"8 Potential Replacements for Steve Jobs at Apple" was our bold attempt at foretelling the future back in January. There was a lot of speculation in the media, and a lot of misunderstanding, about Steve Jobs' extended period of medical leave and what it meant both for himself and for the future of the giant company he'd built. So we applied some analysis, a dab of insight and plenty of creative thinking to try to guess who may replace Jobs when he relinquished his seat as CEO and took on another role. We rated Tim Cook's odds as "long, long, long" because while a "good temporary replacement" he "lacks dynamism and creative vision." Jonathan Ive's odds we rated as "medium-long" because he's "super-hot property in the design field" but lacks the technical vision of Jobs. We thought "he could be a powerful co-chair though." Phil Schiller we saw staying where he is—great for supporting the next CEO and ensuring consistency.
We got this wrong. Our early speculation was based on the notion Jobs would elect to move on from his CEO role to give him more time with his family—something he did—but then of course tragedy quickly struck and it seemed the whole world was surprisingly moved. But before he died, Jobs pulled some maneuvers at Apple that would ensure its future: And he installed Tim Cook as CEO, based on his impressive innovation in pulling together Apple's impressive supply chain deals that have placed it safely ahead of its peers. To him that was enough to keep Apple forging ahead. Phil Schiller remains more or less where he was, now SVP of worldwide marketing, and as Wikipedia notes he "aids Tim Cook as CEO."
But as we pointed out (and as his commencement speech, a much drier, more cautious affair than Steve Jobs' own passionate and inspirational one, proves) Cook really is best at meticulous planning. So Jobs also empowered Jonathan Ive with a unique role at Apple. Still in control of design he's actually got more autonomy and perhaps raw power than almost any other executive, and we can imagine that with his quirky eccentricity, British style and years of both working shoulder to shoulder with Jobs and being a close friend, Ive will symbolize and promote internally Apple's innovative thinking.
Oh, and that Jobs speech at Stanford? It's unlikely you've missed it...but as 2012 ushers in, watch it again—it may inspire you:
[Image: Flickr user benm_at]