Suggestion: Apple’s First Move Without Steve Jobs

Apple went from computer innovator to little more than a joke. Then Steve Jobs returned and since then, the company has become the absolute leader in tech, consumer electronics, wireless, tablets, music, entertainment, app stores, retail, industrial design and those are just off the top of my head. Jobs also turned Pixar into a multibillion dollar company and created movies destined to become classics.

Jobs did more than create new products and industries, he was savvy enough to lock up supply chains for hard disks, displays and other products keeping the competition scrambling to not only copy the company but to produce products in quantity.

The momentum the company has is incredible and in the tablet and music player market, the company is virtually untouched. Moreover, I fully expect an Apple TV (a real television I mean) in the future with even better integration with online video options. The entire home automation and entertainment markets are ripe for the company’s picking.

Moreover, the company will potentially soon be moving its laptops to the ARM platform – allowing it to leverage the processors already being used in its phones and tablets.

All of this spells higher margins and a more protectable business model.

Its worth pointing out the company’s ability to attract talent is amazing – one recent person I know of was plucked from the VoIP space and is so happy he made the move  that he is becoming a viral evangelist for the company’s recruiting department.

There may never be another Steve Jobs, someone who has vision and can execute on a massive scale but the company is in such great shape, I wonder if there will be any noticeable change for years to come.

We don’t know what the next big thing in tech devices will be – curved screens? New gesture-based communications? Speech? But what we do know is the line of products Apple has from phones to music players to laptops and tablets will evolve to be thinner, have more resolution and be more powerful.

There is a standard set and new products have to be better than the old ones. That is generally a successful recipe in most-every market.

Moreover – not to belittle the iPad but lets face it – it is generally an iPod but 4 times as large. Oh, and the power button is on the right – where it is on the iPhone, not iPod.

The point is, the tablet market was likely there for the taking the moment the iPod Touch came on the scene but only years after the iPad appeared did other companies decide to launch their competitive solutions. And we saw how that worked out for HP.

A few years back when Jobs took a leave of absence I thought Apple was screwed if he left for good left but the company has become so much more dominant since then I’m no longer concerned that he has resigned as CEO to become Chairman with COO Tim Cook replacing him. Moreover, as long as he is healthy enough, I can’t imagine him becoming uninvolved in major initiatives. The good news is for shareholders and customers that by now the company knows they have to measure up to the “Steve Jobs standard” when they release new products.

The biggest threats to Apple still have to be Samsung and Google. Samsung can not only utilize best-in-breed TV tech in its phones it can use its dominant consumer electronic positioning to sell more gadgets.  Regarding Google, Android went from being a poor copy of iOS to a better copy of Apple’s operating system with some new and interesting features. The Motorola Mobility buy means the company can do a lot more in the home by integrating Motorola’s technology with Google’s vision, reach and brand name.

Although its premature – I would be scared if I made PC desktops or laptops and certainly HP sees this which explains its recent decision to jettison the business. They see what many of us know; Apple’s tablets and phone buyers are comfortable enough with the company to ditch Wintel.

What this means is if things don’t change soon, Apple will own the desktop and mobile spaces (along with Google – Android still has larger market-share than iOS) and Intel will have to make its money selling servers.

The multi-billion dollar Microsoft Office is sort of a wild-card – if more devices are iOS based, what happens to it? We’ll see if Microsoft decides to port – but I bet they have to, and soon.

I think Jack Welch was also one of the best CEOs of all time and I owned GE shares when Jeff Immelt took the helm from him. I assumed Immelt couldn’t screw things up and I was proven very wrong, very quickly as he almost bankrupted the company and had to be bailed out by taxpayers.

So what I am saying is it is possible that Tim Cook will screw things up immediately but in order for this to happen, the company would have to start shipping substandard products – new laptops that don’t leapfrog the last generation. Or ones that don’t leapfrog enough.Or products which need to be recalled or catch fire, etc.

While anything is possible, I just don’t see this happening but if I was Tim Cook, the first thing I would do is allow Flash to run on all iOS devices. The one compliant I still hear from users about these mobile Apple devices is lack of Flash support. Solve this one and the franchise becomes that much stronger. And with the world shining a spotlight on your every move, making hundreds of millions of your customers happy with a simple announcement makes good sense as a first announcement as CEO.

TMC’s Peter Bernstein has a detailed aticle about the history of Apple and the genius of jobs – it is a must read.

Disclosure I am an Apple shareholder.

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