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BLOG: Is Apple lost without Steve Jobs?

Mike Elgan | Sept. 17, 2012
Apple announced a lineup of great products this week, but there was something conspicuously missing.

I get the feeling that so many of Apple's wrong notes this year would have been ruthlessly vetoed by Jobs. He would have killed the bad ads, willed Siri into full functionality, and persuaded Cheyer to stay on.

I also believe that Jobs would have lit a few fires that only he could light, which would one day result in major new product ideas.

Without Jobs, those kinds of things aren't happening. And it's starting to show.

The format of Apple's announcement this week was all Steve Jobs. The look and feel of the stage and slides. The opening with big achievement numbers, then moving into products in that unique Apple way. The cut to the big video with Apple VPs in a bright white room gushing about every detail. The bringing down of the Apple store. Every element -- the secrecy, the clue-filled invitations, the cryptic banners, the journalist blacklists, the uncontroversial-but-reasonably-hip musical performance -- was something that Jobs thought to adopt as he crafted his own unique approach to announcing products.

Most of all, an Apple announcement used to give you the feeling that Jobs had worked all year to make sure he could drop three or four surprises so mind-blowing that the entire room would gasp in unison.

There were no big surprises at this week's event. There was big information, but we already knew it all. And there were surprises, but they weren't big ones.

With Jobs on stage, Apple announcements left the audience feeling electrified. This announcement left people feeling let down.

Apple is still using the "reality-distortion theater" that Jobs conceived, but without the wizard who distorted the reality. The event was a hollow shell, a simulacrum of an Apple announcement.

Worst of all, the old Apple product announcement formula, which once conveyed an aura of supreme competence, just felt old this week.

I'm not criticizing Apple. It's still a great company, and it still makes great products. It's doing the best work it, or any other company, could do, I'm sure.

What I'm saying is that without its visionary dictator founder, Apple is quickly and quite inevitably becoming a more ordinary company.

On Oct. 5, we'll mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Steve Jobs. We're going to hear a lot of talk about Apple's visionary CEO and co-founder -- who he was, and what he meant to Apple and to the industry.

I think there's no better way to understand Steve Jobs' impact than to understand what Apple is becoming without him.



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