It's been a while since I've blogged here, which is mostly due to my new role as Product Evangelist at Silverpop. It's a company and team I’ve had incredible respect for since being their first corporate client ever in 1999 while at UPS. There were incredibly few full-time gigs I would have entertained, but it’s been awesome. So on to my (potentially) crazy theory for this post.
To begin, you have to be old enough to remember one of the true icons of tech media going back to the early 90s: one Robert X. Cringely. His InfoWorld column was center of all astrophysical prognostication for years, and it always seemed he knew just a little bit more than anybody on the block. If you're not a 20-year fan, you may also know Bob from his book ‘Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date’, which was made into an amazing PBS documentary in 1996 – ‘Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires’. If you ever see it on your channel guide, made it an immediate priority!
So Bob does annual predictions every year, and his #1 this year is a doozy: that Tim Cook will be replaced as Apple CEO. Personally, I'm not sure I agree 100% for multiple reasons, but I love the juiciness of the idea. Firstly, I believe Apple has a clear corporate memory for the crappy days of revolving door CEOs – and how they almost lost the whole damn enchilada with guys named Sculley, Spindler and Amelio. It was only the brilliance of Steve Jobs who pulled it back from the brink of destruction, and created the behemoth we know and love today. For continuity and momentum reasons, I think Tim sticks around for more than the next 11 months. But that’s not to say the wheels might not be turning...
The second reason is more about leadership style and the natural comparison of CEOs. As my buddy Heath Wilkes has contended from Day One, the next CEO of Apple couldn't be a visionary in the vein of Steve – he'd simply never live up. And choosing an operations guru who made epic contributions to wringing efficiency and profitability out of a huge machine certainly allayed investor fears. It would have been a tough move to elevate a guy like Sir Jony Ive into the role even if he's among the most influential product design dudes on the planet. In any other organization on the planet, Ive would be the CEO hands down.
So if Cook were to be ‘replaced’, here's how it could go down. The first move would be Apple buying both Twitter and Square simultaneously for an eye-popping $10-12 billion (which sounds like ton, but is less than 15% of their cash reserves). It'd have the desirable market effect of ‘exiting’ two deeply funded startups, and make no mistake there'd be a nice premium into the two-at-once deal. (BTW, think about the Investing Renaissance that could follow the freeing of that much capital!)
And from a product perspective, imagine a direct integration of Twitter in iOS6, along with the iPhone being the default payment platform for Square. No dongle -- just an NFC chip, the beauty of the Square UI, and the power of their growing merchant network. It's the base-level integration of messaging and payments that could continue to push iOS beyond today's competitors.
Oh, and you get the guy who I believe could lead Apple for the next 25 years – Jack Dorsey. Make no mistake, I don't believe any entity – even Apple and its double-digit billions – could take Jack off his current missions with Twitter and Square, but I do think he'd be an amazing understudy. A scenario where he had 2-3 years deeply embedded with Jony and Tim could be exactly the type of seasoning that could set him up for *epic* greatness. It would also make Twitter and Square better products by adding more engineering horsepower and pure R&D dollars, along with certainly making iOS even more powerful.
So why might this not ever happen? First of all, I don't know Jack personally but it's tough to see him running almost anything someone else created. By nature he's a definer and a builder. If anything, I could see him following the Bill Gates path of transitioning from business success into something more cause oriented – at an even younger age. I also believe he's probably near his maximum capacity with two full-time jobs, and is utterly dedicated to success of both ventures. He’d have to absolutely believe this was the best move for Twitter and Square, not just a promotion for Jack Dorsey.
But at the end of the day, this would be the tech version of the Dream Team. A brilliant product visionary obsessed with design and functionality paired with a global powerhouse who can scale manufacturing seamlessly and disrupt major media industries at-will. It would be the best of all worlds for users and shareholders – and an utter nightmare for Apple competitors and dinosaur industries like cable TV.
If it goes down, remember where you read it first. Happy New Year…