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Apple's new task: To fight legends

Michael Gartenberg | Sept. 25, 2011
Much of the western world is on vacation, so it's usually the quiet before the storm that leads into the insanely busy holiday quarter.

To those that are concerned with a new CEO at the helm, it should be noted that Tim Cook is not an outsider brought in by a headhunting firm to replace Steve Jobs, but is a long-tenured employee who has not only shown expertise in operations but has taken the CEO position three times during leave of absences by Steve Jobs. He has effectively overseen Apple's day-to-day business since the beginning of this year. In short, Tim Cook is a tried and tested person filling this role, and under his leadership the company has seen some of its most profitable quarters and largest growth in valuation.

Perhaps the single biggest mistake Apple has made in the last decade was tying the success of the company too tightly with the charismatic persona that is Steve Jobs and downplaying the role of others. In recent years, Apple has worked hard to showcase those others and make their contributions more widely known.

In the end, however, it is not Steve Jobs's charisma and even brilliance that drove consumers to purchase Apple products. In fact, the majority of consumers have never seen or heard Mr. Jobs speak or present; they know only of his legend. It is in this effort that Apple needs to focus: In many areas, Apple's challenge is not fighting competitors, it's fighting the legend of Steve Jobs and focusing the consumer not on any one individual but rather on Apple, Inc.

The departure of Steve as CEO marks an interesting historical moment, but to be clear, Steve hasn't quite left the building yet. He remains Apple's chairman of the board and his impact internally within Apple and externally on products that are delivered to market will be felt for many years to come.

Tim Cook will succeed Steve Jobs, but no one can ever replace him. Apple's product introductions will be different and we'll likely see more faces of Apple than ever before. But that won't matter all that much. Apple will be judged--as it has been for the last decade--on its ability to raise the bar on its own products, to introduce new devices and services that capture the hearts and minds of the consumer.

That is the true legacy of Steve Jobs: The management teams he leaves behind and the imprint of his ethos, if not his wardrobe, that will drive Apple in the future.


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