Steve Jobs wasn't perfect or infallible. He was tough, intractable, perhaps unfair, and occasionally even mean-spirited. These are not characteristics many of us spent time pointing out a year ago when the Apple CEO and founder succumbed to cancer.
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The loss, though expected, hit us all hard. Jobs was one of us -- a person who loved technology and all the endless possibilities that come with it.
He was a doer.
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He was the architect.
What Apple is today is Jobs' doing, a fact current Apple CEO Tim Cook readily acknowledges. In a brief letter on Apple.com (which follows a moving video), Cook describes the company as "a gift [Jobs] gave to the world."
There is no way to know if 2012 would have gone differently if Jobs were still around, but it is already clear that Apple will be just fine without him.
By almost any measure, Apple is even more successful now than when Jobs left it. It enjoys higher revenue, increased market value, more money in the offshore bank, fresh, lauded products and the ability to sell millions and millions of those new products in a matter of days.
Jobs' long shadow, though, is never far away.
When Apple stumbled badly with Apple Maps, news emerged that the botched software may have been Jobs' idea. This is not at all surprising. Anyone who followed Jobs in the last two years of his life or read the Walter Isaacson biography knows Jobs hated Google for introducing Android, which he felt copied iOS and the iPhone. He wanted to destroy Android. Having Google products in Apple’s premier product was no doubt an anathema to him.
So, yes, he likely got the ball rolling on Apple Maps. So what? Does that make what happened his fault? Of course not.
Most smart industry watchers lay the blame at the feet of Cook and Scott Forstall. Cook did what good managers do and stepped up and took the blame.
Jobs wasn’t as good at apologizing. He refused to back down on Antennagate. Back then I applauded his “feistiness.” The CEO didn’t sidestep the fact that holding a phone a certain way could attenuate the signal, but made it clear that the issue was not unique to the iPhone 4 and that a very small percentage of users were bothered enough by this to return their phones.
I don’t recall that Jobs ever sent a note quite like the one Cook did on Apple Maps (it’s hard to imagine the somewhat ego-maniacal Jobs offering a sincere apology about anything -- again, read the biography), but then Cook is not Steve Jobs 2.0.
In the wake of Mapplegate, though, what bothers me most is all those who say Jobs would never have let this happen. That implies that Jobs never released a bad product. I guess they all forget Ping, Mobileme and the Cube.
Such selective memory is also a way for people to create a new narrative: Apple has changed without Jobs, and not for the better.
This is ridiculous. First of all, this one mistake, while embarrassing, has done nothing to slow the sales or iPhone 5 accolades. It probably has slowed the speed of iOS 5-to-iOS 6 upgrades, but I suspect that will be a temporary situation. Apple is certain to release a Maps upgrade before the year is out.
Apple is not worse off without Steve and it's not better, either. It's a technology company in transition. Cook is honoring Jobs' legacy. Things are still being done the "Apple Way" (which was Jobs' way). The secrecy remains, the culture is unchanged and the focus on a relatively small set of core products continues. The insistence that Apple creates unique products which are, by their very nature, a level above everything else on the market is still there. When I asked Cook what he liked best about the new iPhone 5, he didn't bother to pick out a feature and instead answered "the iPhone."
It's also obvious that Cook is not asking every day, "What would Steve do?" That's evident in the Mapplegate apology and the likelihood that Apple will unveil an iPad Mini in the very near future. At least on these moves, Cook is reading from his own playbook.
Steve Jobs was special and Apple is in some ways a special company. However, Jobs was also just a man and Apple is just a company. The future of Apple without Jobs will be written not by what Jobs has left behind, but by what Cook and company do every single day. Apple's tomorrows will be filled with more mistakes and, by my reckoning, far more successes. Many of these projects and products will likely have at least been thought of while Jobs was still alive; his fingerprints may be evident for years to come.
Yet, with each passing year, Jobs' shadow will fade. His influence will wane. Apple will stand on its own two feet and it will do just fine. A fact that would no doubt make Steve Jobs proud.
Bonus: 15 Inspirational Steve Jobs Quotes
Jobs quote from 2005 Stanford commencement address. Posted by livinglauren.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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