Last night, when I heard the news that Steve Jobs was stepping down as CEO, I was out with a friend. The first thing he asked me was, “Does this mean Google is going to take over?” A few minutes later, I got a text from someone else: “Does this mean the iPhone 5 is going to be delayed?” The answer to both of those questions is, of course, no.
When Steve Jobs returned to pilot Apple 15 years ago he pulled the company up from a nose dive. It was a huge comeback, and since Apple prides itself in its secrecy, we mostly see the public-facing products of that comeback. We see OS X, the PowerBooks, the MacBooks, the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, the iPad, and iCloud. And we think that without Steve none of these products would ever have happened. And that is true.
It raises the question: “Without Steve as CEO, what about the next 15 years of Apple products?”
What Steve has done over the past 15 years to build up the company is not only found in the software and hardware that Apple has made. His work is also found in the values and goals of the company itself.
There is more than one person in Cupertino who cares about quality, craftsmanship, art, and innovation in Apple’s products. Steve’s values for product design, user experience, and changing the world are seeded all throughout the company. His world-famous attention to detail is something that his fellow employees hold as a standard, not a burden. His painstaking determination to constantly improve and simplify the user experience is why people go to work there.
Steve isn’t holding Apple on his shoulders any longer. He’s built it up so it can stand on its own. And in the midst of all his innovations and ideas, perhaps the greatest “product” Steve Jobs has built isn’t a product at all — it’s a culture.