Some of the media called it the end of an era when Steve Jobs quit his job as Apple’s CEO. But contrary to the first taste such a statement might leave in your mouth it not at all means that Steve is leaving Apple.
In his open letter he was clear that he still wants to play an important role, but just not on the stressful position of Chief Executive Officer. He’s doing what he should have done all along, but Apple was too much afraid of the negative impact that this might have on the stock price.
So this set of announcements had to wait until a potentially very strong financial quarter – Apple is said to release new hardware this quarter that will positively impact their bottom line. Also, they waited until having more or less become the most valuable company on earth with only Exxon Mobile to rival their market cap. Finally the news releases where made outside of regular trading hours, which again shows that Apple tries to avoid a panic on the stock market.
With people being able to digest the news for a couple of hours before trading resumes the impact should be minimal.
What’s really confusing – and thus unlike Apple – is the job title wizardry that we mere mortals don’t really see through. Jobs resigned as CEO, but joins the Board of Directors and was also elected as the Chairman of the Board. This is in line with his wishes contained in his letter to stay an Apple Employee (#2), become a Director (thus join the board) and head the board as Chairman.
I guess that you don’t say no to somebody who saved your company and made it to one of the most successful business entities on Earth. But what does it MEAN?
Wikipedia has this enlightenment to offer:
Chairman: “When the group is not in session, the officer’s duties often include acting as its head, its representative to the outside world and its spokesperson.”
Director (aka Vice President): “A director is a person who leads, or supervises a certain area of a company, a program, or a project”
CEO: “Typically, the CEO has responsibilities as a communicator, decision maker, leader, and manager. The communicator role can involve the press and the rest of the outside world, as well as the organization’s management and employees; the decision making role involves high-level decisions about policy and strategy. As a leader, the CEO advises the board of directors, motivates employees, and drives change within the organization. As a manager, the CEO presides over the organization’s day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to year operations.”
This tells me that Steve Jobs does no longer want to be involved in the nitty-gritty of dealing with the “press and the rest of the outside world”, but instead wants to be in charge of a certain area or products and projects. He might still be appearing on stage every once in a while because that is a possible function of the Chairman as well. And we all know the effectiveness of Stevenotes.
Of the original Apple founders Jobs always preferred to look at the business side of things, while Wozniak was the geek and tinkerer. This milestone probably means that Jobs will want to more focus on the creative aspects of designing post-PC devices and services.
And actually not actually working on it that much himself but providing his vision on a grander scale. If you will by directing and guiding an army of creative people to continue on the path he has been envisioning for several decades now.
If you created a business but at heart you are a creative person then comes the time when you inevitably want to hand over the business-side of things to somebody hired for that purpose so that you can return to what truly interests you. Something that Bill Gates did when he made Steve Ballmer CEO and himself became “Chief Software Architect”. Something that Steve Jobs just did himself, too.
And Tim Cook is the most awesome choice for CEO, on several occasions he has proven both publicly and internally that he an absolute equal to Jobs when it comes to driving a hard bargain but still be mellow enough to give an enjoyable Keynote.
The process is entirely understandable, how Apple communicates about it is not. Both their press release and the letter of resignation use language that can only be understood by analysts and business people. That’s what you get if business is allowed to dictate press releases.
I think it would have been more clear if instead of this business mumbo jumbo they would have said: “Tim Cook will be driving from now on, he’s good at business. Steve Jobs will continue to provide vision and direct the creation of the most awesome toys in history”.
One way or the other the legacy that came from Steve’s daring rescue of Apple is now set in stone. There is no better point in time to switch into a higher gear and let the raw business power of Tim Cook take care of the momentum while Steve Jobs will continue to wave his magic wand that started the post-PC era.