Thoughts on Steve and the future of Apple

Steve Jobs resigned today as Apple CEO .

This comes as no surprise to those who have closely observed Apple and Jobs since 2004 when he first announced he had pancreatic cancer. But perhaps because of the mystery that has, like with most things Apple, always shrouded his illness, the coverage of his letter of resignation seems far more obituarial than any such retirement announcement I can recall.

But, then, there is little about Steve Jobs that is typical.

I have no doubt that the company, Apple, will succeed far into the future. The bench-strength at the company is deeper than any personal electronics marketing company I can imagine — notice I didn’t say computer company or tech company. I chose “personal electronics marketing company” because you can talk with any guru at an Apple Store and discover a better marketer than you’ll find in the entirety of HP.

Those who obsessively follow Apple and its products (I confess) know that the product pipeline of Apple is backed-up years into the future. The market may be waiting for the Apple iPad3, but the company is already working on the Apple iPad5 or 6 or 7.

How do I know this? Exactly five years ago, I posted what I thought to be a rather conservative prediction of what Apple would release during the next few years. It may appear prescient today (there was not even an iPod Touch with horizontal screen at the time), but then, in the South where I live, there are college football fans who can predict what 8th grader will sign with what SEC team five years from now. Just takes a little knowledge and a good scouting report.

However, it is actually Moore’s law that makes it easy to predict Apple product timelines. Just imagine the coolest technology that could be possible if you have product designers and engineers who think like users and the brand, cash (and more cash) and distribution channel Apple now has. Then all you need to predict future Apple products are estimates of the time-frame when the speed, size and costs of components will enable a retail price-point supportive of Apple’s famously high margins.

Oh, and it also helps if you spend 12+ hours a day using one, or two, or four devices they produce. (I confess.)

Want to play that game for the future? Here’s one: In less than two years, there will be a product called the Apple MacPad. It will look like an iPad, but it will run OS X, not iOS. It will cost around $750 for the low-end model. If you use the current Apple OS X version (Lion) on a new MacBook Air 11 inch computer (what I’m using to write this), you can almost “sense” such a product.

I hope Steve Jobs can remain as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

Personally, I owe him a lot.

If it were not for Steve Jobs and the technology he created for the design and publishing industries, I would not have been able to do the things I have done over the past 25 years. When others were calling the Mac a toy and describing what it did, “desktop publishing,” I saw some incredible technology that enabled me to have the same “factory equipment” that New York magazine companies were using. The level playing field that many people discovered when the internet came along was apparent to me a decade earlier when the graphic design work we were doing on our Macs was equivalent in all ways to the graphic design work done on the Macs at Time Inc.

In the mid-1980s, the technology necessary to have a publishing company would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. By 1991, I was able to start a company with six Macs and a couple of laser printers. (The second check our company wrote was to Apple.)

Steve Jobs, like many true business geniuses, seems rather idiosyncratic — and I’m not sure how much of that is truth vs. myth (I’m looking forward to November 11 to find out).

However, I do know this: Steve Jobs, the visionary who “thinks different” is responsible for me having the tools that enabled me to pursue many of the passions I have professionally, and personally.

For that, I can’t thank him enough.

Oh. One more thing. In that list of Apple rumor-predictions I made five years ago, I also predicted that Steve Jobs would retire. And then I went on to predict that Apple would honor his retirement with the announcement that it was developing a flying car.

Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Later: Here are some of the notable Steve tributes I’ve read so far (will add to this list). There are so many, I have only read a small fraction of those in my newsreader.:

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