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Apple's succession plans

Maggie Shiels | 08:50 UK time, Wednesday, 23 February 2011

For the last couple of years the question of who will succeed Steve Jobs as the boss of Apple has been a thorn in the company’s side. It is as if they do not want to publicly acknowledge that there will be a day when their iconic leader will not be at the helm in some shape or form.

Steve Jobs

The issue will be front and centre when shareholders gather at the firm’s Cupertino HQ in California for the annual boondoggle today amid Mr Jobs’ third medical leave of absence.

Leading the charge to have this extremely secretive Silicon Valley stalwart talk about succession plans is the Central Laborers’ Pension Fund of Jackson, Illinois which holds nearly 11,500 Apple shares worth around $4m.

Given that Mr Jobs is seen as so central to the success of Apple, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that the Fund wants to protect the investment it has made on behalf of its members, who work mainly in the construction industry. Especially given that this time around, Mr Jobs and Apple has said little about his actual state of health and how long he will be on leave for.

His statement last month was short and terse and lacking in such detail unlike that in January 2009 when Mr Jobs clearly stated he would be returning to work.

The resolution put forward by the Fund calls on Apple’s board to adopt and disclose a written “succession planning policy”. Under such a policy, the board would review its succession plan every year, maintain an emergency succession plan and “identify and develop internal candidates”.

This isn’t a case of trying to drive Mr Jobs out of the position as he deals with his latest health issues said the Fund’s corporate governance chief Jennifer O’Dell.

“The last thing we want is for Steve Jobs to step down. His is the classic American success story, coming from nothing to run the second-largest company in the country. We would like him to be there forever, but that is not realistic.”

Apple is not best pleased at the move and in its written response in its proxy statement has said “by publicly naming these potential successors, Proposal No. 5 invites competitors to recruit high-value executives away from Apple.”

In other words, take a hike, we will keep as tight lipped as we always have on the subject.

The issue of “high-value executives” being enticed from Apple is such a red herring as to be laughable because it has so far not happened during any of the times Mr Jobs has temporarily stepped down.

Of course we know that even though he was busy dealing with pancreatic cancer in 2004, a liver transplant in 2009 and other issues today, he has remained in charge on the big issues working from home. He was reportedly spotted on the Apple campus over the last few weeks, looking frail and thin but nevertheless keeping an eye on the company he founded along with Steve Wozniak.

Over the last few years while I have been covering Apple and this issue, analyst after analyst has cited Apple’s “deep management bench” as being well capable of looking after the mother ship while Steve is not there on a daily basis.

They have also underlined how dedicated those top execs are to the Apple cause and to Mr Jobs from Phil Schiller the senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, to Scott Forstall in charge of software for the iPhone and from Jonny Ive senior VP of industrial design to of course Tim Cook, the chief operating officer and the man who has stepped into the breach and taken over from Mr Jobs.

It could also be argued that what really does the Laborers’ Fund need to know when for the third time in a row, Apple has survived and thrived during Mr Jobs’ illness and that the team looking after the shop is so seasoned and skilled at the job in hand. Apple shares dipped in the days following Mr Jobs’ most recent announcement to take time off. They have since recovered and hit an all time high this week at $363.13.

“Of all the years to have this discussion, this is the year,” said the Fund’s Ms O’Dell.

“We need to have a plan in place because we are long-term investors. We are going to be here for the long haul.”

And that is the issue, no one knows how long Mr Jobs will be around given his ongoing medical problems. All the analysts agree that Apple will do well in the short term. The big question is the long term.

Take last year’s launch of the iPad, which to date has sold over 15m. The tablet computer was not an Apple invention, but they did reignite the category and turned it into the big computing story of last year and this year.

The same with the iPhone which changed the way people use phones and the iPod and iTunes which changed the way people consume music.

Will they continue having such huge successes without Mr Jobs? That is a question no-one can answer at this stage.

On the smaller issue of the iPad, its successor is due out next month. The blogosphere is alight with “news” that Apple will take the wraps off the iPad 2 on 2 March in San Francisco.

Will Mr Jobs be there? He made it to dinner with President Obama last week when he came to town to speak to a number of leading Valley CEO’s.

My betting is yes because simply put Mr Jobs is a showman who loves what he does, loves his company, loves his products and would love to cock a snook at those who have counted him out of the game.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Does anyone really care any more?

    I mean I use a Macbook and recently picked up an iPhone 3GS, but Apple just feel like yesterday's news.

  • Comment number 2.

    @Mark_MWFC,

    You obviously care enough to post a comment on it, so I'd say yes, people do still care - you especially.

  • Comment number 3.

    Maggie Shiels.

    "Given that Mr Jobs is seen as so central to the success of Apple.."

    a bit like Libya and Muammar al-Gaddafi. :-)

    "Will they [Apple] continue having such huge successes without Mr Jobs?"

    why not, California (the world!!) is full of visionary talent; the question is: will the men in suits (ie the bean counters and apparatchiks) allow a talented person to take the helm?

  • Comment number 4.

    I just wish that Apple is smarter than Nokia and selects Anssi Vanjoki!

  • Comment number 5.

    Bolides are all over placss
    Here goes my job search

  • Comment number 6.

    This is a no news story! The guy running the company now is the same one who did this last time Steve Jobs was ill.

    Apple is bigger than any one person no matter how closely linked ot the products.

  • Comment number 7.

    Oh look....a blog about Apple.

  • Comment number 8.

    @JimmyJammy

    You mad, bro?

  • Comment number 9.

    More Apple...... Yawn

  • Comment number 10.

    At least give the author some credit 7. and 9. - she has (for once) recognised that the word for worldwide blogging is a blogosphere, not, as the BBC seems incapable of realising, "twittersphere" - even if the word does actually link to a single blog which hardly qualifies as setting alight.

  • Comment number 11.

    For various reasons I won't bore you with, my Mac and I have been separated for a couple of years and I have been required to work exclusively in a Windows environment. I had an opportunity to go home and pick up the Mac and, when booted, thought for a second, picked up the entire network and carried on as though nothing had happened. And it is still more intuitive, responsive and grown up than the rest put together. Bottom line, guys, the bloody thing works and you cannot knock it for that.

  • Comment number 12.

    threnodio_II has it in a nutshell.

    Self-made IT experts (read Windows lovers) knock Apple because it oftentimes puts them on the back foot. I've been an IT specialist for more years than I want to remember - but I use Macs exclusively at home for the one reason: they work and they have fewer problems than Windows PCs.

    I'm quite comfortable using SSH to telnet into my Unix box in Telehouse - but I do it from Mac. I develop in a host of languages - on a Mac and I don't worry too much about turning it on in a morning - because it just works.

    Apple makes difficult look easy - that's a neat trick. Windows boxes are often unreliable - although Windows 7 is miles better than anything before it, yet stuff is just easier on a Mac. It's a paradigm shift - and it makes many people PC bigots. Lack of understanding a pack instinct to point at the different people is the same sort of inane bias that caused people to shun gays and coloured people; and just as ignorant.

    A simple example is installing a USB device - on a Mac you plug it in and it works; on a PC it gets installed every time you select a different socket. It's a minor irritation to be sure; but it's not excusable in 2011! The OS should do stuff like that silently and only trouble Joe User when something is actually wrong.

  • Comment number 13.

    I've posted before on this very topic, and I'll say it again: why does everyone seem to think that Steve Jobs personally invents and designs everything? He doesn't. He's just a man who has the vision to allow really creative, talented, and inventive people to flourish in the quest for the perfect design. This is what he brings to Apple, and is the reason for their success. The danger is, as jr4412 said above, that when he's no longer at the helm, the bean counters who can't see beyond next quarter's bottom line will take over, resulting in the same bad decisions we see everywhere else. When you chase after the money, the product suffers... but when you chase after quality, the money comes chasing after you.

    I just hope Mr Jobs has somehow managed to pass on enough of his philosophy/ethic/vision to enough people at Apple to ensure it doesn't all go belly up. Only time will tell...

  • Comment number 14.

    @ JimmyJammy

    Perhaps aim for the other side of the bed when getting up tomorrow eh?

  • Comment number 15.

    @Mark_MWFC Apple, yesterdays news? I'm sure if that is your opinion they will be concerned as THE largest technology company in the world.

    So yesterdays news in fact that Microsoft have starting launching high street stores - 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'.

  • Comment number 16.

    It is a strange state of affairs when the product announcer is stealing the headlines from the product(s)that they are set to announce. That said I think it is very hard to predict long term how any company will fare in 'fad' the world of consumer electronics.

    Mobile platforms that are open could quickly strike an advantage in this case, in that they are independent of the hardware/phone model, as opposed to the iPhone OS which is solely dependant which is solely dependent on the sales of this device on which the share prices are also dependant.

    It is understandable how that , in this case, the health of the product announcer is likely to determine the health of the product.

  • Comment number 17.

    I am by no means an apple fan, nor an apple hater. I really quite like their design, and can (generally) see both peoples sides on the Win-Apple battle. I wouldn't want to fully move to mac, but I would also like one (currently dont have one, except iPhone and iPods) due to the ease of use, good interface, all round good design. The big problem I have really with the computers is that I would love to own one, but not to buy one. What you pay for (part for part) is hugely inflated. I in no way condone people who make what that call 'hackintosh' computers, but I fully understand why they do it. I also find myself shocked from time to time with what apple is allowed to do, which if another company (not just MS) tried to do, there would be uproar about (a very basic, but by no means solo, example would be the non-self-replaceable batteries of the phones).
    I would very much like a macbook at some point in the future, but I can only see myself getting one via a very unlikely competition win, or as a huge discounted second hand laptop with huge luck. If anyone here want to win me over to apple, I would be happy to the experience to oblige you. But as a regular guy with a regular salary I cannot justify to myself spending that kind of money on a laptop, when I could buy a high end i7, 17", BD drive, HD screen (and GPU) laptop for the same price - or potentially less cost than the macbook

  • Comment number 18.

    xandersmith85 wrote:

    "The big problem I have really with the computers is that I would love to own one, but not to buy one. What you pay for (part for part) is hugely inflated."

    The old saying "you get what you pay for" certainly applies when it comes to most of Apple's computers. When you take their iMacs, for example, there are no all in one computers out there with IPS LCDs or with glass displays or with all metal enclosures or with the level of build quality or with the Mac OS simplicity and reliability, not to mention the excellent customer support and resale value. All Macs can also run Windows.

    "I in no way condone people who make what that call 'hackintosh' computers, but I fully understand why they do it."

    So by saying so you have just confirmed one of the biggest values of owning an Apple computer, its OS.

    "I also find myself shocked from time to time with what apple is allowed to do, which if another company (not just MS) tried to do, there would be uproar about (a very basic, but by no means solo, example would be the non-self-replaceable batteries of the phones)."

    Apple does not hold a monopoly with any of its products, Microsoft does. You can't compare the two.

    And why should Apple be forced to include typical user replaceable batteries in their products? Where does that kind of thinking end?

    "I would very much like a macbook at some point in the future, but I can only see myself getting one via a very unlikely competition win, or as a huge discounted second hand laptop with huge luck. If anyone here want to win me over to apple, I would be happy to the experience to oblige you. But as a regular guy with a regular salary I cannot justify to myself spending that kind of money on a laptop, when I could buy a high end i7, 17", BD drive, HD screen (and GPU) laptop for the same price - or potentially less cost than the macbook>

    Your total costs for using a computer is flawed since it is based only on the initial purchase price. You fail to include obvious long term value and benefits, such as less headaches, better customer and technical support and service, saved time, etc, etc, not to mention many immediate ones.

  • Comment number 19.


    Is it not about time we had some sort of blog about Apple. They never get a mention.

    lmao.

    Working so hard, to prove all her detractors right...

  • Comment number 20.

    @AllenT2
    I agree with the idea of getting what I pay for, and in that sense I am paying more with apple for the same items (but not the OS). Much harder in a macbook sense where the unit is a complete build, but in a desktop sense I can put the same parts together for a fraction of the price. But as already mentioned in my post I like the design and look and feel of the macbook - all you are doing is repeating my original point there.
    In a similar way - I see you are driving the value of the price as being in the OS. Brilliant. Let me just buy the OS then. Its not on their custom built kit - thats fine, thats my responsibility all together if it goes wrong then. I'll take the software solo with no support.

    "Apple does not hold a monopoly with any of its products, Microsoft does. You can't compare the two."
    If you actually read the line 'another company (not just MS)' and 'a very basic, but by no means solo, example' you'll realise that I am not comparing just MS to Apple. But I'm not here to start going into a long discussion about rights and wrongs. It's their choice and as long as the courts are fine with that, then its their right to do it if they so wish. Its merely one of my personal reasons that I remain a non-lover (but also a non-hater).

    With regards to '..You fail to include obvious long term value and benefits, such as less headaches..' you can read around many of the core apple haters views which I can sympathise with (again - I do not put myself with them as I would still like an Apple) in that depending on your intents with YOUR computer you may find yourself in a much more headache filled situation with apple if you differ on opinions of what you would like to do. Charlie Brooker recently described his experiences with this himself better than I can, but I recognise many of his problems.
    My trouble for apple and its costs is that lack of choices for you. I do like the OS. Very much. I think its great, and its the OS -not the hardware- that I want to play with. But you have no option to do that. You MUST buy apples hardware to use their OS. I can sympthise with their ability to ensure things work 'better' on their specific hardware set they support, ability to know what you have to support it etc, and so add consequences to not using their stuff. I'm fine with that too. I've never once contacted support anyway. I system build and play with the interior of computers all the time. I'm a software developer by trade. I am willing to buy just the software and accept NO SUPPORT. This wont be of use to novice computer users - and for them I would even recommend to buy the apple package whole. As you say - it will just work. Right out of the box. But we arent all novice computer users. There is a whole range of grey.

    Its similar to the other thing I worry about for buying a mac (although only really desktop based). If my needs change at some point and I need a better graphics card. A different internal wireless network adapter. A better CPU. I dont want to have to replace the whole package. I like being able to open it up and replace a single part. Immediately. And Ubu (and often even Win7) just detects it, picks up any kernal updates/drivers needed and then gets on with it.

  • Comment number 21.

    All that being said. I still want one. The OS is still great, all these worries and 'issues' aside. I just can't see me buying one. If I had the money in my account there are so many other things I'd want to spend it on first. As mentioned before my only (and unlikely hope) would be an insanely lucky find/sell second hand (which is also very unlikely as they hold their value very well).

  • Comment number 22.

    A typical day...

    'Oh I must jot off that blog entry for BBC online..'

    switches on Macbook

    'Now what can I write about?'

    eyes Apple logo on Macbook

    'Well there must be something to talk about within the extremely limited and small subject matter of technology...'

    glares at Apple wireless keyboard

    'let's see... my boss said stories about technology from Silicon Valley. Hmmmn...'

    eyes 'sea lion friendly' one button Apple mouse...

    'Hmmmn this is tricky...'

    glances at Apple logo on iPhone by Macbook

    'Maybe I should pop into the Apple store and ask Chad and Suze if they have heard anything about technology.'

    glances again at Apple logo on Macbook

    'oh well, I suppose I could just Google 'Apple' and see what news their marketing department have released today. Then write a blog about them. After all I'm a gerrul and everybody knows that gerruls don't know about technology. But we do know all about shopping! Hooray for Apple and the Apple store. Plus! when I write about Apple I am guaranteed loads of tedious Mac vs PC comments and that will make it look like I have written something relevant. Comments equal kudos on the BBC blog scene...'

    tap tap tap tap

 

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