OPINION

What’s Next for Apple?

After Steve Jobs’ passing last week we have seen an unbelievable amount of, well, love poured out by everyone. That is truly amazing. Then it hits you. Steve Jobs and Apple are connected. They are one. It’s almost like Siamese twins connected at the hip. What can we expect now that Steve is no longer with us?

For my Pick of the Week, I’ll consider which carrier will be the next big Apple iPhone winner. This time there are three competitors getting ready to slug it out in the marketplace.

A Matter of Time

I’ll be blunt about Steve Jobs and Apple. People are very sad, of course, but like the Godfather said, business is business. Countless companies, competitors and predators are getting ready to pounce after a respectful period of time has passed.

So what is next for Apple? Well quite a bit, actually. You see when Steve got sick several years ago, he realized his time was limited. He came up with several new ideas. Ideas that could be a big as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. We should expect to see them develop and roll out over the next several years.

,He also contacted someone he had known for years, Walter Isaacson and asked him to write his biography. That was important to this private man as a way for him to teach his children what he wasn’t able to because he was always working.

Tim Cook is the next leader of Apple. Steve honestly felt and thought Tim would be his best replacement. He had been around Steve, learning through osmosis. Tim may be a very good choice for a traditional CEO, but will Apple be Apple without Steve Jobs?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. And that is the challenge. Can Apple still shine?

Tim is not connected at the hip to Apple like Steve was. No one could be. We grew up with Steve. We knew him. It was personal. We don’t know Tim yet. As we get to know him, will he be able to stoke fires like Steve did?

While we won’t see Apple wither and die, I do think we will see serious changes at the company. We measured Apple not just based on numbers, like every other company, but on personal feelings. On history. On a personal connection with Steve.

Numbers and feelings don’t usually mix. However, that is what Apple is — numbers and feelings.

When the CEO is changed at any company, the company changes. It takes on the personality of the new CEO. If that is the case, what will Apple look like?

Personally Invested

No one can replace Steve Jobs. We have watched his Apple story grow over the last few decades like a weekly TV series we just couldn’t miss. Remember the old hit shows “Dallas” with JR Ewing, and “Dynasty” with Blake Carrington?

They were connected to us. We liked them personally. Liked the families, as broken as they were. They were like family friends. We tuned in every week to watch the story develop.

Steve and Apple are that kind of story in real life. We watched Steve grow up in front of us. He was just a kid when he started. Sort of like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. We experienced his wins and losses. Whether we were a customer, investor, worker, partner or just a follower, we felt part of his story.

When a TV series ends, that’s it. It’s over. However, when a CEO dies, the company continues. After all, there are countless people that depend on continued success. As it should be.

So one season is ending, and the next season is starting. It will be a different company going forward.

We don’t really know Tim like we grew to know Steve. It will take us all a while. So we don’t know what to expect. This is an uneasy feeling. The company is now a blank slate. What will it look like going forward?

So if Apple will not be the Apple we know today. What will it become? What will it look like next year, in five years, 10 years?

Competition is heating up. Apple will fight the growing competition from successful companies like Google and Amazon.

In the past, we could always count on Apple out-innovating and out dazzling the competition, but that was in large part due to Steve Jobs.

Riding the Wave

We have seen other leaders rise and fall over time. I call this “The Wave Effect.”

Companies like Motorola rode the Wave for decades until they lost it in the 1990s and have struggled ever since to win it back.

Companies like Nokia, which took the lead from Motorola in the 1990s, and other leaders like RIM are now in the process of losing their lead to the next generation of competitors like Google and Apple.

It seems every leader has its day. It rides a Wave of success. But every Wave rises then falls. They all do. It’s just a matter of time.

Steve Jobs gave Apple extra oomph and kept creating the next wave. Remember, Apple was successful until the early 1990s then lost its way. It also lost Steve Jobs, who was ousted by the new CEO. It only recovered after he came back.

The return of Steve Jobs ushered in a long winning streak for the company. Wave after wave of product after product. More than just a winning streak, it was bigger than that. It transformed many industries — from the computer to music to cellphones.

If Steve Jobs were still here, Apple would have more than likely stayed on this winning track. Now Apple is on a different track. Will it continue to be successful?

Steve had been working on several new ideas. They could continue to help Apple lead. What is the next industry Steve planned to transform? We may learn that secret soon.

Now that Steve is gone, we have to wonder if Apple has peaked. Will the Wave now crest and turn the other way over the next year or two?

Without Steve Jobs continuing to throw wood on the fire, will it eventually die down? Or can Tim continue? Remember, Steve and Apple were connected in a very special way. Can Tim do the same thing in his own way?

The Apple we knew and loved has suddenly changed and will be a very different company going forward. It could be more or less successful. We’ll have to watch and see.

Steve, you are one special man, and we will miss you. I just want to say we love you, Steve. You will always be a true inspiration to our generation. You rocked our world. And we are all better for it. Rest in peace.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

As my Pick of the Week, let me ask you a question. Who will win with the new Apple iPhone 4S? Will it be AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel?

When this new iPhone was introduced, I said it wasn’t a big enough deal to get excited about. I said this would more be a story about the three carriers competing for the first time. However, with the passing of Steve, I think the sales of this version of the Apple iPhone could be enormous. We’ll have to watch.

AT&T has carried the phone for years. Verizon just started several months ago. Sprint will start very shortly. This release will be the first time all three will be competing head to head. Who will win?

We expected Verizon to rock our world last spring. Didn’t happen. Maybe it was because it was in the middle of the iPhone season. Maybe customers were waiting to see how well Verizon would handle the pressure. Maybe they wanted to wait till the next version came out.

There were plenty of reasons we thought up to explain the disappointing sales, but now we are at the starting line of the real race. And this time Sprint is here too.

The new Apple iPhone 4S is launching, and AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are the racers in the United States that are lining up and getting ready for the starting gun.

Should we expect a big runaway story or just more of the same? We’ll just have to watch the sales figures over the next few months and see.

What’s new and different about this rollout is not so much the device. That is pretty boring this time. The real story is the three competitors for the first time.

Will they really rock the boat? We’ll see.

Bang! The race is officially on!

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a tech analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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