Can Apple Fly As High Without Steve Jobs? Experts say it's hard to pinpoint what lies ahead for Apple, now that its visionary chief has left the helm. The company's history proves it is not as successful without Steve Jobs, but it is better-positioned this time around.
NPR logo

Can Apple Fly As High Without Steve Jobs?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Can Apple Fly As High Without Steve Jobs?

Can Apple Fly As High Without Steve Jobs?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host: The resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple has prompted a lot of retrospectives on the man who's run the iconic company for the past 14 years. Jobs will take on a more limited role as chairman. But as NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, Apple's future now depends on how well it can manage without the day to day guidance of the man who created the company.

YUKI NOGUCHI: Most companies, if they're lucky, have one great idea. What's made Apple different - the thing that sets it apart from other technology companies - is its ability to stage wildly successful second, third and fourth acts.

Michael Gartenberg is a director at the research firm Gartner. He thinks Apple is well-positioned to carry on.

MICHAEL GARTENBERG: At the end of the day, there's much more to Apple than just one person, even if that person is Steve Jobs.

NOGUCHI: Gartenberg says Apple's biggest asset is its culture and its other long-time employees. Skeptics of the past doubted the company could succeed in retail or in music or in the phone business. It managed to master each one and, in the process, transform those industries.

GARTENBERG: Perhaps Apple's greatest success has been their ability to not rest on their laurels, to not be satisfied with the status quo, but to continue to drive innovation forward.

NOGUCHI: But to anyone who suggests that Apple without Steve Jobs is still the same Apple, Trip Chowdhry says, you must be crazy.

TRIP CHOWDHRY: Apple is Steve Jobs; Steve Jobs is innovation; innovation is Steve Jobs; and Steve Jobs is Apple. That's the equation.

NOGUCHI: Chowdhry is an analyst with Global Equities Research. He says history proves Apple isn't successful without Jobs. The company faltered after Jobs was forced out in 1985, then flourished when he returned. Chowdhry says Apple clearly has some talented people, but in the past they've needed a visionary to succeed. He cites a list of firms, including Palm, that were started by ex-Apple executives that eventually flopped.

CHOWDHRY: If that is not convincing, Apple's co-founder, Steve Wozniak, what has he accomplished when he left Apple? The answer is very clear: Nothing.

NOGUCHI: He says this time, Jobs is leaving Apple with a detailed roadmap that Chowdhry estimates may help guide the company for another three years. And he compares what's left of Apple without Jobs to a bunch of preprogrammed robots carrying out those orders.

CHOWDHRY: The only thing is, they're preprogrammed for the next couple of years. After that what happens, you know? We don't know.

NOGUCHI: Rob Enderle is a long-time Silicon Valley watcher who runs his own research firm. He says it's not just that Jobs had the ability to see huge opportunities in the market that no one else saw, he was also an incredibly feared micromanager. Enderle says Jobs made final calls on things like whether a device should lose a standard feature in order to have a thinner design. And if something wasn't to his liking, he was swift and harsh in his critiques, which Enderle says could verge on cruel.

ROB ENDERLE: It's not uncommon to find people in Apple that have been fired multiple times by Jobs personally.

NOGUCHI: Jobs would upbraid or threaten suppliers whose products were late or defective.

ENDERLE: He was kind of the hit man inside Apple who you didn't want to talk to if you were either an employee or a supplier.

NOGUCHI: Yet people wanted to work there, Enderle says because the flipside of that was that Jobs possessed an uncanny ability to see the future and channel that to the masses.

ENDERLE: And you often see that in political leaders or religious leaders that try to pass the torch. That intangible something that made you sit down and hang on every word is unique to them.

NOGUCHI: And that's why Enderle says it's hard to say what lies ahead for Apple. He says Microsoft, Intel and IBM all lost something special when they lost their charismatic leaders. He says they're all doing fine now, they're just not as magical as they once were.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.