- After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul, a really interesting new book.
- It follows the path of two men who shaped the post-Steve Jobs era at Apple: Tim Cook and Joni Ive.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
When Apple founder and producer Steve Jobs died in 2011, two competing narratives dominated conventional wisdom about the company’s prospects.
Some were sure that without the older leader who has led Apple’s amazing transformation since his dramatic return to the company in 1997, Apple’s best years would have been behind it. However, others were convinced that the “culture of innovation, different thinking, risk-taking and implementation” would persist, and would continue to provide revolutionary products to the world.
In the end, neither of the two accounts was true.
Fifteen years after the iPhone was introduced, that product still represents the majority of the company’s revenue—and despite billions spent on car conversion and healthcare—no new product has shown a real breakthrough. However, over the intervening years, the company has not only significantly outperformed the market, it has also outperformed its peers at FAANG and Microsoft.
The story of this unexpected result is told with precision and sensitivity by Wall Street Journal reporter Trip Michael in a really interesting article. After Steve: How Apple became a trillion dollar company and lost its soul.
The book follows the parallel paths of the two main protagonists who shaped the post-Steve era at Apple: Tim Cook, Jobs’ chosen technocratic successor, and Jony Ive, Jobs’ creative companion.
Jobs has always been haunted by the fragility of the great pre-Apple tech franchises
The fate of Hewlett-Packard, where Jobs was working in the summer, was especially heavy in his last days: “They thought they had left it in good hands, but now it is being chopped up and destroyed,” Jobs complained. Given his obsession with the product, one wonders what Jobs really thought Apple’s potential fate would be if left in the hands of someone who, as he told biographer Walter Isaacson, “wasn’t a product in and of itself.”
where after steve It really excels at painting a vivid picture of the key business and creative decisions made by the two pivotal characters, who are essentially depicted as the left and right brains of modern Apple.
As the book’s subtitle suggests, Michael is more of a right-brained type, and his heart clearly belongs to Eve. However, his image of Cook is sympathetic in its own right. The CEO grows in his role and finds alternative ways to grow as the new products they’ve designed prove less revolutionary than expected. Mickle Cook gives massive credit to steer Apple into services, causing investors to value the company as “more than just old hardware business that goes up and down depending on the popularity of each iPhone release” — or maybe even whether that next flagship new product ever comes. .
after steve He describes Cook’s era as “the triumph of style over magic.” But while Apple’s reliance on services can extend the life and monetization of its legacy products, some of its growing service lines have their inherent risks. Music and video subscription products, for example, are not likely to be profitable and face larger focused competitors. And the company’s most profitable service — Google’s estimated $15 billion annual payment to be the company’s default search function — could simply disappear if the federal government won the pending antitrust lawsuit on the matter against Google.
At the end of the day, the shadow of what economist Bruce Greenwald calls the “toaster curse” hangs over every consumer electronics company. Every new product, no matter how innovative it is or how many services bolster its competitive defenses, will eventually become just another toaster.
Apple may not be asking Jony Ive, who left the company in 2019, to meet the need for continued creative innovation, but Tim Cook’s ultimate legacy will depend in part on whether he can find a way to reconcile style and glamor in what has somehow become a more valuable company, than any other company. Kind, in the world.
Jonathan A. I was Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Business School and Senior Advisor at Evercore. His most recent book is The Platform Illusion: Who Wins and Who Loses in the Age of Tech Giants.