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The canonization of Steve Jobs continues

October 05, 2013|By Michael Hiltzik
  • Steve Jobs. He was a god or something in the old days, wasn't he?
Steve Jobs. He was a god or something in the old days, wasn't he? (AFP/Getty images )

An essential element of the Tim-Cook-Is-Not-Steve-Jobs meme is that its proponents have no idea about (1) who Steve Jobs was, and (2) how Apple performed under his leadership.

An excellent example of the form is buried within Fred Vogelstein's article about Apple's iPhone appearing in this weekend's New York Times Magazine. Vogelstein commits a drive-by assault on Cook with this passage:

"When Jobs died in October 2011, the prevailing question wasn’t whether Tim Cook could succeed him, but whether anyone could. When Jobs ran Apple, the company was an innovation machine, churning out revolutionary products every three to five years.... But under Cook, nothing has materialized, and the lack of confidence among investors is palpable. Apple product announcements used to routinely send its stock soaring." 

Is that so?

John Gruber at Daring Fireball expertly dissects these assertions. First, as Gruber observes, if the basis for claiming that the Jobs-era Apple was an "innovation machine" is that it turned out revolutionary products every three to five years, how is that a rap on Cook, who has been in charge for only two?

More telling, Gruber examines Apple's stock performance after its product announcements. What he finds is that the stock dropped, sometimes sharply, following the introduction of the iPod, the iPad, the iPad Mini, the MacBook Air (down 30% over the following month!), the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 4. It also dropped after Jobs' keynote speeches at the 2002, 2003 and 2005 Macworld expos.

The exceptions were the introduction of the original iPhone in 2007 and the keynote at the expo in 2006, when Jobs introduced the first Intel-powered Macs, including the original MacBook Pro.  

In other words, Jobs' product announcements used to routinely send Apple shares falling, not soaring.

Inexperienced young tech writers and would-be pundits tend to think of Steve Jobs as an infallible demigod. Never made a mistake, never disappointed his customers, innovated constantly and brilliantly. Under Steve, Apple never stumbled. No sirree.

Absolutely none of that is true. 

Vogelstein isn't a novice but a contributing editor at Wired and author of a forthcoming book about Apple and Google. Surprising that he got this core metric wrong.

Reach me at @hiltzikm on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or by email.


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