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Cooked Apple will be defined by first setback

by Scott Bicheno on 26 August 2011, 15:54

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

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Comparing apples with apples

Despite the fact that we've had years to get our heads around the idea of Steve Jobs stepping down as the day-to-day head of Apple, it still came as a jolt when the move was finally announced. Amid the retrospectives, good-will messages and premature obituaries, there has been a general attempt to establish what this move means for Apple and, by extension, the tech industry on the whole.

The most recurrent theme was the challenge new CEO Tim Cook faces filling such big shoes. Amid the deifying summaries of Jobs' career I've seen him compared to the great American inventor Thomas Edison. While this is a tad hyperbolic, the fact that it's not a laughable comparison says all you need to know about the effect Apple has had on modern gadgetry.

Here's a graphic from the WSJ, included in a story entitled Successor Faces Tough Job at Apple, showing how Apple has shaken things up in the past decade.



But that comparison also begs the question of whether the iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air and iPad were invented by Jobs or by Apple. There seem to be enough people who think it was the former, for this to be a problem for post-Jobs Apple and, in particular, Cook.

Of course Jobs didn't invent these products all by himself. Apple is a massive company with extensive R&D resources, as well as other visionaries, such as Johnny Ive. But the perception that these products are more a product of Jobs' will, genius and ego creates a few problems for Cook.

While I have complete respect for the quality of Apple products, I do wonder if the perception of them being so superior to the competition comes in part from a cultish adulation of Jobs himself. Apple's recent success, as illustrated in this chart from Business Insider, has led to the perception that Jobs has a Midas touch and can do no wrong.