Will Apple’s User Experience Change without Steve Jobs at the Helm?


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The transition of Apple to new leadership is already going smoothly. The stock market has reacted gracefully. Apple’s employees are supportive of the passing of the baton. Customers are cautiously optimistic that the Apple experience they know and love will continue—in the product design, in the retail experience, in the software and digital services that Apple offers, and in the vibrant ecosystems that Apple has created around both media and apps. Nobody feels abandoned because we all know that, given Steve Jobs’ health challenges and frequent leaves of absence, his resignation from the CEO role was inevitable, although sad for all. In short, Steve has done his usual brilliant job of setting expectations and planning every little detail.

Apple remains one of the best run, most customer-centric, and most valuable companies in the world.

It will be really fascinating to see how long the Apple culture and DNA will be sustained and how long Apple’s products and experience will continue to delight us. On the product and services side, my guess is that Steve has put in place architectural, infrastructure, and detailed plans that will take Apple through the next decade with grace. I believe that we can count on Jonathan Ive to continue to design surprisingly beautiful and useful products.

I suppose that there will be some missteps along the way, and, as soon as these show up, people will clamor, “that wouldn’t have happened on Steve’s watch!” And then the problem will be fixed, the root cause tracked down, and Apple will be back on track.

Apple’s Unique Culture
As John Gruber said in his post Resigned: “Steve Jobs’ greatest creation isn’t any Apple product, it’s Apple itself.”

“Apple’s products are replete with Apple-like features and details, embedded in Apple-like apps, running on Apple-like devices, which come packaged in Apple-like boxes, are promoted in Apple-like ads, and sold in Apple-like stores. The company is a fractal design. Simplicity, elegance, beauty, cleverness, humility. Directness. Truth. Zoom out enough and you can see that the same things that define Apple’s products apply to Apple as a whole. The company itself is Apple-like. The same thought, care, and painstaking attention to detail that Steve Jobs brought to questions like “How should a computer work?”, “How should a phone work?”, “How should we buy music and apps in the digital age?” he also brought to the most important question: “How should a company that creates such things function?”

~ John Gruber, Fireball

I agree. I don’t know enough about Apple’s culture—how it works, what makes it work. But I’m sure that there are (and will be) many books on the subject.

Designing Profitable Companies that Embrace Art & Innovation & Technology
Horace Dediu went one step further than John Gruber in his praise for Jobs. In Horace’s opinion, Steve Jobs didn’t “just” create an amazing company culture, he showed us how ALL companies should be designed. In his post, Polymath, Horace quotes Steve Jobs:

“In a rare reflective moment Steve Jobs, after the launch of the iPad, mentioned Apple’s DNA. He said:

‘Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.
Nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices…that need to be even easier to use than a PC, that need to be even more intuitive than a PC; and where the software and the hardware and the applications need to intertwine in an even more seamless way than they do on a PC.’

‘We think we are on the right track with this. We think we have the right architecture not just in silicon but in the organization to build these kinds of products.’

~ Steve Jobs, iPad Launch

“Steve Jobs’ legacy in product development has been clearly established and celebrated. What remains now is to determine his legacy in company development. If indeed Apple has the “right architecture in the organization” to serially build disruptive products. The collection of evidence begins today….”

“A leader should claim to have left a legacy not just on their company but on all companies.”

“Is it not more worthy to have changed civilization than the fortunes of a few?”

“I believe that Steve Jobs has actually sought just that. He put it as ‘making a ding in the universe.’ This can be interpreted as developing products that “change everything”. But if the thing that Steve Jobs should be most proud of is the creation of Apple Inc., then how exactly could an Apple Inc. benefit the world?”

“This is where Jobs’ quote above strikes me as valuable. The lesson the world should take from Apple is that a company needs to become multi-dimensional. It needs to mix the core business with the disruptive innovation. It needs to combine the intellectual with the artistic. It needs to maintain within it the rational and the lunatic.”

Apple’s violent success should serve as a powerful beacon that others should follow. Rather than copying its products, other companies should copy Apple’s processes–its way of thinking. They should copy how Apple harbors the creative process and the technology processes under the same roof.”

~ Horace Dediu, Asymco

Steve’s Other Innovation: Customer-Centric Ecosystems
I also agree with Horace—that Steve Jobs’ legacy will be in showing us how companies can be designed to embrace disruptive innovation and deliver an exquisite customer experience and be hugely profitable at the same time! But I also believe that Steve designed something much larger than Apple. He showed us how to create win/win ecosystems: Ecosystems that, above all, make the user experience the design center of the ecosystem. iCloud, iTunes, iPhone Apps—these are all overlapping ecosystems that are designed to:

1. Deliver a great and consistent user experience

2. Be profitable both for Apple and for all the members of the ecosystem

3. Be addictive and seductive

That’s an innovation and legacy that deserves emulation and replication!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.



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