Does Apple still need Steve Jobs?

Apple is known for building excitement over its latest gadgets, but the company’s next closely watched event has nothing to do with a product. Instead, anticipation is growing over the scheduled return of Apple’s charismatic CEO.steve-jobs
It’s been almost six months since Steve Jobs — who co-founded Apple and has thrilled the public by launching consumer tech favorites such as the  iPhone and the iPod — announced that he was taking a medical leave of absence until the end of June.
As that time quickly approaches, Apple fans, investors and observers have been gripped by questions.
Will he come back as promised? If so, in what capacity? And how crucial is he still to the company’s success?
Jobs, who is a pancreatic cancer survivor, revealed at the beginning of this year that a hormone imbalance caused the considerable weight loss that had some speculating whether his cancer had returned.
Jobs is also much more than just a CEO. His knack for developing must-have gadgets, his signature black turtlenecks and dramatic delivery during product launches have made him a cultural icon beyond Silicon Valley. He was even hilariously impersonated on “Saturday Night Live.”
Observers say Apple and Jobs himself have made efforts in recent years to “wean” the public off his presence, such as including other people onstage with him during events and de-emphasizing his role.
What are your thoughts ?


  • Apple need Steve Jobs as much as Microsoft needed Bill Gates.

  • I think there’s no question that if Apple loses Steve Jobs it loses a little of its “secret sauce” (If I recall correctly, the last time Mr. Jobs was out for a significant time the company floundered).
    The question of whether Apple needs him for their “success” is another matter, however, because some might not consider Apple to be successful now. While iPod and iPhone have had enormous cultural success and impact, from a business perspective Apple is a long way from dominating in many of its segments. If it continues as it has, I think it has a tremendous potential to do so, in at least a couple of segments, but the question might be, why hasn’t it so far? Is there something impeding it? Is that something Steve Jobs? Or do we even want Apple to be a conglomerate “success”?
    I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I fear there’s only one way to find out…

  • Any company would benefit from having such a charismatic and newsworthy CEO. His track record of identifying strategic opportunities and harnessing the efforts of the company to excel is legendary.
    Does Apple “need” SJ? Likely not – the foundations for the next 5+ years of product evolutions are already in place for the current product line-up and much of it is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
    SJ’s real value would be in mobilising the company for TNGT (the next great thing). I hope he gets better and returns – but Apple will certainly prosper in the short-medium term without him.

  • He has returned to the company.
    Jobs is a charismatic and dynamic figurehead.
    Apple needs him for that energy and motivation.
    He could provide it as Chairman of the Board,
    or as Chairman Emeritus. He does not need to
    be a hands-on CEO any more.

  • He is an asset to the company, probably has an inventory tag somewhere. He is a brand for himself, so any company would need him, Apple especially.
    I really hope he will get well.

  • I don’t think anyone can answer this question except Mr. Steve itself along with his board of members.
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  • Steve Jobs is Apple flag and the aplle bitten is its coat of arms. Apple was founded be two charismatic and interesting genius, Wozniac and Jobs, they are even more associated with the empire and Gates, but the latter is just more famous. Jobs is a great CEO, and a brilliant man, EVERY corporation suffers when they lose that kind of partner. But he is not a need, he is a bonus, a good one, may I say.

  • Of course they need him, he is a brilliant person. However, I also think that they are dependent on him and will suffer without him.
    Microsoft never was a cult of personality. Gates would make his presentations and so on, but it was always about the organization and it is clear that people at Microsoft do not depend on Bill Gates for their decisions. Microsoft’s changes have more to do with size and scope and managing that.
    Apple internally and externally is a cult of personality. It’s all about “Steve”. There are probably sharp people at Apple and there may be strong managers but if they don’t know how to achieve a consensus without Jobs, they are in a lot of trouble. They are dependent on Steve Jobs if they think they are dependent. Without him to break up disagreements, there will be a period of infighting and jockeying for position. It’s just natural behavior.
    I also don’t buy the idea that Jobs will live for decades more. I suppose it’s possible but pancreatic cancer is a notorious killer.

  • I think it all depends on their (re: Apple) successive planning capabilities/maturity. Hopefully, since the time previous to this last absence, Apple has instituted a proper successive plan and realized that one individual meaning THAT much to a company is not a good thing for anybody except that individual.
    It seems that they must have some method or process already created or in the works as Tim Cook has stepped in nicely during his latest absence and seems to have been given more control and responsibilities than 4 years ago.
    I still think Apple needs to do a better job with corporate transparency, but that is another discussion.

  • Speaking as an Apple developer since 1984 and an intermittent stockholder… I don’t think it NEEDS him, but he’s still quite useful.
    He certainly turned the company around after a succession of lackluster leadership left the company directionless and bleeding money and talent. While I don’t agree with every decision he’s made, sometimes any decision is better than no decision.
    To respond to Rod Stobo, Apple doesn’t *want* to dominate every segment it’s in. It tried that in the 90s with the proliferation of Performas and clones, and lost its shirt. Apple wants to make a profit, and it does that very well by creating superior and distinctive products that people want to buy.
    Apple now has a decision-making team in place that embodies that philosophy, and I think that as long as they stay on board, the ship will continue in a profitable, innovative direction with or without Jobs.

  • I’ll post the contrarian view to most of what I’ve seen here.
    Yes, Apple needs Steve Jobs to provide the innovation, culture of excellence, and thought leadership that he’s shown over his tenure. The years for Apple without Jobs were ones that showed the lack of that direction, and it resulted in Apple acquiescing the thought leadership role to other companies. It wasn’t until Jobs return — including the incorporation of NextStep technology into much of the overall Apple foundation — that we saw the potential for Apple to drive the market. He has a knack for being what I’ll call “20 minutes in the future” — simply, he’s releasing the right product just ahead of the right time, and while not always the innovator proclaimed, is getting the right mix of feature and technology to help drive competition to keep up and not be complacent. I don’t know that Apple has a transition plan yet that upholds that type of a technical and product/innovation road map in the post-Jobs era.
    But were it not for Apple — who to counter some of the other comments is starting to slowly chip away at some core markets (though let’s never expect it to try for market leadership) otherwise not thought of as their own — the other innovators would have little incentive to keep raising the bar higher and creating the next “must have” or “wow factor” product.
    Just think of what the iPod and iTunes have done to fundamentally change the game in the music industry over the past decade. Apple needs to have, continue, and extend that vision. Right now, that does mean that they need Steve Jobs.
    And by the way, if you think that Microsoft and the PC marketplace aren’t a bit concerned about the public perception of the Mac as opposed to the PC, just take a look at the newest ads for the PC running Vista, outlining the one place where they compete favorably with Apple: Price. If that isn’t a statement that the PC marketplace is trying to halt degradation of market share, then please tell me what is.

  • Ask yourself this…
    Does the Oprah Winfrey show still need Oprah?
    Does the Trump empire still need The Donald?
    Does Kentucky Fried Chicken still need the Colonel?
    Does McDonalds still need Ronald?
    Does General Mills still need Betty Crocker?
    Does MicroSoft still need Bill Gates?
    The Apple Corporation realized in a very timely point that Steven Jobs is such an icon for the company- he will never be separate from it – that’s why they enticed him to come back from this own private business venture (as well as to avoid a huge competitor).
    I feel he has matured to the point where he is an American icon and if he doesn’t stay as a C-level official, they should keep him for nothing else as a icon for the company.
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  • It was widely reported in the media last week that Jobs has returned to his job. Might he, perhaps, have returned too early, merely to assuage nervous investors? The even bigger question for me is, Are publicly traded companies such as Apple obliged to provide full disclosure concerning the health of their top executives? Where does showing respect for personal privacy come in? Some commentators, decrying Apple’s reticence concerning Jobs’s health, seemed to think so

  • Is he absolutely necessary, no, the products already sell well enough without him. Would it be helpful to have him, of course. He has already righted the company, set it’s direction and baked the secret sauce into the products and structured the company into an efficient product deliverer. Everything he brings on board now that he has returned is pure gravy (not to mention that he does not have to micro-manage the company any more, it did just fine while he was away on medical leave).

  • Apple means Steve Jobs…

  • Someone once said to me, “The fish rots from the head down!” In other words the culture of any organization is invariably determined by the senior leadership.
    I am not saying that Jobs is by any means perfect; iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business by Jeffrey S. Young makes interesting reading; however he is IMHO the inspiration to the Apple family that has enabled the company to come back from the brink of failure and become the huge success that it obviously is.
    So, does Apple need Jobs? No. But, if he goes, Apple needs to replace him with a leader with the charisma and values that will continue to inspire and motivate the talented people at Apple.

  • Do we still need our parents?

  • Technically no – Apple does not need Steve Jobs. Why? Because he is just the front man of a successful multi-billion dollar company. He is the presenter-in-chief who has consistently presided over many successful product launches. Sure, this is an important role but let’s face it, these products sell themselves. Let’s not presume what we don’t know either. Jobs may have a hand in R&D but he has a brilliant team. Apple is brimming with talented individuals who are very capable of making disruptive and delicious technology under any capable CEO. Would Apple still churn out market dominating products like the iPod without SJ? Absolutely. History has shown that without SJ, Apple tended to lose it’s way but I contend that these are different times, Apple is on a much stronger financial footing than ever before and has successfully built a large and loyal consumer base. It has also cleverly captured the education market which will provide generations of customers for years to come. Tech writers can be a highly critical bunch and are generally speaking not easily impressed with superficial aspects (Moores Law not more colors) – SJ managed to win over even the harshest critic not because they necessarily bought into his enthusiasm but because they admired his showmanship. Apple needs a new presenter-in-chief since SJ will eventually be a glowing entry in Time Machine. He did an outstanding job!

  • Hopefully Apple has learned it lesson since the first time they were without Jobs. The company is a solid performer and the next few “gadgets” for at least the next 5 years are already in development. You can’t replace SJ but if the company can keep the “Why not?” attitude it should continue to soar.

  • either ITS apple or banana….every one need jobs in today market situation.

  • I think that he may don’t want to came back (managing is very hard job) but company and investors want him back
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  • I am one to argue most CEOs do not add half the value they are paid, as many of my posts will attest.
    Jobs is an exception. He has made Apple, and when it floundered, he re-made it.
    Need? ….yea, I would say that he adds billions in value to Apple. Jobs has changed Apple and has changed the world. He continues to do so. I didn’t watch Jackson’s memorial. If things had turned for the worse for Jobs, I would have watched his.

  • Apple as a company doesn’t need Steve Jobs to be the CEO. Steve Jobs however is the man with vision on design and inovation. Without his okay the iMac would just be a Dell and without his approval the iPhone would be a Blackberry. Without his creative thinking and being an inspiring force in the company I know Apple would not last another five years. If you knew how much internal struggle there has been to allow the Mac to dual boot with the Windows operating system, it took over two years for management to finally give in because in those days virtualization was just not up to snuff. It has taken three years to switch from a PPC to an Intel chip…..
    But during all these times the eyes were still on what matters most: Design, function and moving the Apple products into the enterprise.
    Oh…. and there is one more thing: P-R-O-F-I-T (aka: $$$)

  • every BIG company needs a charismatic and visionary Tycoon.
    And S. Jobs is

  • Jared Elmore

    Yes. Given Apple’s track record without Steve Jobs, it is in their best interest to stay under his leadership. With him at the helm, Apple has found a purpose and has improved its marketshare.

  • k kemper

    most firms do not really have replacement of executives
    plans; they just hope they can use the founder forever.
    ego and fear. Good managers and entrepreneurs
    always build for replacements.

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