They don't make 'em like they used to... When's the last time you saw a pool be-dazzled with neon, and six GaGa (before there was Gaga) ladies holding CDs. These were times we shall never visit again, for better or worse:
Sure today we're all hearing about 4G this, and LTE that, but 2001 was a simpler time. Today we visit an episode of the Computer Chronicles to hear about a new-fangled technology called bluetooth, find out more about a future in which you will be able to watch videos on your cell phone (what?!), and take a look at the hot new cell phone.. with a browser.
All joking aside this episode of Computer Chronicles, like nearly every one is a splendid time capsule at a time that seems so distant, yet in actual years, is much more recent than one would believe.
It's almost the end of summer... Some kids are already back to school, and others will be shortly. It's a good time to head outside and soak up a little more summer sunshine. I'm a little hypocritical in giving that advice though, as I lost many summer days and nights to the subject of today's retro tech ad: The Legend of Zelda.
I don't know how much of this ad is meant to be tongue in cheek, and how much it is supposed to represent the actual gaming audience at the time. All I know is, the cartridge they slip into that NES isn't gold, so I'm left to question everything. Everything.
My favorite part? The last line, "Your parents help you hook it up!" Do you know how many tech gadgets I've setup for my parents? My how times have changed.
Steve Jobs' resignation as Apple CEO feels like shocking yet unsurprising. It's one of those things that you knew would happen one day, and yet you're never quite prepared for it. At least those of us who are mere observers of Apple are not prepared: the question is, how prepared is Apple to run without its co-founder? Speaking of questions, there are several more that come to mind, and despite whatever prognostications others may have, there are definitely more questions than answers:
1. Is the Jobs era already over?
Only those in the highest ranks of Apple know just how involved Jobs has been in product development and company strategy over the last six months. It could be that some of the recent Apple announcements/plans were already helmed by others.
2. Will Tim Cook become permanent CEO?
In Jobs' previous absences, Tim Cook, Apple COO has done a wonderful job of keeping the ship not only afloat, but moving ahead at full speed. However we still don't know how he would handle a full product development cycle, but we know he has the inventory side of things mastered.
3. Can the company keep one cohesive vision?
After Walt Disney died, the Disney company spent many years adrift, frozen if you will, without anyone feeling confident to move forward with projects that Walt hadn't already supervised. "What would Walt do" became a paralyzing question that took years to dissipate. Eventually, the company found its own voice, and chartered a course of financial success unseen in the time that Walt was alive. Will Apple be able to move in one cohesive direction without Jobs at the helm to act as visonary? (Keep in mind Steve plans to continue to serve as Chairman of the Board, which leads us to...)
4. Would it be better for Jobs to step away completely?
At almost any other company, it feels like it would be better for an ailing CEO to step aside completely rather than linger at the company like a ghost. Historically, this tends to lead to boardroom battles, and a lot of unecessary ill will within the company. Apple could be different though. Given the unmatched success Apple has had since Jobs' return, who wouldn't want to be able to seek his guidance in moving the company forward?
5. Will there be a ripple effect with other Apple executives?
I will tell you what many of you already know: a large part of the allure of working for Apple was/is buying into Jobs' vision for the company. With Jobs gone, will other top executives, Phil Shiller, or Jonathan Ive, for example be more likely to look beyond Cupertino for employment options?
6. Will the departure embolden competitors?
Let's say you were the CEO of Google, or Research in Motion (Blackberry), or Sony, or Microsoft, or heck, just about any tech company. Would the prospect of Apple without Jobs change your business strategy? Lately every market Apple has touched has led to them dominating marketshare. First with the iPod, then the iPhone, and now the iPad. While many companies have tried really hard to compete with Apple, you have to think there are others who have seen it as a waste of time to sink money/resources into a market already owned by Apple. If this announcement has been made a month ago, would it, for example, have delayed HP's decision to kill off WebOS. Granted HP has a lot of other turmoil that may have led to that decision, but still the main point remains: Does Apple look as unbeatable without Steve Jobs?
7. What will happen to company morale?
There are few companies in which the every-day-busy-bee worker really cares about who is CEO of the company. There's usually either an apathy towards the executive, or a belief that it really doesn't matter. At Apple, it has always mattered. Even when Jobs was exiled from the company in the 80's, Apple employees, the media, and fans watched the likes of John Sculley and Jean-Louis Gassée with eagle eyes. Will everyday employees care whether Tim Cook, or Phil Schiller, or someone from outside the company is in charge? Can the company keep people motivated, and retain top talent without Jobs?
8. Will Apple stock suffer?
That simple question will be answered in months, not days. Reactionary traders could lead to a roller coaster ride for Apple investors over the next few weeks. Apple is riding so high right now, that it might not take much for investors to become more conservative, and pull back on their AAPL positions.
9. Will any of "the flock" come back home?
While the list of talented engineers at Apple is staggering, perhaps even more interesting is the large number of people who left the company to found startups, or take key roles elsewhere. From the recent, high-profile departures of Ron Johnson (to JCPenney later this year), to OS X geniuses Avie Tevanian, and Bertrand Serlet, to lesser-known engineers like Jonathan Deutsch and Ryan Nielsen (who left Apple to create the HTML5 authoring tool Hype) a huge number of talented people have spent time at Apple. We don't know the extent to which some departures may have been the result of personality/philosophy clashes with Jobs. Could we see someone like former Palm/HP WebOS engineer Jon Rubinstein return to Apple?
10. What about Steve Wozniak?
Steve Wozniak, "the other Steve" as he is known, as been quite content in his time away from Apple. He has kept himself busy with everything from promoting rock concerts to teachinging elementary children. In recent years though, he's been a little more open about criticising Apple over decisions like launching the original iPhone without 3G network compatibility. Of course he also thought the company should spin off the iPod to division to remain focused on computers. While the company has grown and morphed into a different beast since his departure, you still have to wonder if young engineers might increase their chats with Woz over the philosophical directions of the company in the future.
Let's not forget that just about any company would love to have the "problems" Apple faces: Is our CEO too visionary? Could our stock fall from an all-time high? Can we continue to dominate three markets simultaneously? Will we have to deal with losing the most talented engineers on the planet? Will we have to deal with gaining the most talented engineers on the planet who have previously left the company? All in all, it's not a bad place to be.
Again, right now there are far more questions than answers, and many of these questions might not be definitively answered for months or years. However there's no shortage of opinion, and I hope you'll share yours in the comments.