Ronnie05's Blog

Steve Jobs: The Oracle of technology convergence and Apple’s challenges in likely future

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on August 25, 2011

As of this morning, Steve Jobs resigned as the CEO of Apple. The last few years of his leadership were instrumental in shaking up the technology status quo in animation, music, mobiles and computing .Just ten years ago, Sony, Panasonic, Motorola and Nokia seemed savvy, nimble consumer electronics powerhouses. Steve Jobs exposed the key weakness of these leading companies; their lack of comprehension about user interface development and content delivery.

The rise of Apple under Steve Jobs

Many of Apple’s recent break-throughs look hardware-based – but flowing underneath is usually a deep vein of insights about software development. Synaptics offered its experimental new touch-screen technology to Apple, Samsung, LG and Nokia in 2005. Nokia balked at the $50 price tag – it was led by men who thought that high margins can only be maintained by keeping display price under $4.50. Samsung and LG went for this new technology – but did not have the foresight to develop a true OS and multi-touch UI to utilize the new display break-through. As a result, only Apple launched a phone in 2007 featuring not only a large touch screen, but also the content delivery machinery and thrilling user experience to maximize its potential.

Apple was lucky in its enemies during the past decade; engineer- and accountant-driven companies like Nokia and Motorola; rigidly managed Asian vendors like Samsung and LG; PC vendors unwilling to explore new form factors. Apple’s tight integration of software and hardware enabled it to shove aside hardware vendors with limited software expertise. The next round of challengers will be more dangerous. Google is mutating rapidly, still wrestling with the challenge of finding strong hardware partners, but leveraging its search, mapping, advertising and messaging expertise in creative ways. Facebook is rapidly expanding to mobile devices, slowly but surely pushing email and text-messaging aside as it continues expanding deeper into content sharing and delivery.

It is against emerging software giants, that integration could turn into a liability. Facebook and Google are spreading into a range of devices cheap and expensive, building user bases that dwarf even Apple. Apple’s next CEO will have to show at least some of the wizardry of Steve when he grapples with the thorny question of how much Apple should open its software world to other vendors and how deep into low-end gadgets the company should push in order to ensure enough market share expansion.

Negotiating deals with television and movie industries will be a much harder task now that those industries have seen Apple marginalize the music recording industry. Apple’s canny new software enemies are likely to put up a more spirited fight than Dell or Motorola ever did. Steve Jobs vanquished basically all of his hardware enemies across a spectrum of different industries – he is leaving the new CEO a strong platform to repeat that feat against a wave of software opponents. It is hard to think of any other major CEO of the past century who has left his successor a stronger hand to play.

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