Why the governance structure of Apple will lead to its own demise

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

A lot of people are worried that the CEO of Apple Steve Jobs is going to be serious sick. A few years ago he went through a lever transplant and now it is rumored that he is sick again, while we do not know the exact reason why he has asked for a leave it has lead to plenty of speculation.

So why is Steve so important? Well for one he has turned apple around from being squashed by the PC to becoming the preferred brand within both laptop and mobile phones for university students around the world. He has lead to the introduction of new ways of looking at books and information, though the introduction of the IBook and application in the IPhone. So when Steve speaks the world listens.

Steve has become so special and irreplaceable at Apple and this will eventually lead to the demise of the company. In the end it will cost individual shareholders millions of dollars, not to mention the job of thousands of employees and the millions of customers who trust the company to be innovative and provide them with the services that they want. So if you think that Steven is the one stone that will make the Apple tree fall there is every bit of evidence that you should cash in and ‘Get the hell of out of Dodge’.

Here are the signs that Apple is going to fall.

Personal cultism. Steven Jobs is not just a 55 year old person he is a demigod who has turned a label into a religious symbol. It is not just a laptop or a mobile phone it is an IPhone, an IMac or an IBook and Steve is the pope who spreads the gospel. He meets presidents around the world and books are written about him he even have his own cult site on the net. And if he sneezes we all hold our breath in case that something will happen to the dear leader.  

Apple has become a religious belief not a high tech product. So why is Apple so similar to a religion? For one look at the how apple came to be. First it had a humble start in a garage (could have been a stable but it would properly have been to corny) it then went through a time of great optimism and Mac showed the world a new of a living (Mac user interface) then there was a time of great turmoil and Steve was sacrificed by his own people (he got kicked out of his own company by the board). But eventually he (Steve) came back to save us all and has lead the movement ever after like a messianic leader.

The story about an epic struggle between Good and Evil. For a long time Apple also had an archrival in Microsoft, who was depicted as the incarnation of all which is evil. Microsoft had taken over the world but Steve fought on the side of good and was in the end successful. Now that the power of Microsoft Empire has diminished is Apple looking for new companies to take on the role of archrival number one. One good candidate has been Google which in many ways have the same life story of Apple but which now has grown in maturity and could be a good candidate as villain.

Protectionism. Apple has successfully made sure that any attempt by software developers to create applications for Mac is fought off. By denying approval of systems that in the company view can be seen as competitive to the Apples own system and by that they are in the same situation which Microsoft was in not so many years ago.  

A willingness to go to extreme measures to win. When apple was accused of violating basic labour rights through its factories in China it was unable to come with any reasonable response. The company was accused of pressuring suppliers to implement security systems that basically ruined people’s lives and after 13 employee suicides there was still no reply from Steven on what the company should do. The only thing that the company changed was to hire some 2000 sing and dance actors to boost morale and put up a fence to catch any would be suicide victims. And when Steve was confronted with these appalling conditions he could only come up with the Nike defense of “Not being a shoe company” which we all know is not a very good response.    

There is no doubt that Steven has been good for Apple, but his health can’t determine the faith of thousands of employees and customers, it’s just not good governance. At this point I can’t see any way that Apple will be able to turn a way from the path of corporate religion into one of corporate sustainability. There is none besides or above Steve and his faith is totally linked to the faith of the company he runs.

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4 thoughts on “Why the governance structure of Apple will lead to its own demise

  1. Very interesting and well written post, Jacob.

    I believe that Apple has reached a level and a dominance, where it is crucial that they become aware of dealing with their protectionism and incipient arrogance, before it backfires.
    Apple is growing greedy, and the means that worked so well when Apple was still in their young David versus Goliath fueled years, are not necessarily the ones that will keep Steve’s disciples loyal forever..

    (I am a Mac user myself) /Kristian

  2. Thanks Kristian,

    It does represent a real issue for Apple and one they need to address soon. It does not really matter of you are a ‘Mac or a PC’ there is no doubt that Apple has change the world both in terms of technology and design. They have been able to lift an otherwise boring and isomorphic approach to home computers into a whole new league. I would hate to see that go away.

    best
    Jacob

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