(And how do they find the next Jobs? Seriously.)
Once Sculley got past the task of improving the Mac it came apart when he introduced the “next big thing.” Channeling Jobs penchant for shapeshifting that his colleagues called “reality field distortion,” Sculley even appeared on the cover of Forbes holding up the model of visionary miniature laptop when Apple didn’t even have a regular laptop to sell. Readers began ordering anyway and Apple looked out of touch. (Sculley even had me fired from my column at MACWEEK for pointing that out, such was the media control in vogue at Apple.)
To users, the Mac generated pure social excitement in the form of user groups, fantastic conventions, edgy tech magazines and most of all, a sense of belonging to a special class. The idea of say, a taxi driver checking his smart phone for information and directions was inconceivable at the time, but only because we could not imagine the increase in computing power and mobility.
He responded by inventing Mickey Mouse. Jobs's road back took longer - about 10 years - but even more dramatic.
He also had the moxie to ride herd with a gaggle of libertarian programmers. Most of all, it was only a crazy young company that could talk about computing as a kind of magical state of mind, bringing hieroglyphics back to life as hip icons and throwing around kanji images and Zen references long before sushi came to replace fish fingers.
My rule of thumb isL if Apple goes after an emerging, highly diruputive and massively appealing but complicated marketplace, they can win. If it is wearable computing or watches that really have to use it in a way that enable a new paradigm of activity. Incremental moves won't work here.
The problem is, to make a breakthough, then we need to know they have a great leader otherwise all bets are off the table. Tim Cook is a great caretaker but he is not the visionary – and Wall Street is discounting Apple because of that.
My advice is, don’t collect resumes, Apple HR. Do what the Tibetan Monks do and ago out looking for his reincarnation. You'll know him when you see him - or her. And they probably won’t be a nice guy. It is only their products we will love.