Steve Jobs Conquers the Decade - Now What?
Nov 7, 2009 7:00 AM PT
Now that Fortune has named Apple CEO Steve Jobs CEO of the decade, where will he go from here?
Throughout his career, Jobs has typically led the market, bringing out products that consumers didn't know they wanted until they saw them -- products like the iPhone and iPod touch, for instance.
He will probably continue doing so, but in the future he may delegate more responsibilities.
Brave New Products
In declaring Jobs CEO of the decade, Fortune looked at how Jobs rebuilt Apple from a company on the edge of failure to the cash-rich behemoth it is today. Oh, and he also survived two brushes with death and a securities-law scandal.
That was then; the market appears saturated with new products now. Can Jobs come up with more eye-popping, highly profitable new ideas? The products Apple introduced over the past year -- new iPod models including the iPod touch, the iPhone 3GS, and new Macs and iMacs -- have mainly been refinements of existing products, after all.
There's still plenty of opportunity for someone of Jobs' caliber, argued Carl Howe, director of anywhere research at the Yankee Group. "Apple's future opportunities are defined by areas where technology and design have traditionally been separate, but that consumers want combined," he told MacNewsWorld.
These areas of potential include home entertainment systems and vehicle telematics, Howe said. Telematics is the integrated use of telecommunications and information -- sending, receiving and storing information on telecommunication devices. It is used in GPS systems, for instance.
Apple could make significant inroads into the home entertainment and vehicle telematics markets, Howe contended. "We keep hearing rumors that Apple will enter the TV market, but don't dismiss the auto opportunity -- it begs for a branded integrated solution rather than an open, anything-goes one," he said. "It's another one of those global multi-billion dollar profit pools that Apple seems well-positioned to tap into."
The Magic of TV
That may indeed come to pass: Apple on Friday updated iTunes LP releases to be compatible with Apple TV. This will let users watch iTunes LP content on their Apple TVs. iTunes LP, code-named "Cocktail," is a format for interactive album artwork recently released by Cupertino.
Also, Apple is reportedly trying to get American broadcasting companies to provide programming for an iTunes-based TV subscription service.
Chances are Jobs sees other new opportunities out there to exploit, Nogee said. "Apple might get involved in combining wireless, Internet, scheduling and organizing -- media, Internet and organizing your life all tied together," he added.
Changing the World
Here's the problem with someone of Jobs' caliber: It's impossible to predict what he will do.
"Before the iPod was launched, nobody covering the MP3 market would have said that Apple was going to release this MP3 player which would change the entire market," In-Stat's Nogee said. "Or take the iPhone -- when it was released, most people said Apple wouldn't succeed in the mobile phone business because it was too competitive and Apple was an outsider," he added.
"Not too long ago, many were thinking that, because Apple had lost the computer market to Microsoft, there was no place for it to go," Yankee Group's Howe said. "Jobs went into music players and smartphones."
Even the computer market wasn't really a lost cause. The Mac has made significant market share growth since Jobs resumed the helm at Apple a decade ago.
United We Stand
As Jobs battles to take Apple to new heights -- it's greatly expected his company has some sort of tablet computer in the works -- he likely will have to share the workload to maintain his pace.
"I would expect him to delegate more responsibility to his team over time," Brian Marshall, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech, told MacNewsWorld. "Clearly his health isn't sound."
Apple already has a strong management team in place, so that won't be difficult. Marshall expects Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook to be picked to lead the company because he has successfully operated as de facto CEO twice in the past.
Whether or not he relinquishes some of his grip on the company, Jobs will probably remain at Cupertino for the foreseeable future. "I don't think he'll leave Apple for quite some time, simply because it's a company he's shaped to his vision," Yankee Group's Howe said. "Leaving Apple at this point would be like leaving home; it's the company Steve built. Frankly, I doubt he will ever retire, but rather will be more like Warren Buffet -- still directing how things are done until he's gone."