January 19, 2011

The Best Thing Apple Does Is Ignore Everyone Else

Yesterday, Apple announced earnings that were record-setting for the company, with blowout numbers on iPads, iPhones and Macs. The sales far outstripped practically every analyst estimate, and even the most optimistic amateur guesses. The fantastic news for Cupertino's money machine came just one day after the news that CEO (and legend) Steve Jobs was going to be sidelined for a third time for an undisclosed medical issue for an uncertain amount of time. Intriguingly, after the company proved it was firing on all cylinders, again, well beyond expectations, one once again sees feedback from the peanut gallery offering suggestions for where the company should go next, and how it should handle the executive transition. Luckily for Apple's customers and shareholders, they're ignoring you. They've proven quite good at it, and they should continue.

Apple being a public company doesn't necessarily mean they need to be managed by the people, in some sort of communist undertaking. The qualification that the company is public requires they do what is in the best interest of their shareholders, and the numbers prove they have done so - without any doubts.

Apple's stock value is up 298 percent from the beginning of 2009. This contrasts with a 110 percent rise for Google stock, a 48 percent rise for Microsoft, and a 32 percent rise for HP. And when faced with a similar uncertainty related to Steve Jobs two years ago, Tim Cook (and the rest of Apple's deep bench, which is growing) executed dramatically well. The company is the highest-valued tech company in the world, and at this pace, may soon become the most valuable company in the world, period.

While there are some aspects to Apple's opaqueness which are frustrating, as a user, a shareholder, or press, the company has proven it doesn't need to heed public opinion when it comes to running its business. The company famously doesn't leverage focus groups to design upcoming products, and they don't have the transparency into employee's thoughts as you see with more blogosphere-friendly companies, including Google. I would suggest that one of the major reasons I've personally drawn closer to Google and its employees in the last few years, possibly at the expense of my loyalty to Apple, has been due to ease of access and fast feedback, but this formula is not demanded by all.

So here we are, not a full day beyond the company's blowout earnings call, and already you can see stories in the tech community, calling for a clear succession plan at Apple. With headlines like those from Marketwatch saying "Apple should make Tim Cook its CEO" and people already clamoring about unreleased specifics regarding the rumored iPad 2 and iPhone 5, the best thing Apple can do is ignore all the noise. They've proven for several years now that they don't need your guidance when it comes to how they manage their business, how they hire personnel, how they release products, or how they engage in relationships with partners.

If Steve Jobs says he hopes to be back at Apple soon, and the company tells you that he is going to be active in strategic decisions related to the company, while Tim Cook runs day to day back in Cupertino, then that's the long and short of the story. Done! They've proven they can do it before and they will again. They have given us no reason to doubt them.

I have the utmost confidence that if Steve Jobs were to disappear tomorrow from the Earth, no doubt transcended to Heaven like in Blblical times, rather than passing away due to mortal death, the company has a plan to keep going. Apple is much more than one person now. Jobs is an enigma - the guy tech titans dream about becoming when they grow up. But for as much noise that is drawn up around this company and every little move they make or don't make, it's great they aren't paying attention and managing the company by committee. If only Microsoft and others could execute half as well.

So stop it with your silly headlines telling Apple what they should do next. They know, and you don't.