Tim Cook of Apple held his annual new product show last week, and it showed, once again as it has since Steve Jobs died three years ago, that in spite of all claims, there is no game-changing products to pull out of a hat, as had been the case when Jobs was alive.
Two years ago, Cook said his health and fitness apps would revolutionize how people went about taking care of themselves. Last year it was about how Apple Wallet would change the way people paid for things. Then came the Apple Watch, which everybody would have to have. And this time around, he is touting what? His iTunes Pro is just too full of bugs to make much of a dent in the products offered by an already thick field of competitors. And other than that, he’s introducing a little better this and a little better that and a bigger iPad, which you could lug around.
Fact is, there is simply nobody, not at Apple or anywhere else, to measure up to the genius that was Steve Jobs. Jobs would hold one of these annual announcement meetings and he’d hold up something you never saw before, that he said you would want once he explained it to you, and then off we would all go. Jobs revolutionized the way we take pictures, the way we listen to music, the way we make phone calls, the way we use computers, animate movies and the way we publish books digitally.
When Thomas Edison died, there was nobody at that firm to replace him. When Henry Ford died, there was nobody at that firm to replace him. And when Albert Einstein died, there was nobody in that field to replace him.
When Jobs passed from the scene, I thought—what is going to happen to Apple? Is Tim Cook or someone else there the magician that Jobs was? Men like Jobs come along only about once a century.
I feared Apple would founder. Indeed, with Jobs’ unbelievable performance, that firm’s stock was wildly overpriced. How could it have a second act?
Well, what did I know? It’s a different second act. A little remembered aspect of Jobs genius was that he wanted to keep everything to himself, develop every device separately from the rest of the world, but have them work seamlessly among themselves.
This is the second act, and Tim Cook, it turns out, is very good at that. Apple continues to thrive, and it’s pretty much Apple on the one hand, and the rest of the world filled with his competitors on the other—very few of whom seem to be successful at linking themselves to one another as Apple does.
There have been books and movies about Steve Jobs, both during his heyday and after his passing. One film was a flop. A recent book, endorsed by Apple, saying that the book shows what Steve was really like, missed the mark.
But Walter Isaacson’s best selling book Steve Jobs (2011) has been made into a movie by the same name and all indications are they have nailed it. It will be premiering in October. Directed by Danny Boyle and starring Kate Winslet and Michael Fassbender, the film aims to capture the unusually complex personality of Jobs to try to show how he could become the genius he was.
The filmmakers did not have to choose Isaacson’s book, but they did. Isaacson, who is a long time resident of Sag Harbor, had not intended to write a book about Jobs, but one day was contacted by Jobs from California and asked to write one. Jobs was very ill. He wanted to leave behind a good understanding of who he was and what he did. And people told him Walter Isaacson could do it. Time was short, however.
Isaacson interviewed Jobs in depth at his home and then wrote. The book became a #1 Best Seller for many, many weeks. Jobs was able to read it in manuscript, but he had passed by the time the book came out. He was only 56.