Many contrarian voices have since the 1970's predicted the demise of Apple. They almost proved right in the 1990's. And then Jobs returned and everything was grand…if only that were true.
After Jobs came back on August 6, 1997, it wasn’t all roses and champagne. We all had to live with MacOS 8 & 9 for several years, which was a hell all unto itself. Although the NeXT acquisition occurred in 1996, OS X wasn’t released until 2001. Even then, it wasn’t until Tiger in 2005 that OS X really hit its sweet spot, at least IMHO. Pre-Xcode, we actually had two development tools — Project Builder and Interface Builder — that didn’t make for the finest development experience. There were plenty of false starts — MobileMe — and failed products — the Cube and the Stereo (I still have mine). iTunes was released in 2001 but didn’t initially leap off the shelves. As great as the iPod was when it was announced in late 2001, it wasn’t an immediate hit either. It was Windows support for iTunes and the iPod, the move to X86 (Intel), and OS X Tiger that things started to hum.
As talented and even brilliant as Jobs was, for Apple to iterate to the point of having good products took a team. As he once said, “To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.” Jobs, whatever personal faults he might have had, never shied-away from recognizing the hard work of Apple’s management and employees that enabled execution of his goals. And many of the people who helped him execute such as Phil Schiller and Eddie Cue predated Jobs’ return to Apple; others like Craig Federighi came through Apple’s acquisition of NeXT; Tim Cook and Dan Riccio came from Compaq in 1998.
I think the most innovative and far-reaching thing Jobs did was Apple University. It’s been reported that, in seeing what happened to HP and Disney when their founders departed, Jobs recognized that Apple needed a means by which to inculcate new hires into the Jobsian Apple Way. To my (obviously not very extensive) knowledge, Apple was the first tech company to do this.
A look at Apple’s financial history since Jobs’ death on October 5, 2011 would reveal that Apple has continued to grow under Cook. A lot!
There was someone who told me nearly four years ago that Apple was too big to grow. That was approx. $45 per share of AAPL, or about a 60% return, ago. And that doesn’t even include quarterly dividend returns.
During the past 5.25 years Apple has seen its market cap grow from $350.67 on 10/06/2011 to $635.15B latest. That is nearly $285B, or 35% per annum, growth.
At the end of Apple’s fiscal year — Apple works on a traditional fiscal calendar — 2011 Cash and Securities was $76.2B; currently that number is around $238B, a nearly $161B, or a 211%, gain. That is nothing short of phenomenal. And with a quarterly dividend to boot!
Of course, Apple has to continue to innovate and profit. If it doesn’t, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and who knows will eventually eat away its advantages. Rate of growth in gross revenue in whole and in parts, expenses, product misses/hits, quality, and a host of other issues are always something one keeps an eye on.
In any case, from where I sit the notion that Apple has lost its way since Jobs’ death is hard to support.