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The head’s heavy that wears the crown and no head’s probably heavier than Lil’ Stevie Jobs is right now. Starting Apple Computer [now just plain ol’ Apple], along with friend Wozniak, building it up into some sort of modern colossus of miracle engineering (PERSONAL computers? Who’d a thunk it?), being summarily booted from company and then doing the hero’s return to rescue the company from imminent demise it’s been a rocky ride.
And it’s only from the vantage point of a Monday morning’s quarterbacking that all the moves that were subsequently made on his return seem like the right ones: the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and so on. But that’s all, in iTerms, old news. We, along with just about everyone else, armchair prognosticators all, are wondering: what about life POST-Steve?
I mean if you factor in poison mushrooms, frayed toaster wires and California traffic it becomes increasingly clear that Steve’s probably not going to last forever. And since a company’s only as a good as its component parts might we now consider Life After Steve via about 7 sorta kinda well-rumored possible candidates? Yes we might.
PHIL SCHILLER: The Barney Rubble-esque Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing at Apple, last seen scuttling around the stage at Apple presentations here and there, is probably the highest and most public face of Apple outside of Steve. That, however, is like saying that Michael Anthony is probably the highest and most public face of Van Halen outside of….well, outside of everyone else in Van Halen (despite which he’s been booted from the Van Halen reunion tour…oh, woe is us). Schiller’s well placed, but not well enough placed…why not? Probably the vision thing: Saying “yes Steve” a lot does not a job qualification make.
STEVE WOZNIAK: Let’s see: hang around with Kathy Griffin and a wide variety of good time D-listed gals while counting your money OR try to compete with the 800 hundred pound ghost of a recently retired Jobs? Like Michael Jordan coming out of retirement: won’t help, could hurt. And ain’t gonna happen.
TIM COOK: The Chief Operating Officer at Apple. Filled in when Steve retired briefly back in 2004 after having battled back a bout of pancreatic cancer. Cook’s a consummate player and operator’s operator whose influence is more felt than heard about. But the qualities that make him so useful as a behind the scenes player are precisely the same ones that work against him. In other words: after Muhammed Ali, Larry Holmes didn’t stand a chance, and so it goes with Cook. IF he’s even interested, filling Steve’s departed shoes is about much more than keeping the company running smoothly. It’s about a certain kind of magic. It’s about that whole reality distortion stuff. It’s about bringing to bear the same kind of gravitas that, as one former Apple employee once glossed Jobs “the meanest Buddhist I know” does. Can Cook? Nooooo.
LARRY ELLISON: From Oracle? One of Steve’s best friends? We think his Cap’n Ahab-esque hunting of Bill Gates prevents this insane idea of even getting much purchase at all. Besides which his management style, neo-Michael Douglas’ Wall Street-Gordon Gekko thing in place at Apple would be a corporate clash very much akin to having Ted Turner take over. HEYYYYY…frat party-beer bongs-and Glengarry Glen Ross-style office politics?!?!? Yeah. Exactly.
5 GOLDEN RINGS
EUGENE ROBINSON: That’s right: me. I used to work there...right after Steve got back, post-Amelio. I am handsome. I like to fire people. And I never stop talking. A dark horse candidacy for sure, but stranger things have happened and I’m pushing for it. Even if I own a five year old PowerBook G4.
CARLY FIORINA: The only choice MORE comical than me is the Valley casualty Fiorina (though do you think it’s common to call a multi-millionaire a casualty?). Her Marie Antoinette-like pronouncements – “Is it a god-given right to be employed?” – and her present desire to launch a political career of some sort says all that needs to be said, we think, about our desire to never have her name mentioned again in our presence. Like, ever.
JONATHAN IVE: Apple’s senior vice president of Industrial Design did the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the….do we even need to continue? Not only has he got the whole basic black sweater thing down cold, he even ups the ante by choosing to wear a belt while Steve still wears none. Winning design award after design award, if Ive’s had/made any missteps we can’t remember them. He gets it. It gets him. And he’s probably the only person in upper management there that Steve doesn’t throw stuff at. Ive gets our vote.
While ALL of this largely depends on Steve’s ability to REALLY walk away (Andy Grove’s disappearing act from Intel was a model of couth and anti-ego professionalism…he went away and stayed away…even in the face of Craig Barrett’s subsequent ham-handed stewardship of their beloved company) instead of going all Putin on us and just appointing a figurehead, we still think/feel the above names are the only ones in serious contention. (Well, all except for me, it must be sadly admitted.)
So let the prognosticating begin….