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A View from Jimmy Guterman

Why Apple Shouldn't Miss Steve

Jobs’ absence from MacWorld need not prompt speculation about the company’s future.

  • January 6, 2009

People get a little crazy before a Macworld keynote. Here’s what the reporter for one tech blog had to say minutes before the beginning of today’s product presentation: “People are seriously knocking each other over. To say there’s some excitement is an understatement.”

A little perspective here, please. We might be on the front end of Great Depression 2.0 and you’re worried about jockeying for position for the first look at some device? But let’s be fair, for many, Apple fanhood is escapism: true believers (and their stand-ins in the media) cram into these events just as they went to Star Trek conventions–to worship and be around fellow believers.

What makes today’s Macworld keynote different from all other Macworld keynotes, of course, is the identity of the person delivering it.

Company CEO/god Steve Jobs isn’t there (for health reasons, although Apple officials took their time acknowledging that). I hope Jobs is well and I won’t engage in amateur kreminology regarding his health, but his high-profile absence reminds us that, like the Apple products that he regularly describes as “perfect” and “the greatest ever,” Jobs won’t be around forever.

There’s no doubt that Jobs has the greatest marketing mind of his generation or that he has inspired people to do great things. As I’ve written previously, Jobs had a front-seat trip on one of the most amazing business and technology journeys of the past half century. But Steve Jobs isn’t an engineer. Or a designer. Or a programmer. He’s a businessman. He’s so successful as a businessman, though, that he has left Apple fanboys (even the professional ones, at brokerage and research houses) confused as to the difference between one heroic business and the company he works for.

However important Jobs is to Apple–and he is, of course, enormously important–there’s no reason to believe Apple can’t continue without him. If Jobs has done his job, when he decides it’s time to move on, there will be a team of engineering, design, programming, and business leaders groomed to step up. Leaders create a management team, not one great ruler above all others. If there’s no strong team to swoop in after the leader steps aside, especially after being with a company for a long time, how good was that leader?

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