Thursday, January 15, 2009

20 second analysis: Apple after Steve Jobs

There's been a lot of non-analysis about speculation about the fate of Apple after Steve Jobs, who's taken six months leave from Apple and whose return is speculative.

Say he did depart in June 2009, rather than return. Here's my quick analysis, broken into two parts:

You could sum up Apple's business strategy as innovation + ecosystem.

The innovation that Jobs has personally brought to the company and directed is probably the hardest thing to replace. And repeated, profitable innovation has proved impossible for most companies.

Apple's strategy doesn't require constant innovation (like a chip designer or a Nokia or Motorola), so much as the occasional disruptive innovation (Mac/iPod/iPhone), because the company does a good job of selling their products in a protected environment in which they get to capture all the value (iTunes and the whole Mac "ecosystem"). Even without another major innovation, they are good for another several years (and even if Jobs stuck around, it would be tough to expect another major innovation). You should doubt that another major innovation is going to come even WITH Jobs, because they are so hard to come by. So the situation doesn't change in his absence.

As for the ecosystem, the whole point of the ecosystem is that it tends to protect itself (with care and maintenance of the brand and partnerships); we should expect any other competent CEO to run with it correctly.

The corporate culture of Apple is much discussed. But since I'm discounting Apple's ability to sustain innovation post-Jobs, it doesn't matter whether the culture would support further innovation (though there good reasons to think it wouldn't). On the other hand, squeezing money of the ecosystem is something that the culture is currently build for.

You can search for the newest stuff about Apple on Linkspank.