No disrespect to Tim Cook or the other outstanding executives Steve Jobs put in place, but I will be surprised if the company's best years are not behind it. Apple's founder is irreplaceable. Dead at 56. How terribly sad that he won't be there driving the firm and enriching our lives for another 20 or 30 years. As he surely would have been, if he could: difficult to imagine him ever retiring except through incapacity. That was not Jobs.
His traits were amazing one by one, but the combination was surely unique, and not just in his own time: technological visionary, product developer extraordinaire, production-process innovator, industrial-design aesthete, and marketing genius, all in one. Add relentless drive, a full appreciation of his own talents, and the matchless luxury of knowing that he himself had built the company he was betting on his next idea, not once but twice.
Today a few people have told me, by the way, that disappointment over the new iPhone is a sign of things to come: the first post-Jobs product launch was a letdown. Well, I think Jobs' departure will be a crippling setback, but this was not the first post-Jobs product launch (it will be a year or two before we see the first Apple product that Jobs did not direct from the moment of conception) and I'll have you know the new iPhone is no letdown.
The new device is an impressive advance over its predecessor in every respect but for the look. (It's still beautiful.) I'd say this, even if it did not introduce Siri, the natural-language voice-control feature. I'm surprised this has not caused more of a stir. It could be revolutionary, don't you think? We'll see how well it works in ordinary use when consumers get hold of it, but I thought the Apple demo was startling. Jobs at his best, even if he wasn't there. Usable voice control will be a far, far bigger breakthrough than touch-screens when it comes--and it may just have arrived.