A Few Thoughts on Steve Jobs / Apple

The announcement yesterday that Steve Jobs is taking a leave of absence from Apple is one of those events that leads to a reflexive  spasm of half thought out commentary. The mad rush to publish something often leads to some pretty silly statements making the rounds.

As a long standing Apple fan, I deferred piling on yesterday, waiting until I after a few hours of quiet contemplation had passed.

Thus, I have some thoughts to share with you:

1. Timing of the announcement: I heard a few accusations from the tinfoil hat crowd that this was a purposeful holiday release. I doubt that was the case here. I suspect that in response to some triggering event over the weekend (Saturday) — a medical test, a doctor’s advice — Jobs reached out to his COO and the Board (Sunday).  The next day was when the announcement was made.

Consider the alternative — had they waited a day until the market was open, the delay itself could have been an SEC issue. And, the chance of a leak from outside Apple (i.e, the medical side) was a distinct possibility. (Note: The sleaziest corporate announcements are late Friday afternoon on a 3 day weekend. Those are, by design, attempts to bury bad news) .

2. Apple has a deep bench: It may come as a surprise, but the world’s largest Tech company is not a one man operation.

-Jonathan Ive:   Chief Industrial Designer If you love the looks of your iPad, MacBook or iPod, Ives is your guy.

-Ron Johnson: Retail Honcho ex-Target guy, the brains behind the Apple Stores

-Bob Mansfield: Mac Hardware Engineering Oversees products like iMacs and Macbooks. Reports directly to Cook

-Scott Forstall  iPhone Software Designer Developed the simple (yet revolutionary) iPhone  user interface

There’s lots more talent at Apple behind Jobs.

3. Why Wouldn’t you use Jobs?   Someone asked “With all this talent, why didn’t Apple trot out these guys more often?”

Let me phrase it this way: If you owned/managed a Consumer products company, and your CEO was a cross between PT Barnum and Henry Ford, why on earth would you ever use anyone else?

4. Apple needs a 10 Year Plan:  No, Apple does not, as one analyst suggested, need a 2-3 year plan. Apple has managed to place itself at the nexus of media, consumer gadgets and technology. What made Jobs contribution so brilliant was his ability to see just beyond what was possible today to conceive of things for mass consumption devices.

Regardless of the outcome of this recent scare, one day, Apple will have to operate without Jobs. They need to continue identifying products that are both just possible to create as well as highly desirable. How they can do that without Jobs remains a valid concern.

5. The Bigger Risk in Apple Remains that Momentum Traders Fall out of Love:  Back out the cash, and Apple trades at a reasonable P/E.  That’s why fundie guys like David Einhorn own it. But when you see the list of less fundamentally-driven Hedge funds that own Apple, there can be little doubt that momo players are big in the name. The risk to stock price is that they simultaneously fall out of love. If that happens, and the stock gets hit, some of the shine could come off of the Apple halo. THAT is never good for sales . . .

6. This introduces a new Uncertainty: Not to be morbid, but when Jobs first got ill, we learned what the various parameters were of his ailments. The latest claims of uncertainty are silly.

We know what Pancreatic Cancer survivor tables look like, we know what Liver Transplant survivorship math is. The longevity tables for a liver transplant recipient/pancreatic cancer survivor are not unknown. My point is, there isn’t a lot of uncertainty here


See also (some of the less hysterical coverage of Apple):

• Without Jobs it’ll be Apple 4.0 (Fortune)

• Apple’s Comeback: 3 Reasons Stock Has Bounced From Lows  (Marketbeat)

• The CEO’s previous leaves have not had a long term negative effect on the stock (Alphaville)

• Top Hedge Funds That Own Apple (AAPL) (Marketfolly)

• Apple Is More Than Just Steve Jobs (Forbes)

Bizarre: Christopher Bonavico says Apple “is destroying value by sitting on its cash hoard” (WSJ)

• Buying Blind: Should Jobs Disclose More to Investors About His Personal Health ?  (Slate)



Popular or Best? (ATPM January 1998)

Analysts Still Underestimate Apple (Real Money, Jan 13, 2005)

Is Disney/Pixar the sequel to Apple/NeXT ? (January 30th, 2004)

Apple morphs into a Consumer Electronics Co (April 25th, 2004)

Apple to Music Industry: Monetize Your IP (April 28th, 2004)

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