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Is Apple already starting to lose its way without Steve Jobs?

The blogosphere erupted this weekend after former Apple designer Michael Margolis posted two tweets about the Apple TV interface.

The first one read, "I implemented much of the AppleTV 2.0 UI years ago. The new home page UI makes me cry." The second stated, "Fun fact - those new designs were tossed out 5 years ago because SJ didn't like them. Now there is nobody to say 'no' to bad design."

For obvious reasons, the latter created quite a stir and was picked up by numerous blogs eager to speculate about whether Apple's use of designs Steve Jobs rejected years ago is a sign that the company is already starting to lose its way without him.

Not surprisingly, Margolis, who left Apple in 2008, was caught somewhat off-guard once he found himself in the spotlight. That led him to write a longer explanation of his comments. That explanation is well-worth reading and provides a much-needed level of context. Yes, designs Jobs rejected are now being used, but just because Jobs rejected a design at one time didn't mean that the design couldn't resurface. In other words, a 'no' from Steve didn't mean 'no' forever.

At the same time, it's hard to dismiss Margolis' comment that "Now there is nobody to say 'no' to bad design." That's quite a statement and it's bigger than a single design which may or may not have received Jobs' blessing today. While Margolis makes it clear in his follow-up that there are multiple designers on the consumer apps team at Apple, that doesn't really address his additional comment about there being nobody around to say 'no' to bad design.

The just of this discussion: Apple doesn't have a Steve Jobs anymore.

That's not exactly the most insightful observation, but it's also one that might not have quite sunk in yet for a lot of people. Apple is still flying high, and its momentum has delivered record-breaking sales for the new iPad. That means everything is good, right? Perhaps, but at the end of the day, it can be hard to fully appreciate the fact that the man who made the big decisions that brought Apple to where it is today isn't here.

This, of course, doesn't mean that Apple can't succeed without Steve Jobs. By all accounts, Apple still has a leadership team most companies would kill for. That leadership team would have to try pretty hard to mess up what Apple has. So if Apple is going to falter, it is more likely to do so with a whimper and not a bang.

Knowing that, the big question is "Would we recognize the signs of decline?" It's already apparent that Tim Cook is running the show his way now, but when it comes to what matters most, product, one question will continue to plague Apple: "What would Steve Jobs do?"

Nobody, of course, can know the answer to that, something that for obvious reasons is going to be frustrating and perhaps even problematic for Apple. But if Apple is to move forward, it's a question the company has no choice but to avoid asking -- for better or worse.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 March, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2378 more posts from this author

Comments (10)

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Johnson

They certainly seem to be losing their way. They need to bring back Jobs, whatever the cost. This is too important.

over 4 years ago

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ummm

dude johnson u moron. steve jobs is deqd. unless u can bring back the dead, come out of the cave youve been hiding in....

over 4 years ago

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spigot

Ummm, ummm I laughed more at your innocent reply. Dude Johnson clearly knows he's dead. But I wont call you a moron, OK?

over 4 years ago

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Markus

SJ was a one in a million character. For a company to lose a key person like that who seemed to have driven so much of the excellence must have an effect on the standard they reach in the future.

over 4 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

I do believe the new Apple TV interface would not have met SJ's minimal design preferences, but design changes a lot over time and sometimes the old designs will work best for the current situation. What do you think?

When I saw the headline before reading this post I thought about the business/hardware side. On this topic I think its too early to tell if Apple are losing their way. Time will tell if new products will be a lot different to the standard previously set. The new iPad rollout was one of the most successful i've seen so the business side is in good shape.

over 4 years ago

Jeremy Spiller

Jeremy Spiller, MD at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

I think the clue on this one is "former Apple designer". I very much doubt that Apple launched the new interface without extensive user testing and because one person or even a certain demographic doesn't like it doesn't mean it's a fail at all.

It's fairly well known that the brilliant and late Steve Jobs had handed over most of the running of Apple and it's direction long before he passed away.

While Steve Jobs was awesome and one of my heroes to write off a company the size of Apple due to the loss of one man, who'd probably transferred most of the major decision making, wouldn't make sense.

My understanding is that design decisions have been being made by Jonathan Ives for many years in any case. I do realised that when Jobs left last time Apple went into decline but it's a very different company today.

So no, I don't think Apple is losing it's way at all. It could do but then so could any of the any other leviathans in the same space. For my money RIM is the one to look at on this and what are they going to do next?

over 4 years ago

Ian Lyons

Ian Lyons, Founder at Social Focus

Here's the thing - Steve Jobs would never, ever work for someone like Steve Jobs. The entire management team was supplicant to him - and that worked out really well for a long time. I just can't see how Apple can find a similarly strong leader from within. And I strongly suspect anyone from outside Apple is already doing their own thing.

over 4 years ago

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martinez.barbara

It's getting difficult for Apple as the smart phone and tablets markets are mature. There are certain things that apple needs to fix first.

almost 4 years ago

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Kevin Boyd

The just of this discussion: Apple doesn't have a Steve Jobs anymore.

almost 4 years ago

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Wolf

I think that Steve would have tried to have key people in the correct places when his time came. BUT I cannot accept that the latest apple products/software are what Steve would have signed off. When Steve was with apple he gave you something that worked well and nothing less, no 1/2 measures we now have a useless map application for example. Do you really think Steve would have aloud that to happen?

As for the other products I'd not be surprised if they have fallen short of many people's high expectations from apple because that is what made apple different.

Don't take me the wrong way I still think apple products are great but over the next few years I can see apple having even stronger competition. With people moving away from apples signature unique way with products and usability.

Mike

over 3 years ago

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