by Tom Kaneshige

An Apple Without Jobs Is Cooked

Oct 04, 20124 mins
Consumer ElectronicsInnovationiPhone

Steve Jobs' passion for perfection defined Apple. But a year after his death, a cautious Apple is putting the bottom line ahead of beautiful products.

This week marks the anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death. How has Apple fared since?

While sales continue to pour in, thanks to Jobs’ wonderful iCreations, his absence is being felt. With operations guru Tim Cook now running the show, it’s become clear that Apple has lost itself.


Symbolic of this ineptitude was the naming of the new iPad earlier this year. Instead of the “iPad 3,” the committee that has become Apple – Jobs hated committees – decided to call the third-generation iPad, the New iPad. (Even trying to explain this in words is a tortured exercise.)

“We don’t want to be predictable,” said Apple’s global marketing chief Phil Schiller.

Forget being unpredictable. How about boring?

There has been little innovation out of Cupertino since Jobs. Instead of leading, Apple now follows everyone else’s act. The bigger screen on the iPhone 5 is now the equivalent of many existing Android phones. The iPhone 5 now supports LTE, which some Android phones have been supporting for more than a year.

But the biggest difference between a Jobs-led Apple and a Cook-led one can be summed up in Apple Maps, the new map app built into iOS 6 that replaces Google Maps.

Apple Maps proved to be full of errors, which led to a quick apology from Cook, as if he was expecting a public backlash. In essence, Apple Maps is a beta product forced upon loyal iPhone customers – and Jobs never would have allowed this to happen because he had an obsession with perfection, almost to a fault.

Products struggled to get to market because Jobs would not give the green light until they were ready. He ended Apple’s relationship with Macworld Expo because, in part, he did not want to be tied to a superficial product-release timetable.

The team that developed the ill-fated MobileMe, a lackluster service not up to Apple’s standards, also felt the wrath of Jobs. In the spring of 2011, he unleashed a curse-laden tirade accusing the team of “tarnishing Apple’s reputation.”

Can you imagine Apple Maps, with its faulty maps and misdirection, getting the green light under Jobs’ watchful eye? I doubt Apple executives would have even presented it to him as a market-ready product.

Cook’s apology is also very telling.

Flash back to Jobs and the iPhone 4’s antenna problem, dubbed Antennagate. As criticism grew, including a scathing report from Consumer Reports, Jobs and Apple remained silent until the problem reached a crescendo.

Jobs quickly called a press conference at Apple headquarters and gave a half-hearted mea culpa along with free “bumpers” that would fix the problem. He blasted the media for blowing the problem out of proportion. It was the height of hubris.

But Jobs’ reaction underscores what he thought about the new iPhone 4 – his idea of a perfect product. Antennagate meant that he had missed something, which is why he was reluctant to admit it. At almost every iPhone and iPad unveiling, Jobs would say it’s the most beautiful thing Apple has ever made.

You get the feeling Jobs really meant it; today’s Apple executives say it as a punch line.

Within days of releasing Apple Maps, Cook issued an official apology. He said Apple Maps “fell short” of the quality Apple delivers. “We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better,” he conceded.

Whether or not the brass at Apple knowingly released a beta product to the masses isn’t clear. I wonder if Cook and his team weighed the fallout against the benefits of releasing Apple Maps too early. With Jobs at the helm, that question would have never been raised.

Apple, the biggest company in the world, has become just another peddler of consumer gadgets. It’s operational eyes are firmly fixed on the bottom line, no longer on creating a beautiful product.

A year after Jobs’ death, it’s painfully obvious the magician has left the building.