Friday, January 29, 2010

sorry Steve, but there's one more big task remaining

Patrick Hunt writing in The Apple Blog, seems to be suggesting that it's time for Steve Jobs to move out of the limelight, let go of the CEO position, maybe stay on as chairman of the board of directors, but make more room for others to take on the leadership of Apple.

Frankly I think that's already been going on for years, with Jobs slipping very gradually into the background and pushing his vice presidents to take on more of the role as the public face of the company, and probably occasionally biting his tongue in management meetings to keep from dominating them.

I don't think the objective has been his retirement, but rather the freedom to concentrate outlandishly (for a CEO) on whatever projects move him, to get deep into the detail as though he were working under Jonathan Ive, or as a design consultant. It's what he loves to do, and he's damned good at it, even though he never trained as a designer.

Something else he's exceptionally good at is guiding Apple through big changes. They've been through several since his return, and emerged stronger from each, but there's one more big change remaining, the ultimate one.

I'm talking about the change from dealing exclusively in mainly passive information appliances to also dealing in machines that model, move about within, and act upon their environments, a.k.a. robots.

The reason I think Apple will eventually have to get into robotics is because, once such machines begin to become common and their utility popularly understood, that's where the vast majority of consumers's disposable income will be going, to buy machines that do physical things in addition to processing and presenting information.

I think there's a place for Apple in robotics because there's a big difference between a machine that does something in a crude way and one that accomplishes the same task in an elegant way. Apple knows elegance inside and out. They know how to create it and could figure out how to build a machine that embodied elegance in its behavior as well as its appearance.

The challenge, for Steve Jobs should he decide to accept it, would be to assemble the basic competencies within the company so that when the time came to "build a robot" they'd already be a long way along in understanding how to do so in a way that was consistent with Apple's values and aesthetics, such that the reaction would be "Heh, we already know a lot about this!" At that point, once Apple has a clear idea of how they can remain Apple while branching out into robotics, acquiring a company or two with some relevant intellectual property, practical experience, and market presence would make sense.

(related article in another blog)

No comments: