When I saw this video of Steve Jobs talking about stickers on PCs over at Daring Fireball, I again felt kind of sad about the loss of Jobs. I did not really take part on the whole hype after his death. I didn‘t read his biography. I did not light a candle in front of an Apple Store. I only listened to my regular podcasts where his death was a subject of matter, sure.
The problem for Apple may not be the loss of a great inventor, you can argue anyway if Jobs really invented that much, or the loss of a great designer, they still have Jony Ive and sixteen (yep, that many) other designers. The problem is much more the loss of character.
Apple probably institutionalized the design and decision-making process – we will see in the coming years if they did. The trial will be, if they are able to make another product that disrupts another industry or even better if they can make a product that disrupts the iPhone or the iPad just like the iPhone killed the iPod and the iPad kills the (mobile) Mac. Because all other product updates at Apple are incremental ones.
You can see this if you look at the development of the notebook line for example. Look at the Macintosh Portable then at the PowerBook 100, the PowerBook 5300, the PowerBook G4, the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. The jumps between the models may be bigger sometimes and there are one or two outliners (first iBook) but this is clearly an evolution. This is what happened with the desktop models, with the iPods and what will go on with iPhone and iPad.
What Apple cannot institutionalize however is the character Jobs lent it. It is like in the old days, when a powerful king died: there was a power vacuum. It‘s not like a state could not work without the king. The king was not the one who did the real work. He likely did not even make all the important decisions. But he was the one with power, with character - in which everyone believed. It‘s like they say in Game of Thrones: „Power is a curious thing … It resides where men believes it resides.“
At the moment we see a kind of character vacuum at Apple. The „king“ planed who has to make what decision after his death and he did a very good job at this. But the hand of the king was the hand and not the king for a reason. Ok, enough Game of Thrones analogies. In the end that leaves Apple in the realm of all other companies of its size. They will probably prosper for the decades to come, even if they do not make any new, revolutionary products that disrupt the market. But their leadership is just not as cool as their founders were.
Well, this was way too much about talking about Apple know.