There’s a really sad article by George Colony which assumes that with the death of Steve Jobs that Apple will follow the fate of companies like Sony and Disney and fade out into oblivion. While I agree that nothing lasts forever, it’s also important to note that nothing is certain: And thus I give the example of the company that Steve Jobs hated in his youth — IBM.
The founder of IBM — the Steve Jobs of IBM was Thomas J. Watson, Sr. who lived from 1874 until his death in 1956. Like Jobs he has two acts in his career — first at NCR which grew to be so much of a powerhouse that it was one of the first companies to per sued for anti-trust litigation. That cost Watson, Sr. his job at the company he put on the map. Next up he joined the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation in 1914 which he turned into IBM. IBM at the time of his death was THE powerhouse in the industry with a 90% market share of all of the tabulating machines in the country.
So like Apple that was the end of IBM, right? No! Thomas J. Watson, Jr. became President if IBM in 1952 and after the death of his father really took the business to the next level and got it involved in what became the computer industry. Over the next 19 years until 1971 he stayed on as CEO and left a company that looked very different than it did in 1952 — a company that still dominated the industry.
I think it’s too easy to tell if Tim Cook is the next Thomas J. Watson, Jr. but the point of this mental exercise is that nobody can predict the future — and just because a founder dies (which is sad to this Apple fanboy) it doesn’t mean that the company needs to fade out into nothing.
Postscript: The point of the title was to be provocative and more to refute the Apple = Sony article from that overpaid analyst — I think the reality is that history never repeats exactly, so at the end of the day on Apple = Apple because otherwise you’re comparing apples to oranges…