Many years back, an American friend who was visiting London from New York remarked on the odd way in which people were walking around with blocks of plastic held to their ears. “Why don’t they just use normal phones?” she asked.
Research for the latest Harvard Business Review ranking of the best-performing chief executives since 1995 – topped by Steve Jobs, as it was in 2010 – also yields some interesting new insights about whether to pick insiders or outsiders to run the company.
The study points out that, overall, insider CEOs do better, ranking on average 154 places higher than outsiders on long-term measures of total shareholder return and increase in market capitalisation. But there was little difference between the performance of insiders and outsiders in continental Europe, China and India. Read more
Apple's iPad Mini
Who wouldn’t have wanted to be a fly on the wall when Apple’s senior executives were discussing pricing of the new iPad Mini? At $329 (£269 in the UK), the relatively high price now appears to be making investors nervous.
What would Steve Jobs have done? Overpricing of the original Macintosh computer – conceived as a $1,000 machine, which increased to $1,995 because of Jobs’ tinkering with the design – was one of the first big disagreements between Jobs and John Sculley, then Apple’s chief executive.
As Walter Isaacson writes in his biography of the late Apple founder, Mr Sculley’s decision in 1983 to add a further $500 to the price and charge $2,495, to help pay for the huge launch and marketing push, made Jobs furious: “It will destroy everything we stand for,” he said. “I want to make this a revolution, not an effort to squeeze out profits.” Read more
Warren Buffett’s early stage prostate cancer is so commonplace and treatable that you might legitimately ask whether it was worth declaring. But there is no question that it was better for Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman to make his statement than to conceal the condition.
While there are good reasons to respect the privacy of patients, Apple’s failure to detail Steve Jobs’ condition during his leave of absence for health reasons in 2009 spread unnecessary uncertainty about the future of the company and its succession planning.
If Mr Buffett had any doubts about whether to make his statement, he could have asked a fellow senior citizen: Rupert Murdoch. Read more
Sarah Gordon points out that Nokia and Sony have a set of problems that undermined their capacity for innovation. But they are far from alone in being victims of Apple’s success.
In fact, the list of Apple victims is long and stretches across the media and technology. Since Steve Jobs unveiled iTunes and the iPod in 2001, starting Apple’s decade long rise to dominance in consumer technology and electronics, his company has left many of its competitors wounded. Read more
Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs’ biographer, has returned to the man and his idiosyncratic management style in a Harvard Business Review article outlining the 14 “real leadership lessons” of Apple’s late founder. (Number one: “Focus”.)
He addresses the fact that some readers of Mr Isaacson’s biography, rushed out last year shortly after Jobs’ death, “fixated” on the “rough edges of his personality”. Mr Isaacson implies that they were misunderstanding the true nature of entrepreneurship:
The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business. He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.
Among the eulogies to Steve Jobs’ undoubted genius was a back-handed compliment from the markets on Thursday morning: smartphone manufacturers’ shares rose in Asia, apparently on doubts about whether the US company would be able to repeat its innovative success without its founder.
Jobs left his chief executive role in August, but his premature death puts the task of dispelling those doubts firmly in the hands of his successors. It could be a mistake to assume that, because they lack Jobs’ charisma, they won’t be capable of carrying forward his legacy. Read more