Article published in The Manzella Report: http://www.manzellareport.com/index.php/u-s/911-how-steve-jobs-stunted-apple-s-growth
Steve Jobs’ death was a sad and traumatic event for Apple. His
ability to drive marketing and product design was truly amazing. It was
unheralded the way he was able to see the market for the MP3 player,
drive a better design, and use this product to move a niche computer
company to unimaginable heights. Yet, Jobs also held the company back.
Strangely enough for a man who ran a company with more than 100,000
employees, Jobs didn’t understand large companies and had no idea what
IT organizations required. He always enjoyed being the iconic rebel,
thumbing his nose at big companies like IBM.
Jobs’ brilliance when it came to consumer products was juxtaposed to
his inability to understand the need to create business focused
solutions, as well as to establish the environment to sell organizations
other than schools and designers. Jobs more than bristled at what was
needed to create products for employees.
Understanding the needs of an IT organization truly was his Achilles
heel. When Jobs was running Next, classic Silicon Valley stories
included his demand to make all internal computer wires black so when
computers were opened for repair, they would look cool. Every computer
repair person will tell you they use wire color to trace problems. And
who else would be opening up business computers?
It’s not just Jobs’ absence that has given Apple new business opportunity.
Apple obviously is doing just fine without Jobs, as company devotees
quickly gobble up their latest offerings. But as Smartphones become more
commoditized, Apple needs to create new markets and products to drive
For Apple, business customers traditionally have been an untapped
market. But with Jobs gone, Apple can move their products into the
corporate environment. The deal Apple now has with IBM is a perfect
example of what never would have occurred if Jobs was involved.
Selling corporations takes more than just a consumer product
available to business customers. There is a whole synergy around
business solutions that need to be executed. Business products never
would have gotten past the consumer driven Jobs and his need for total
control over the design of each solution. With Jobs gone, these
synergies now can be created.
It’s not just Jobs’ absence that has given Apple new business
opportunity; a weak Microsoft also let it happen. Microsoft started off
as an IBM partner who used that relationship to dominate the business
While Microsoft has been busy maximizing revenue with existing
applications, they lost focus on the changing marketplace. Steve Ballmer
never had the guts to “eat his young” and cannibalize current revenue
to maintain a leadership role in browser, operating systems, and office
applications. Currently, Linux is eating into the server space, Google
is eating into their browser and office application space, and as the
desktop space moves to fingertip space — where clients want complete
synergies with computers, Smartphones, and tablets — Apple is well
poised to take over this space.
While Microsoft focused on maintaining a 1990’s business model, they
missed the biggest change in technology — consumer driven solutions. In
the 1990’s, Microsoft dominated the computer industry. After winning the
browser war, Microsoft let other companies innovate and drive
technology while they focused on internal fights and created lack luster
Has there been a word processing feature added in the last twenty
years that anyone really cares about? Microsoft didn’t even pay
attention to the Smartphone and tablet market until it was well
established. Eventually Microsoft put forth a lackluster solution that
didn’t grab anyone’s imagination.
As Google steels the low end of the office market with their free
doc’s products, Apple is now poised to take over what the employee
touches with their line of integrated Smartphones, tablets and
computers. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft’s Satya Nadella
has the nerve to do what’s necessary to create compelling solutions to
keep Microsoft in the game.