A common refrain from Apple critics is that without the visionary talents of Steve Jobs steering the ship, Apple is toast. Just recently, former Microsoft COO Bob Herbold added his name to the long list of people who are pessimistic about Apple's ability to innovate during the post-Jobs era.
I think the stock market is telling us that the public is beginning to believe that Apple really doesn't have strong visionary leadership. Apple will be a solid technology company, but the Apple era may be on its way out.
There's no question that Jobs was an unparalleled tech visionary, but people tend to forget that Apple is a company teeming with thousands of talented engineers and a top-notch executive team. Furthermore, it's not as if each and every one of Jobs' ideas was a home run.
Nevertheless, for the folks out there who still worry about Apple's upcoming product pipeline, you can rest easy.
The San Francisco Examiner relayed some choice quotes from San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon who recently met with Apple government liaison Michael Foulkes to discuss ideas to curb smartphone thefts. Specifically, Gascon wanted to talk about implementing a kill switch on iPhones that would be activated when a device is reported stolen.
The meeting, however, was anything but productive.
"It was very underwhelming," Gascon explained. "He did most of the talking. It was incredible. He would just go on and on, one subject to the next. It was hard to follow. It was almost like someone who's been trained in the art of doing a lot of talking and saying nothing."
What's interesting, though, is that Foulkes told Gascon that the next two iterations of the iPhone have already been developed, adding that "they preceded Tim Cook."
Put differently, Apple's next two iPhones may still bear the influence of Steve Jobs.
While skeptics may scoff at Foulkes explanation as an excuse, it's well-known that Apple's development process is methodical, measured and sometimes planned out years in advance.
During this summer's Apple / Samsung trial, for instance, former Apple executive Scott Forstall revealed that Apple's plans for the iPhone were first hatched in 2004, years before it eventually came to market in the summer of 2007.
It therefore stands to reason that Jobs, though he passed away nearly 18 months ago, really did have an impact on Apple's next two iPhone models. What's more, you might remember that Apple back in 2010 invited select members of the press to check out the company's testing facilities following the iPhone 4 antennagate scandal. TechCrunch's MG Siegler was one such journalist who was granted that special access and he relayed that the "iPhone 4 specifically had been in testing in these chambers for two years."
The takeaway here is that folks predicting the inevitable demise of Apple's ability to innovate aren't keenly aware of how long Apple's development process sometimes takes.
It remains to be seen if Apple can maintain its streak of innovation without Steve Jobs, but it's still too early to make that call.