End of Act Two

In resigning as CEO of Apple today, Steve Jobs takes on the role as Chairman of the Board. In that regard, tomorrow will likely be no different than yesterday. Not for Apple, not for us. Except it will be totally different. We'll still be able to buy iPhones and iPads, we'll still get [iOS 5](/ios/] and iPhone 5 this October, we'll still be delighted, and things will still be magical. They just won't be the same. Steve Jobs has ended the greatest Second Act in the history of a technology company, arguably of any modern business.

Act One saw Steve Jobs co-founding Apple and helping to mainstream the command line interface and the first successful personal computer with the Apple II. He went on to make the graphical user interface popular with Macintosh. Then Apple showed him the door.

Intermission was when Jobs founded NeXT and bought and nurtured Pixar.

Act Two began when Apple started to fail and fail hard and they bought NeXT and brought Steve Jobs back to the company. He went on to launch the iMac, iTunes and iPod, OS X, Apple Retail, iPhone and iPad.

Taken apart, any one of these accomplishments would be astonishing. Taken together, they're almost unmatchable. They're world changing, or as Jobs himself might put it, universe denting. He became the personification of Apple, the incarnation, every bit as iconic as the logo. They seemed almost inseparable.

But Jobs was and is not a force of nature, he's human. His health required him to take not one, but several leaves of absence. He survived pancreatic cancer. He survived a liver transplant. And like even the greatest of heavyweight champions, battles fought, even won, take their toll.

For all his taste and all his vision, one of Steve Jobs' greatest assets has always been his strategic genius. From the timing of product releases to the timing of his medical leaves, his positioning of Apple executives on stage and within the company has been as meticulously planned as any iPhone or iPad introduction. He's not holding onto power or position for their own sake. He's handing over the company in carefully considered steps. He's leaving on his own terms, even naming his successor -- Tim Cook.

Cook takes over one of the most successful, affluent, and influential companies in the world, and he takes it over at its prime. Apple right now is firing on all cylinders. It's earning record profits after record profits, and a lot of that is due to Cook. He is the best logistics guy in the business, the best COO. But CEO is not COO, and that begs the question -- does Cook continue on as COO with some CEO duties, or does Apple start looking for a new COO? It's often asked if Apple can go on without Steve Jobs as CEO, but equally important is can Apple go on without Tim Cook as COO?

Steve Jobs is the visionary, the man who almost willed into existence the consumer electronics future. Tim Cook is the man who made those visions manifest, who masterminded getting those products onto the shelves with as little waste and as much profit as possible. They've worked together in those roles for over a decade, and with spectacular results.

Will competitors see an opening? Will HP quickly un-cancel the TouchPad? Likely not, at least not for a while still. Changes at Apple do not miraculous make for new competing products. Will partners test for weakness? Will a carrier try to strong-arm some crapware onto the iPhone? Again, likely not, not without getting hit so fast and so hard their towers feel it.

Because Steve Jobs hasn't gone anywhere. He's changed titles and offices, moved from CEO to Chairman of the board, but he's still there to lend his vision to Tim Cook's implementation. He's still there as part of the strongest team in consumer electronics, with Jony Ive, Phil Schiller, and all the rest. He's still there to say no when he has to and to help guide Apple, not towards the second star on the left and straight ahead until morning, but straight to the center of liberal arts and computer sciences that has served them so well yesterday and will keep serving them well tomorrow and beyond. And the reason for that is simple:

For Steve Jobs, as much as this is the end of Act Two, it's also the beginning Act Three.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • great post!!!
  • Well Said.
  • Well written
  • This is a PROMOTION ! He moved from CEO to Chairman ! all the other articles are misleading !!
  • You clearly have no concept of how the business world works.
  • Typically, the CEO has responsibilities as a communicator, decision maker, leader, and manager. The communicator role can involve the press and the rest of the outside world, as well as the organization's management and employees; the decision making role involves high-level decisions about policy and strategy. As a leader, the CEO advises the board of directors, motivates employees, and drives change within the organization. As a manager, the CEO presides over the organization's day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to year operations
    A Chairman is the highest officer of an organized group such as a board, committee, or deliberative assembly. The person holding the office is typically elected or appointed by the members of the group. The chairman presides over meetings of the assembled group and conducts its business in an orderly fashion. When the group is not in session, the officer's duties often include acting as its head, its representative to the outside world and its spokesperson.
  • Yes Steve has done some great things, but at what cost? His life. Act Three may end up bieng a very short act indeed.
  • :(
  • I don't think hard work has taken the toll. . .disease and age has. He will die like all of us no matter if we work hard or just sit around. In the end, he will have done things that some people take three lifetimes to do. He is truly one for the history books.
  • He was a visionary but the hard work and sweat came from the techs in labs and front line workers building these products and stores. Don't give him too much credit.
  • Oh no doubt. But I would differ. Steve also contributed a significant amount of that sweat. Life is a balance and sometimes the brightest stars burn themselves out early.
  • You are so shortsighted. Apple almost went under in the 90's but Jobs came back and his "vision" saved the company. Yeah there are engineers and assembly line workers who sweat blood designing and assembling the products. But those jobs would have never existed without the vision and leadership of Jobs.
    Kinda funny when you think about it. A man with the last name Jobs is the creator of so many jobs.
  • And you are for the most part wrong. Jobs, on bent knee, had to got to his mortal enemy Microsoft & THEY saved Apple with the $150 million bailout you could call it. Without that money Apple would not have lasted another quarter. No company operating & the 'Vision" of Steve Jobs is still largely unknown.
  • Without a great leader even the best worker flounders.
  • You nailed it.
  • Very well said, Rene. And we'll written. It's beautiful, almost feels like a eulogy though. And to an extent, I suppose it somewhat is. SOMEWHAT (haters)
  • Because of Steve Jobs the whole of computers and cell phones has changed. Without him we could still be back with brick to carry around. His imagination has accelerated with the iPhone what the rest of the cell phone industry is now having the imagination to create. Thank you for setting a standard the rest of the industry is finding hard to create and fall short with crape-ware still on there phones. Apple will continue to excel and create phone that we can only dream about now. Thank you Steve for sticking to your vision and to a product that is a world changer...
  • Chapter III for Steve. Get better and enjoy life.
  • Great editorial as always.
  • Rene as usual a very well written article. Steve Jobs will always be Apple to me as I have known no other person to lead them. Thanks to him and his vision we have the technology we have today.
  • Well put. Beautiful in fact.
  • Well written, Rene. Steve will be missed in the spotlight. Though, we all know well enough he surely won't be afraid to voice his opinion when needed.
  • He is my hero. Amazing man.
  • An awesome summary of the situation, Rene!
  • Well, I hope that Tim Cook does better for Apple than what Steve Ballmer did for Micro$oft.
  • I understand what you are trying to say however keep in mind that as far as profits are concerned under Ballmer Microsoft pulled in record numbers. Its just that Ballmer does not have the flair of a Steve Jobs, lets be honest it does not matter what apple puts out we will buy it. If you don't believe me then look at Apple TV. I don't have a problem with it but if you have an iPhone or a iPad then it really is just a paper weight but that is for another post. But I digress, as I was saying Ballmer did well for MS however he did nothing groundbreaking.
  • There is a popular idea that Steve Ballmer has been bad because of the stock price. If the stock price were the only measuring stick for success I guess I could buy into that. However Microsoft has plenty to brag about other than the stock price.
  • wishful thinking, apple demise will be slow and painful, like sony's after sony dude death, he was also visionary, and when he was alive every product would have to get his approval, every tiny detail, function and everything was fantastic, we are talking 20 years back, after sony dude died, te product line become a fumbling crap, and you all must be idiots not seeing steve telling everybody goodbye
  • I agree that Steve was Saying Goodbye. But I also think Apple has something Sony never had; a way to evolve after it's creator was gone. That may turn out to be Steve's greatest achievement.
  • Wishful thinking man. The "Apple Dude" is a bit different than the "sony dude." And really Sony never could sustain anything after the walkman/playstation/trinitron heydays. Steve Jobs is going out on top. Just like other greats in the past from sports (Sandy Koufax) to classical history (Diocletian).
    And one of the 2-3 pioneers of the modern computer and technology era isn't just going to let his company implode into nothingness. Part of the beauty of total control is the TOTAL part. He has worked for the last five years so that the legacy of Jobs and Apple live on.
  • I suppose if you stuck Steve jobs, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking on a stage together a high proportion of the western world would know who they are; and almost everyone would recognise at least two of them. Who else in the world of technology and science has that kind of pull?
    The big test, FOR APPLE, will be, who gets on the stage to announce the iPhone5. If its Tim, we will know that Steve really has accepted it; which IS a big deal. I think the Apple faithful will welcome Tim, but they really wanted Steve. We all know that - right?
    Stephen Fry (sorry, a lot of Steves in here) sited Steve Jobs for his contribution to culture. He, together with Waz, and a very talented group of designers, shaped the last 30 years. Who else has had that kind of impact? Personally I think Waz is more fun, and should be up there; but we all know that "look and feel" is the thing that makes Apple so iconic; the embodiment of a passion to make things better.
    So . . . what was it all about? I think Jobs has always been a passionate individual, searching for a way to make things better. That drive would have permeated anything he chose to do, but he ended up making computers. He met Wazniac and they made a device in two crude wooden boxes that could change the world. But when Steve was dragging those boxes from bank to office searching for funding, things were very VERY tough. Actually I think that is why the fist Mac was just one box; Steve remembered.
    People say: "OK. But Apple is not just Steve Jobs!" Quite true, but the passion and determination it took to keep dragging those boxes around are the reason Apple exists; and it is still there! Any company that puts making things better, above any other goal (even money) deserves to succeed. That passion, is Steve Jobs.
  • I just hope that it doesn't mean that he will die in the coming weeks. He didn't look good at the iPad 2 event and when WWDC came around, he appeared to me as though he had weakened quite a bit more. It was hard to listen to his voice, too. :(
    I've always been crazy about tech, but switching to Apple products 15 months ago has made me appreciate the Apple culture with all of its rumors, leaks, product announcements, Steve's keynotes, standing in line for a phone, staying up late to watch for the Online store to refresh and the many (mostly pleasant) surprises along the way. Apple has given the phrase "Anticipation is half the fun" a whole new meaning for me.
  • Well written and totally agree.
  • Well said. However I believe that rather than the beginning of Act Three it may be the beginning of the Epilogue. Long live the King.
  • I see it as Steve Jobs simply running the vision of the company remotely. But just as Steve positioned Tim to take over as CEO in running the business he is positioning other vision minded individuals for the future. That will be his legacy. Act 1 stated it, Act 2, 3 and beyond will continue it.
  • I have to say that Jobs resigning is just like a UIKeyboard. Sure, he resigned, but he might resurface later with a different purpose.
  • Sorry to go against the flow but Apple and Steve Jobs never "invented" anything. They used the technology that others had developed and combined them into tasty packages and sold them with great marketting, making Apple the largest company on Earth.
    Apple still has only a minority share on the PC AND smartphone market. They succeeded because they sold to the richest, with the funkiest packaging.
    Meanwhile they are abusing their power in a manner much more dangerous than Microsoft did when it was king: they are censoring content. Soon they will not only be telling us what to buy, but what to think. And when I read this article and others I feel we are already there.
  • Man, you are soo wring.
    When I shared your opinion, it was 5 years ago before I got my first Apple product. This first iPhone.
    Your opinion was maybe valid 10 years ago. Apple was then selling product to a few markets at a premium in order to survive.
    BTW, Packaging? Have you ever seen an Apple product package? There is no art, no graphics, just a picture of the product. The latest iPods don't even have package cover. You can just see the product.
    I also prefer to have a more qualified person tell me how a complicated device should look, feel and operate as long as they offer service and support along its life, which Apple does.
    Do yourself a favor and buy and $199 iPod Touch. If you don't like it, you can resell it on ebay for the same price internationally.
  • By packaging I meant the show and hype that revolves around avery Apple product.
    I am not denying that the stuff is great and works. Just that Steve Jobs did not invent anything, he just composed with the existing technology of his time. I am also saying I strongly disagree with Apple's content censoring, which is an outright attack on freedom of speech and thought. And buying from them is participating in loosing your freedom.
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