we want to protect our App Store -- but in reality it is based on technology issues. Adobe claims that we are a closed system, and that Flash is open, but in fact the opposite is true. Let me explain."
Steve Jobs triumphantly returned to the spotlight to present this year's lineup of new iPods, iPhone OS 3.1, iTunes 9, and improvements to the iTunes store. In iPhone OS 3.1, a free incremental download that goes live today, the App Store has Genius recommendations, and a ringtone store with over 30,000 ringtones from all of the "big four" major labels priced at $1.29 each.
iTunes 9 also goes live today, receiving improved Genius functionality as well. Here, it applies to "Genius Mixes," a Pandora-esque playlist feature where songs of a similar nature are played sequentially. The database for Genius Mixes currently contains over 54 billion songs. iTunes syncing has also been improved, rather than only being able to sync content by playlist, all of the content going to your iPhone or iPod (apps, music, events, photos, etc.) can be arranged.