Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Steve Jobs’s Absence Won’t Derail Apple, but His Presence Still Key Factor in the Company’s Success

Be prepared for a flurry of predictions on how Steve Jobs’s latest medical leave of absence will impact the company’s products.

There will be those who are inclined to try to equate Jobs’s health issues with all kinds of near-term product implications, but such speculation is likely off base. While Jobs’s health may have been a factor in the timing of a couple of announcements, don’t expect his medical issues to substantially impact things like the next iPhone or iPad.

The company overall tends to operate on long lead times, so much of this year’s product plans are likely in the works and probably won’t be deeply affected. Jobs practically said as much in his brief statement.

Also, Jobs leaves Apple in extremely capable hands. Tim Cook has ably led Apple during Jobs’s prior medical leaves, and there is every reason to believe that this time will be no different.

Longer-term, though, is another question. Here is where it is hard to overstate the importance of Steve Jobs at the helm.

While Apple has a company full of talented workers, Jobs tends to be involved in major (and plenty of not-so-major) decisions in almost every area. He is a well-known perfectionist with a strong, sometimes maddening focus on having products done just so.

Those who understand Apple know that Jobs is not just a chief executive–he is also the de facto head of every department. If there is a tough call to be made about a product or a decision on the next marketing pitch, Jobs is the ultimate authority. He’s known to weigh in on all manner of more minor issues too. This attention to making every detail just so can make Jobs a tough guy to deal with, but is also key to a good part of the company’s success.

And even in the short term–although the same products are likely to come from Cupertino, whether Steve Jobs is there to introduce them or not–no one can sell like Steve. There’s a reason that satellite trucks line up for blocks anytime he has something to say.

Update, 1:35 p.m.: Just got done going on MSNBC talking about the situation (video posted below).


Ina Fried talks to MSNBC Dayside about Steve Jobs health
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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik