Keeping Apple cool after Jobs

"All the cool kids have one." That was my rationale this past weekend when I explained to my wife why we had to get an iPad immediately.

“All the cool kids have one.” That was my rationale this past weekend when I explained to my wife why we had to get an iPad immediately. And make no mistake: this thing is totally awesome. But I've come to expect nothing less from Apple, which has cornered the market on being both innovative and, well, cool. (Sorry. That's just the best word to use when it comes to this company.)

Fast forward to this past Wednesday and the resignation of CEO Steve Jobs. From a technology perspective, the long-term impact on Apple should not be huge at all. The company, which is the second most valuable in the US behind only ExxonMobil, is in good hands with its new CEO, former COO Tim Cook. It employs myriad brilliant tech minds who will no doubt continue to develop cutting-edge products that change all our lives. Heck, Jobs is even staying on as chairman, which might give him more time to think creatively, not “corporately.”

However, it's that coolness factor that bears monitoring and Jobs has everything to do with that. As The New York Times' David Pogue wrote in his blog yesterday:

“His personality made Apple Apple. That's why no other company has ever been able to duplicate Apple's success... because they never had such a single, razor-focused, deeply opinionated, micromanaging, uncompromising, charismatic, persuasive, mind-blowingly visionary leader.”

That coolness prompted PRWeek's purposeful decision to place Jobs, along with Apple's VP of worldwide corporate communications Katie Cotton, in the top spot on the 2010 Power List.

“Apple can tap into the public zeitgeist at will,” we wrote. “Apple's all-powerful cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs effectively bestrides the CMO and CCO roles.”

Here's a quick test, which a couple of very intelligent people I know failed just this morning: Name ExxonMobil's CEO. Can you off the top of your head? I'm quite sure if I posed that question earlier this week about Apple's CEO, you would have no trouble. I'd even bet, like me, you could easily envision the bespectacled pioneer, dressed in his iconic black mock turtleneck and blue jeans, commanding the stage and everyone listening to him as he unveils Apple's latest and greatest.

Thinking back to my iPad purchase this past Saturday, I recall saying something else of note to my significantly better half: “You know, when our phone contract is up later this year, I'm getting an iPhone. All things being equal, I'll take a Steve Jobs product over any other.” Believe me, I don't throw out the names of CEOs with any regularity. I might love Coca-Cola, but you'll never hear me say, “Boy, that Muhtar Kent knows what he's doing.”

That's what Steve Jobs brought to Apple. Whether it can maintain that under the new regime remains to be seen. But I'll certainly be keeping up on it, almost certainly on an Apple product.

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