Steve Jobs’ death was a sad and traumatic event for Apple. His ability to drive marketing and product design was truly amazing. It was unheralded the way he was able to see the market for the MP3 player, drive a better design, and use this product to move a niche computer company to unimaginable heights. Yet, Jobs also held the company back.

Strangely enough for a man who ran a company with more than 100,000 employees, Jobs didn’t understand large companies and had no idea what IT organizations required. He always enjoyed being the iconic rebel, thumbing his nose at big companies like IBM.

Jobs’ brilliance when it came to consumer products was juxtaposed to his inability to understand the need to create business focused solutions, as well as to establish the environment to sell organizations other than schools and designers. Jobs more than bristled at what was needed to create products for employees.

Understanding the needs of an IT organization truly was his Achilles heel. When Jobs was running Next, classic Silicon Valley stories included his demand to make all internal computer wires black so when computers were opened for repair, they would look cool. Every computer repair person will tell you they use wire color to trace problems. And who else would be opening up business computers?

It’s not just Jobs’ absence that has given Apple new business opportunity.

Apple obviously is doing just fine without Jobs, as company devotees quickly gobble up their latest offerings. But as Smartphones become more commoditized, Apple needs to create new markets and products to drive growth.

For Apple, business customers traditionally have been an untapped market. But with Jobs gone, Apple can move their products into the corporate environment. The deal Apple now has with IBM is a perfect example of what never would have occurred if Jobs was involved.

Selling corporations takes more than just a consumer product available to business customers. There is a whole synergy around business solutions that need to be executed. Business products never would have gotten past the consumer driven Jobs and his need for total control over the design of each solution. With Jobs gone, these synergies now can be created.

It’s not just Jobs’ absence that has given Apple new business opportunity; a weak Microsoft also let it happen. Microsoft started off as an IBM partner who used that relationship to dominate the business desktop.

In The Spotlight

While Microsoft has been busy maximizing revenue with existing applications, they lost focus on the changing marketplace. Steve Ballmer never had the guts to “eat his young” and cannibalize current revenue to maintain a leadership role in browser, operating systems, and office applications. Currently, Linux is eating into the server space, Google is eating into their browser and office application space, and as the desktop space moves to fingertip space — where clients want complete synergies with computers, Smartphones, and tablets — Apple is well poised to take over this space.

While Microsoft focused on maintaining a 1990’s business model, they missed the biggest change in technology — consumer driven solutions. In the 1990’s, Microsoft dominated the computer industry. After winning the browser war, Microsoft let other companies innovate and drive technology while they focused on internal fights and created lack luster product offerings.

Has there been a word processing feature added in the last twenty years that anyone really cares about? Microsoft didn’t even pay attention to the Smartphone and tablet market until it was well established. Eventually Microsoft put forth a lackluster solution that didn’t grab anyone’s imagination.

As Google steels the low end of the office market with their free doc’s products, Apple is now poised to take over what the employee touches with their line of integrated Smartphones, tablets and computers. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft’s Satya Nadella has the nerve to do what’s necessary to create compelling solutions to keep Microsoft in the game.


Anita Rosen
About The Author Anita Rosen
Anita Rosen, a Silicon Valley executive who moves real world business activities to the web, runs project management workshops and is the author of "Project Management: Getting mobile projects connect to big data out on time and on budget.”

Project Management: Getting Mobile Projects Connected to Big Data Out on Time and on Budget

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