Apple’s Travails and a Few Thoughts about Steve Jobs


There’s some real subjective, personal reflection in this blog post.  Feel free to skip it…

This morning, there are dueling articles about Apple at Business Insider.  Apple’s in real trouble:  Meet Apple, The New Microsoft by Matt Phillips.  No, it’s not:  Please Shut Up With All This Apple Is The New Microsoft Nonsense by Jay Yarow.

And, over at Slate.com, the always-worth-reading Farhad Manjoo weighs in with Apple’s Next Big Thing: It’s not a watch, or TV, or smart glasses. It’s the iPad.

Now, I’m not smart enough to know who, if any of these, is correct.  I do know that Apple stock has taken a beating lately.  I do know that Tim Cook, Apple CEO, has announced that there will be no new products until late this year into next year.

And, I do know this – I read all three of these articles on my iPad, and I am typing this on my iMac, and I have just received a phone call on my iPhone.  I’m as loyal as can be.  I would give up Blue Bell Ice Cream before I would switch from Apple.  Trust me, that’s deep loyalty.

And it seems to me that everything I read says that Apple’s products themselves are beloved.  And used.  Apple really does dominate in the App business, no small advantage.  (Read the Manjoo article).  Mr. Manjoo states  directly that the iPad has changed the entire industry.   And, he predicts that the iPad will dominate in every way, very soon:

Our picture of Apple will change. It will be the world’s biggest tablet company, one that also dabbles in phones and Macs.

But, I want to share just a simple, very subjective observation.  It is about Steve Jobs.  And it is this.  No one — no, not one; no, not anyone — could do with a crowd what he was able to do.

We could try to “dissect” his communication ability.  Carmine Gallo has done that very well.  (See this blog post, with a video of Mr. Gallo with Steve Jobs, describing in detail how effective Steve Jobs was as a communicator).

But, it’s not just that he was clear, or that he was “natural,” with a terrific conversational style, and non-stop energetic gestures.  It wasn’t just that he has enthusiastic, passionate.  It was that …  well, it was that he demanded to be heard.  He created followersFollowers, not just customers.

Watch this short video of Steve Jobs (there is a short sound glitch in the middle of the video).  See if you can feel what he felt.  It’s really remarkable.  At one point, he looks like he is about to leap from his chair, grab the person asking the question by the shoulders, look them in the eyes, and say, “Don’t you understand what we are doing here?  Don’t you get it?”

Now, I’m not smart enough to know all that Apple lost when they lost Steve Jobs.  I suspect that their products will remain exceptional, and they will continue to innovate, with new products yet to come.  And I will line up pretty quickly to get them when they do.

I know that they lost Steve Job’s remarkable ability to know what people wanted (“They don’t know what they want until I show them,” he would say).  But what I think they lost was this – a guy ready to leap out of his chair and tell anyone and everyone why Apple was worthy of their money and their loyalty.

That is “unreplicable.”  And, so, a certain “buzz” was lost – a buzz that he could create time after time after time.  And you can’t quite bottle that and reproduce it easily.

I teach Speech, and lead Presentation Skills Training Workshops.  People ask me if I can turn a bad speaker into a good speaker.

Here’s what I think.  If you watch Tim Cook in action, he is a good speaker.  So are the others on the Apple stage with him.  (No, I’ve never seen them in person.  But I have watched the videos).  It’s almost as though they took lessons, especially on vocabulary, and organization of the presentations, from Steve Jobs himself.  But, there is a spark missing.  That’s not a slam on Tim Cook, or the current Apple team.  That is a statement about the rare gift of a Steve Jobs.

(By the way, I’ve also watched a few other events, from Apple’s “competitors.”  Comparing any of them to Steve Jobs himself…  well, it’s quite a mismatch).

Apple Announces Launch Of New Tablet ComputerSo, can I turn a bad speaker into a good speaker?  How about this – I can turn a bad speaker, who works hard at it, into an adequate speaker.  One that does not make the audience wish to leave so quickly.  But good, or even more challenging, great…  I think there is a level of gift in that equation that can’t quite be trained.  Steve Jobs had it.  Very, very few others do…

——————–

One of my favorite books of recent years is the remarkable biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  You can purchase my synopsis, with my comprehensive handout and the audio of my presentation of the synopsis, from our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

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