While some have responded to Steve’s resignation as Apple CEO by recalling personal stories involving Steve or Apple, others have focused on how Apple’s culture will handle a different leader. Let’s take a step back and reassess Apple’s current situation.
I have extreme confidence that Apple will successfully update its flagship products in the near-term. As I previously wrote, Apple’s start-up structure assures resources are allocated to a product in the months leading up to a refresh; breaking down the “walls” between executives and workers - the same walls that often destroy other technology companies. Having executives involved in seemingly detailed and mundane aspects of a product is the difference between having a product be “magical” or “good”. Tim Cook will continue to hash out aggressive business contracts with Apple friends and foes. Apple’s expanding supply and distribution channels will continue to be run with the dedication and intelligence that have put competitors to shame. As a prime example of how much confidence I have in Apple’s ability to execute in the near-term, I have no intention in lowering my forecasts for Mac, iPod, iPhone, or iPad sales in my AAPL earnings model following Steve’s resignation.
Apple will continue to innovate and brainstorm ideas that will change the world. While it is difficult to pinpoint why the iPod, iPhone, and iPad have been so successful, it is important for Apple to continue to make similar industry-changing strides. I think this is where Apple will face its first significant challenge with Steve no longer at the helm. What makes Apple so great is its willingness to take abnormally large risks and essentially bet the farm on those risks. Apple is able to translate a big idea (big bet) into reality with very little friction and inefficiency. The biggest risk enters the equation on the demand side - whether consumers want the product. Steve made bets. Big ones. Will Tim be able, or willing, to take similar big risks?
At this time, I do think Tim is capable of such responsibility. Tim isn’t some young gun who has been thrown into the game. Observing how the world has changed (and where it will go) is an art not a science, and while Steve mastered that art so successfully, Tim was in a perfect position to watch the master perfect his art, giving him a significant advantage over everyone else in Silicon Valley. Apple will lose on some bets, but will still be able to strive to new heights if more is wagered on winning bets.
Face of Apple
Apple is Steve and Steve is Apple and that will not change. However, there is now a debate as to who will become the new face of Apple or if Apple even needs a singular public representative given Apple’s size and power. I do think the entire Apple executive team will gain more exposure with some SVPs acquiring new affiliations with consumers. Forstall as Mr. iPhone and iPad, Jony as Mr. Apple Design, Schiller as Mr. Apple Brand, while Tim remains the “Big Dad”. Great brands create emotional connections between users and products. People will want to connect with Apple and its leadership in new ways. When Apple is ready to unveil its next big thing, we will most likely have a few members of the Apple team explain why the world needs this new product, whereas up to now, only Steve has had the honor.
Concerning financials and other AAPL stock decisions, I would expect no significant changes or speed bumps with Tim as CEO. In addition, an internal CEO promotion often results in minimal changes to prevailing capital philosophies concerning dividends and share buybacks.
At the end of the day, Steve built the foundation for a magnificent castle and Tim is a great architect. As I wrote back in December: "As long as most of the risk variables are monitored and marginalized to a certain extent by upper management (and
Steve Tim) - the consumer is left as the biggest risks. Apple can then rely on its brand power to turn the odds in its favor.”