Steve Jobs returned to Apple Inc. in 1997. Because of this return, a somewhat stale product line was revamped and dramatically improved. Mac OS 9 was replaced by OS X, a new line of Mac products was quickly announced, and Apple’s fate was reversed.
Apple went from being a company that waited on change and stuck with what was safe to one where everyone was given the freedom and ability to innovate. This innovation drove the development of what would become the iPod, iTunes, and later the iPhone and iPad. These products were the result of engineers who were told to think outside the box and trusted with their tasks at hand.
Steve Jobs once described Apple as the world’s largest startup. He changed a culture of delegation and micro-management into one where every member of the Apple team was given the freedom to do what they needed to do. Of course, Steve Jobs’ own meticulous vision played a big part in making good products better.
So, what does the future look like for Apple? Currently, it has roughly four years’ worth of product roadmaps ahead of it. The team Steve Jobs built has been carefully selected and trained to know exactly what Steve Jobs would expect. Without a doubt, his spirit and vision live on through the people he worked with at Apple.
Tim Cook has been a key member of Apple’s leadership for many years. If anyone knows Steve Jobs’ vision of the company, it’s him. He’s been acting CEO for the majority of 2011, and did so during Jobs’ original leave of absence several years ago. It would be short-sighted to discount his ability to lead a company like Apple Inc., especially after having served such a critical role for so long.
He’s responsible for some of the most significant improvements in Apple’s day-to-day operations including manufacturing. His revisions saved the company millions, decreased inventory, and helped turn a profitable company into a financially sound powerhouse. His resume includes companies like Compaq, IBM, and Nike.
Virtually everyone within Apple from management down to the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder is passionate about the work they do. Unlike most work environments where a manager is assigned to demand specific things of the work force, the corporate environment at Apple allows for everyone to feel a sense of responsibility about the company and its products. They’re customers themselves, after all.
As long as Apple avoids committees and focus groups, it will undoubtedly continue to thrive for many years to come.
Currently, Apple Inc. has one of the strongest outlooks of any company in the technology world. It’s turning record profits each quarter, dominating several key technology markets including smart phones, portable music players, and tablets. If any company can stand the test of time and thrive in the face of adversity, it’s Apple.
Flickr photo of Tim Cook shared by igrec.