Apple without Steve Jobs: A charisma crisis

No one lights up the room like Steve Jobs does. How will they fill that void?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ resignation leaves the company's internal operation in the capable hands of his replacement, Tim Cook. But his departure also leaves a cavernous void when it comes to the company’s public persona. And right now, it’s unclear who may step in to fill that void.

Tech visionaries and engineers generally don’t make great orators, let alone presenters. Steve Jobs shattered that mold, with a dynamic presence and charisma that couldresonate in an intimate auditorium, or enthrall thousands in the multi-section hall at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

At any Apple event in which he appeared, Jobs had the crowds eating from his hand. He had charisma. He had showmanship. And he had the uncanny ability to capture imaginations, and steer audiences to understand his vision. Some would derisively call it a reality distortion field, but in fact that was an apt description of the affect and impact Jobs had. As synonymous as Jobs has been with Apple—indeed, it’s hard to imagine Apple without him—the company has operated smoothly with the help of a strong management team that’s included former chief operating office and newly anointed CEO Tim Cook. But none of these faces have been spokespeople, with Jobs's developed personality or presence. Truth is, senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller has done a creditable job in his short presentations, but he’s never left an impression with the audience in the same way as Jobs, even though he’s shared the stage with Jobs, and demoed aspects of new Apple offerings. Same goes for Cook. And for Craig Federighi, vice president of OSX software, who took the keynote stage at WWDC with Cook to introduce OSX Lion. And for Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS software. And so on.

Granted, before now, these folks may have been reluctant – or scared – to try and compete with Jobs on stage. But they’ve fallen flat in their impressions: They’re business managers and developers, not showmen.

Jobs is a legend with a cult following. Only he could get away with delivering his trademark “one more thing” tag line at the end of an event, teasing the last big reveal of the day. Can you imagine someone else calling a hunk of plastic and silicon magical – and getting normally rationale observers to nod in agreement?

Other consumer tech companies—Google and HP among them—have tried to mimic the finesse and vibe of Apple’s Jobs-led events. And each time, those companies, and the leaders they’ve put up on stage, have failed miserably. This year alone, Jobs’s handling of Apple’s iPad 2 launch stood head and shoulders above the rest: Google’s introduction of Android 3.0 Honeycomb and later, at Google IO, of Ice Cream Sandwich; and HP’s introduction of the now-defunct TouchPad. There was no comparison: Try as they might, the Google and HP presenters were lifeless shells, and it was hard not to notice how they were attempting, and not succeeding, to match Jobs’s showmanship. Months later, the executives who stood on stage for Google and HP have largely faded into a nameless ether. But practically everyone on the planet knew that Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2.

That’s because, simply put, he’s Steve Jobs. And without Jobs in this important role, Apple may struggle to find its voice again.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags business issuesApplesteve jobspersonnel

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Melissa J. Perenson

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?