Who Will Save Apple If Steve Leaves? Meet The Dream Team

The last decade has been rough for the world’s most iconic CEO. In 2004, it was discovered that Jobs had pancreatic cancer. He underwent several treatments and Tim Cook took over operations while Steve began a successful recovery. By the end of 2008, Jobs was taking another health related leave of absence and received a liver transplant in April of 2009.

Fast-forward to 2011 and Steve has once again made an announcement that he will be taking a leave of absence to focus on his health. As the world wonders how long Jobs can possibly continue in his fractured state, we can’t help but be concerned not only about his well being, but that of the company that he has dedicated his life to building.

What will Apple be like in a post-Steve era? Can it continue its seemingly never-ending winning streak or will it take a turn for the worst like it did when Steve was booted out in the 80s?

A Brief History Lesson

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Jobs and Gates

Steve Jobs founded Apple Inc. in his garage in 1976 in partnership with Steve Wozniak. He built the company from literally nothing into a pioneering force in personal computing. By the mid 80s, Apple had begun a downward spiral and CEO John Sculley, who was actually a Jobs recruit, ousted Steve from his beloved company altogether.

This proved to be a great move for Steve as it allowed him to pursue the creation of another company, NeXT, which developed the software that would eventually be molded into OS X. By 1996, Apple was buying NeXT and bringing Jobs back in as interim CEO.” The interim part of his title didn’t last long as Jobs embarked on a crusade of colored iMacs and iPod music players that would catapult Apple into the huge success that it is today.

There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs is the heart and soul of Apple, and the last time he left it wasn’t so great for the company. Fortunately, whenever Steve decides to officially step down as CEO, I think we’ll be in good hands this time around.

Prepping Us For The Inevitable

For years, Steve has been the infamous face of Apple, in large part due to his frequent and energized keynote speeches, which are always announcing some new and exciting future for the company.

However, a few years ago I noticed a definite shift in Apple’s one man show. Instead of letting Steve take both the glory and criticism, other faces began making repeated appearances. Apple product launches coincided with promotional videos narrated not by Steve, but instead a small group of men that it seems Apple wanted us to get to know.

Jony Ive

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Jony Ive

Ive is a rockstar, no doubt about it. This Jason Statham lookalike hails from London and has been leading the Apple Design team since 1996 (notice that’s about when Apple products started looking cool). We’d all like to picture Jobs fashioning each product design himself from magic clay, but in reality Ive is probably the biggest force behind Apple’s ever imitated but never replicated top-notch design.

Ive just oozes “cool” so Apple has been plastering his face on everything they can get away with.

Phil Schiller

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Phil Schiller

Phil is Apple’s “Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing,” so a lot of Apple’s personality can be attributed to how Phil has seen fit to market the products. You can see Phil getting a lot of face time on stage at Apple events in the place where Steve traditionally stands.

He’s definitely another driving force in the way that we perceive the company, not to mention the success of ad campaigns like the long-running Mac vs. PC commercials that we all loved.

Another key player in this area that you should know is Greg Joswiak, the VP of iPhone Marketing.

Scott Forstall

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Scott Forstall

Forstall has had his fingers in everything we love about Apple. He was one of the designers behind OS X’s famous Aqua interface and is of course the genius behind the iPhone’s UI and world-changing app system.

He’s now the Senior Vice President of iPhone Software and therefore the man I should be thanking for my job as editor of an iPhone-driven website. The iPhone may have been a long-time dream of Steve Jobs, but this guy made it a reality.

Bob Mansfield

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Bob Mansfield

Let’s not forget that Apple isn’t all about iPhones, iPads and iPods! The Macs we know and love have seen huge success in recent years, and it’s probably Bob’s fault.

As the Senior Vice President of Macintosh Hardware Engineering, Bob is the guy who gave us little things like the iMac and MacBook Air. Rest assured that the Mac department is in good hands with this Bob at the helm.

Tim Cook

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Tim Cook

Tim Cook doesn’t make an appearance in most of those Apple product promotional videos, but he’s definitely the most important member of this team. You can see him taking the stage frequently in Steve’s absence, most notably in Verizon’s recent iPhone announcement.

Cook is Apple’s Chief Operating Officer and everyone’s favorite pick for Steve’s successor as CEO. He is a major part of the success of the Apple retail stores, which are in turn one of the biggest components of Apple’s rise to fame. He also heads up the Mac division and is the guy Bob Mansfield reports to.

As an indication of Cook’s importance and the loftiness of his role, take into account that this is the man Steve puts in charge when he leaves (meaning Cook is in the driver’s seat now). Get used to the name Tim Cook, because it will no doubt be synonymous with Apple sometime soon.

Closing Thoughts

I neither expect nor hope that Steve has seen the last of his days as CEO of Apple Incorporated. However, I am confident that whether he’s the CEO or not, the success of Apple will be high on his list of priorities. Jobs has spent a lifetime building the company that we know and love and he’s not about to let it tank upon his absence.

Which is why he wants us to know that he has placed key figures in high places. The team above represents just a tiny portion of the huge amount of talent Apple keeps in Cupertino and elsewhere. As you can see by reading the brief bios above, most of these guys have spent over a decade creating the products that we use every day while we sit under the illusion that Jobs single handedly runs Apple and personally designs every aspect of every product.

The real value of Steve Jobs lies in his unmatchable leadership. The ability of this harsh and wise dictator to not only predict, but create the future is one that will not easily be duplicated by any successor. Jobs has steered Apple in no direction but forward in the past decade and I hope Cook and the gang can likewise succeed in the long-term as much as I know they will in the short-term.

Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts about the future of Apple. Healthy or not, Steve won’t be around forever and the confidence of customers like you will be the deciding factor in Apple’s continuing success. Will Apple go on just fine without Jobs or should we prepare for the early 90s all over again?

Jobs/Gates image source: Wikimedia


  • Connor Turnbull

    By the way, it’s Jony Ive not Jony Ives.

    And talking about him, I really want him to head up, at least the iPad 2 introduction of their inevitable upcoming keynote. He’s such a great speaker and is one of the two (Steve Jobs is the other) who speak with true passion for the products. Plus, he’s a local guy as he studied at my local university to get his design qualifications.

    • iApple

      i am with u pal

    • marcos

      I agree, Ive’s should take over Steve Job’s presentation duties. But, I don’t think he will. I hear his really shy and doesn’t like the spotlight.

    • dVoka sTater

      I agree. Like Steve Jobs, Jony Ive has a load of positive presence, which is an important part of marketing the greatest company in the world.

    • http://enoda.co.uk Jack Griffiths

      Considering he’s only ever been seen outside on media one or two times, outside of Apple broadcasts, I somewhat doubt he’d do a keynote.

      However, I’d love to see him take over if Jobs does leave Apple.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      You know, I consistently call him Ives when I know dang well his name is Ive. It’s like a tick or something. Thanks for pointing it out!

  • http://www.sayzlim.net Sayz Lim

    This is a thoughtful post regarding the absence of Steve due to the medical leave. I also understand that there are many people behind the great products. What makes Apple last till today is the same vision they share to deliver the best product for user. While I can’t say that they don’t put “sales” as priority, there is a clear difference in how they run their business. I can say that we love their business approach compared to other company. Steve has laid a solid foundation for the company to carry on Apple ways.

  • http://www.zadkowski.com Michał Żadkowski

    Losing Steve, as emotionally painful as it is, would make no real difference to Apple’s operational ability. I like to perceive Steve Jobs as the man who “really knows where the company should head right now”, although I am pretty confident that over the years, Apple managed to gather a team that loves it wholeheartedly and will probably steer it to a very bright future. Losing “the guy who started it all” will be a solid hit anyway. Having said that, I’m hoping for all the best with Steve’s health condition.

  • http://sonaten.se Jonas

    My favorite face out of these, at least as for keynotes, is definitely Jonathan Ive. The video clips I’ve seen of him, presenting the products he’s so proud of, is at least as full as enthusiasm and energy as what I have seen from Jobs.

    Probably even more powerful the last few years when Jobs hasn’t been feeling too well.

  • Bruno Moniz

    Jony Ive is a truly remarkable impressive person.
    Just see the movies from apple with him, this man speaks with love.

  • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

    You know, I agree with all the statements about Ive. The first time I saw him, I thought, THIS is the guy that should be the next Steve Jobs. But he’s the head of the DESIGN team. Do you really think they’ll let him become CEO? (Honestly, not a sarcastic question).

    Running a company takes a lot of business know how that Steve was able to pick up as Apple grew. Plopping a designer into the captain’s chair of a multi-billion dollar company could spell trouble.

    • hank

      Mr. Ive should not be CEO. Not because I’d hate for him to be one, but that is not his talent. He doesn’t want to handle the hassle of the administrative side of the business. This man is a design god. Don’t let him do anything else.

      The strength of Steve Jobs has been in his talent to attract the top-tier talent in the field he was looking for. Mr. Ive’s talent is in industrial design, it’s not necessarily in running a company.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ConnorTurnbull Connor Turnbull

      I don’t think he has too much business sense, but I think he’d be great to be the public face of the company.

      However, you have to remember Apple would not be the same without Jony Ive. Steve comes up with (some of the) ideas, Ive makes them.

  • Hank

    It speaks volumes to the raw talent of Steve Jobs that it would take a bunch of professionals on this level to replace him. Obviously Steve hasn’t been doing all the work himself, but his vision is peerless. What makes Steve Jobs stand out is that this is, quite literally, his company and his vision. It takes a special breed of man to turn a vision of this magnitude into the kind of reality where the company and its customers all benefit.

    I have faith in the quality of this group, I do hope we can see more of Steve Jobs. He’s really still too young to be out of the picture.

  • Jorge Lucas

    There are two separate things: being a CEO and being a presenter.

    I do not believe in a single man keynote anymore, because Steve already started to share the stage.

    Depending of what is presented, we will see the passions of Scott and of Ives — the “s” comes from his pal Jobs — or Bertrand Serlet — I hope that with Closed Captions.

    Demos will be more with Phil and Tim will show us the numbers.

    Cringely — http://www.cringely.com/2011/01/no-white-smoke-yet-in-cupertino/ — wrote: “And it is my guess the next Apple CEO won’t be Tim Cook, not because Tim isn’t a good executive but because he isn’t Steve’s creation.
    When the white smoke finally drifts over Cupertino that new CEO is going to be a surprise to everyone.”

    Right now, all the spots are on Tim, as the new CEO; not as a presenter.

    I hope all those can fill keep the pace of the visionary.

    And I hope Steve — although with limitations — can enjoy life, his family and the success of the company he co-founded.

    He changed the world!

    Get well, Steve!

  • Glad

    Bring Woz back…’nuff said.

  • http://blog.mohamedahmos.com Ahmos

    I’d love to see Jony Ive take over if Jobs does leave Apple.

  • http://www.journeydigitalmedia.com Seth Waite

    No matter if Steve Jobs is in charge or not if Apple does not consistently produce top of the line stuff they will drop from the top. The key for them is being ahead of the curve which they are way ahead of in some industries (tablets, iphones, etc.).

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  • Z-man

    I’d go with Cook … At least he knows most of the *secrets* and how to run the company already. Personally, I’d try to bring Woz back to Apple — that’d be awesome.

  • http://rgenzon.com Rg Enzon

    Steve Jobs it too iconic and popular, makes him too hard to be replaced.. But I’ll go for Mr. Ive.. I’ve watched some of his talks, he’s great, and I feel the passion that he has like Steve Jobs’ passion.

  • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

    Looks like your analysis was spot-on, Josh!

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  • Josh Johnson

    I do love being right ;)

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