Steve Jobs was an alien, and other myths

If Apple's feeling the economic heat, how do the other tech firms feel?

Apple, Tim Cook, Steve Jobs, iPhone, financial results
Credit: Acid Pix/Flickr/Edit

At its simplest popular analysis of Apple’s latest financial results announcement has two memes that have become core to its ideology: that Apple without Steve Jobs can never succeed, and that iPhone is Apple’s only successful product.

Neither true

The cult of personality that grew around Apple and its leader, Steve Jobs, skewed recognition of the company’s true achievement – that of uniting around core beliefs and using these beliefs as keys to unlock a slew of future achievements. Steve Jobs was a human being. He was not a super powered extraterrestrial from outer space.

The cult of personality is a fake way of seeing that doesn’t accurately reflect any reality. The cult trivializes the true nature of team effort. No one is really that good in isolation, not Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, or anybody.

And iPhone’s don’t matter any more.

What the puck?

Jobs always used to say his company strove to head to where the puck was going, rather than where it had previously been. We know the iPhone built on the success of the iPad, iTunes and OS X.

Each product is a platform to another solution. Each release marks a new point along the road. Smartphones are transforming, as the connected planet becomes a reality. When Apple’s Jeff Williams quipped that the car is really a giant smartphone, he wasn’t joking. Apple is already investing itself in exploring the potential of new connected platforms, including cars and the Apple Watch. Services will become even more important to the company’s future.

Rocky road

All the same we’ve hit a rocky patch. Smartphone sales are slowing down across the board and it’s not lack of innovation that’s causing this, but lack of cash. Economic instability, global wealth inequality, lack of social mobility and conflict and instability are impacting every living being on this planet. Some leading developed nations remain immersed in unending conflict that has continued for longer than WW2. All these events are chipping away at consumer confidence, and if Apple just delivered its slowest growth for around 13-years, then you need to be drinking a particularly potent brand of Kool-Aid if you refuse to accept that every other consumer electronics company will be feeling it too. This is not just about Apple. This is about the entire fabric of our creaking economy.

Invest to innovate

During the last global recession following the dotcom bust at the turn of the Century, many tech firms began cutting staff, cutting costs and cutting down on R&D. Apple didn’t. Instead the company said it intended to increase R&D investments in order to innovate its way out of recession. iPod, iPad, iPhone and its hugely profitable family of services followed. This was Apple’s success, and this innovation is how come the company climbed to the top of the charts as the world’s most valuable stock. In a sense, Apple’s recovery saved the economy, or at least buoyed it up.

This need to invest is exactly what Apple will do again under Tim Cook. “Our product pipeline has amazing innovations in store,” he promised last night. “We are forging ahead with important investments in research and development, in our infrastructure, and in our supply chain. We've made 15 acquisitions in the last four quarters to accelerate our product and Services roadmaps.”

Time's up

What sort of things can we expect? Apple Watch will replace the phone, wearables will be everywhere and the Apple Car will turn out to be the mobile phone you choose to sit inside. China and India will be critical to the next recovery, and the company is clearly focused on building business in both geographies. And the company is already focused on future opportunity. But if Apple is feeling the economic zeitgeist, you can rest assured other big tech firms will be feeling the same.

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