I haven’t hated on Apple in a while so I felt like I was a bit overdue. Actually, I’m sort of joking. I respect the hell out of Steve Jobs, Colonel Kurtz style genius and how Apple has translated his vision in to mind blowing products that have literally reshaped media culture.
But what else would you expect from a guy who was whacked out on LSD, listening to the Beatles “White Album” when he came up with the name for his invention? Charles Manson was doing the same thing but thank God Jobs’ execution of his vision didn’t involve mass murder or carving a swastika on your forehead.
I’m not trying to be grim and I wish nothing but good health to Steve Jobs. However, he has had a liver transplant and is currently on his third medical leave and judging from the recent profile of the company in Fortune, Jobs’ DNA is ingrained in just about every millimetre of plastic chrome and glass. What will Apple, both the company and the stock, look like post Steve? It’s the question everyone asks. Here’re my thoughts.
1. Let’s get the discussion about the stock out of the way first. If Steve’s gone, maybe Apple can put a crowbar in it’s wallet and pay a dividend. They’ve got $26 billion dollars lying around. Suppose the stock gets hammered 30% when Jobs either retires or dies (my money is on the grim reaper). Not out of the realm of possibility given that emotionally unstable humans are involved in the investment process. That brings it down to around $242. If they paid just half of the cash out that would be a 0.57% yield. Better than the current yield of zero. They could split the stock but I seriously doubt they would want to dilute it. The Steve magic will be gone. The company will need to do something initially to keep investors interested.
2. More content. Fewer gadgets. This shift evolves daily. Without a doubt, Jobs is the driving force behind Apple’s tradition of inventing edgy hardware. Even Pixar was kind of hardware like (they did create super computers to run the animation software). Disney was responsible for the content side. ITunes has become a significant revenue driver for the company although Apple is a bit tight lipped when it comes to sharing information about exactly how much. That contribution will continue to grow. And looking forward, Apple has something much larger up its black, clingy sleeve. The huge Costco sized data warehouses in North Carolina’s Research Triangle that the company is working on but not talking about has more to do with what we watch and listen to on those shiny toys than the actual shiny toys themselves.
3. Hell, maybe they’ll create even better stuff. Apple’s culture is famous for Jobs’ notorious, Dr. Evil like , low tolerance for failure. Great things come out of failure. The less we fear it, the more we try and the better we get. Some bold stuff could come from Cupertino. Yes. Bolder than the iPod, Pad, or Phone.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to handicap Steve Jobs’s mortality. I think it would be great if he lived to a ripe old age and stayed at the helm of Apple’s thousand year Reich. But it’s ok to be a realist and the market will react to his passing and all of that will affect Apple fundamentally. But knowing Steve Jobs, he’s probably planning to be cryogenicly frozen and his DNA has been embedded in some software that will intuitively continue to run the company like the iTunes feature that anticipates what you listen to based on your patterns. Far fetched? Remember, we’re talking about Apple Computer.