Category Archives: Apple

The Retiring Tech Generation Leaders

Bill Gates has left Microsoft. Steve Jobs is rumored to be struggling with health problems that may force him to reduce his role at Apple. Many of their peers that emerged in the late 70’s and early 80’s are getting to that age of retirement.

Thinking about this, and about leadership styles, I’m struck by some thoughts about these people and the companies they created. Both Gates and Jobs will be remembered as being tremendously successful and helping to shape the industry. That is given. What I find interesting is that both men seem to have become what they fought against in their early days. And neither seems to recognize it.

Gates saw an opportunity because of the size and beauracracy of giants like IBM. Microsoft has certainly suffered under it’s own weight. While being the de facto standard on the desktop, they certainly aren’t loved for their licensing, consumer pricing, and compromises related to media rights. More than Jobs, though, I think Gates at 20 year old would be comfortable with what became of him.

Jobs has always been difficult for me to understand. He certainly has viewed himself as the free-thinking liberal of the industry. He strove to be more in-tune with individuals, educators, and small businesses than with the corporate crowd. However, he has ruled his companies with an iron first. He seems to believe he is the only source of good ideas at his company. And particularly in recent years, he has been very comfortable placing financial concerns ahead of user convenience. And yes, every company has their fanatics, but Apple’s seem to be the most brainwashed bunch.

I think this happens when people try to rebel from something. They are so concentrated on fighting some perceived evil or status quo, that they ignore any perceived problems with themselves or their new alliances. I think Jobs never realized that he was building the rigid company that he portrayed in the famous 1984-style commercial from the 80’s. He is the stubborn, egotistocal CEO that he hated when he was 20.

That company, and his style have helped create some of the more innovative products or our time. And he isn’t the first person to become a monster while fighting monsters. But I wonder what will happen to Apple when he’s gone. That structure doesn’t seem to go on, without it’s dictator. I’m not defender of Microsoft and their business practices, but I knew they would go on without Gates, as much of the power and product management was distributed in the 10 years prior to Gates leaving.

That’s a lot of rambling, and I’m not sure I have a single point. But I just continue to wonder what Jobs and Gates would think of themselves looking into a crystal ball from 1979 or so.