At first I was saddened by the news. While it was not really unexpected, the realization that it had finally actually occurred was quite moving. I was privileged to attend two ‘Stevenotes’, and while I have never had the pleasure of meeting Steve personally he has always felt strangely personal to me. I know that is a sentiment mirrored by many of my peers.
Steve Jobs is equal parts legend and man these days, and with good reason. He took a company that on September 16, 1997 (when he retook his role as CEO) was trading at an adjusted $5.48/share. To a company trading at $376.18/share. That kind of turnaround is worthy of the legend. Saying nothing of what he did at Pixar, he is worthy of all the accolades you can throw upon him.
But when I think about what Steve really did as CEO at Apple, I find myself thinking more about the people and structures he is leaving behind. What I think sets Apple apart from almost any other company is its unflagging resolution to never let a failure out the door. A commitment to quality and user experience above all else. And the ability to execute on a vision, however complicated.
Those qualities are embodied in Steve but now seem etched into the company itself. I’ve never worked at Apple, but I get the sense from people who have that the ephemeral culture of the place is permeated with Steve’s style. I doubt that will change anytime soon. Apple is no longer embodied by a single product, so much as a singular style. An almost intangible way of doing business that brings forth great products.
While I have no way to knowing directly, I imagine Steve would say the thing that he was most proud of building at Apple, was the company itself. Setting up a place that has churned out such a long list of hits is truly unparalleled by any company I can think of.
I wish Steve all the best. I am most saddened by the realization that this move is more because of his health than anything else. For him to step aside from running his live’s work must mean he is physically overwhelmed, which is a terrible thought indeed.