Earlier this week, Apple announced that a team of executives, led by senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller, would present the keynote address to attendees of next month’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). This proclamation out of Cupertino may give some indication of Apple’s public face for the future.
Ever since his triumphant return to Apple in 1998, Steve Jobs has been synonymous with Apple. Business reporters have, for years, used Apple and Steve Jobs interchangeably to describe what’s happening at the company.
The close association between Apple and its CEO has its share of positives and negatives for the company. Jobs is an incredible showman and very charismatic. His keynote addresses at events like Macworld Expo—which Apple is no longer participating in—and WWDC, have kept audiences in thrall and have generated huge buzz and mainstream media coverage for the company. That’s certainly contributed to some of the successful launches enjoyed by the likes of the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone.
On the other hand, Jobs has battled health problems in recent years, and when rumors about Jobs’ heath flare up, investors have reacted negatively, such as when Jobs announced he was taking a six-month leave of absence. In the Wall Street’s mind, Steve Jobs is Apple.
Jobs is still out of the picture, while he’s still working behind the scenes, according to Apple executives. But he shouldn’t be expected to return to the helm of Apple until early July, if the six-month time frame is accurate—that would explain why he’s not expected to make an appearance at WWDC this year.
Instead, that as-yet mostly nameless “team of executives” will do the show.
My suspicion is that farther down the road, we’ll see Apple continue to emphasize one or more executives at special events, keynotes, and product launches rather that Steve. It only makes sense: Apple is a diverse company with a number of very creative, very talented senior executives, and they deserve a chance to shine, too.
Even with a popular and charismatic leader like Steve Jobs, Apple’s continued success shouldn’t be tied specifically to one man. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, in other words.