WSJ Says Jobs Still in Control of Apple, But Should We Buy It?

stevewebAccording to an article in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, Steve Jobs is still very much involved in the activities of Apple (s aapl), and in fact still provides most of the vision, direction, and general control of the company. The WSJ cites people “familiar with the matter” as the source of the information, but officially Apple is remaining silent, noting only that Steve still plans to return in June.
The source also says that Tim Cook, Apple’s COO and the man in control of the company while Jobs is away on medical leave, still runs the day-to-day operations of the computer and electronics manufacturer. Meanwhile, Jobs works on big picture items from home, like testing devices, product plans and key strategy. In fact, the WSJ maintains that he was instrumental in the recent iPhone OS 3.0 update, revealed last month.
That’s not the surprising news, though. According to their sources, Jobs is also hard at work developing a new device, one that’s been hinted at many times before. Yes, it’s the elusive Apple tablet that has fanbois basically salivating. The device, if real, will be sized larger than an iPod touch or an iPhone but smaller than a Macbook (something we’ve heard about before), and it does seem to agree with recent reports of Apple ordering a significant number of 10-inch touchscreens from Taiwan. Read More about WSJ Says Jobs Still in Control of Apple, But Should We Buy It?

MacBook Air Acting Up, Just in Time for Holidays

The launch of Apple’s new unibody aluminum Macs hasn’t been the smoothest ride, for both the company and its loyal customers. There was disappointment over what didn’t (Firewire) and what did (HDCP) make it into the new machines. The innovative new trackpad design nearly underwhelmed thanks to a glitch that resulted in it failing to recognize clicks every so often. Finally, two graphics-related issues began cropping up in MacBooks and MacBook Pros, problems which Apple is currently investigating.

Click image to see detail

Apparently, the MacBook Air was tired of its bulkier cousins getting all the negative attention. Recent reports from users indicated Apple’s ultra-portable is also experiencing problems associated with graphics output. Machines are being returned to Apple because of “laid” displays, a problem in which faint, horizontal or slightly angled gray lines appear, spanning the entire width of the notebook’s screen. Luckily (or maybe unluckily, depending on your perspective), the lines are said to appear immediately after booting, so you’ll know right away if your machine’s affected. The photo to the right shows what to look for if you’re unsure about your own Air.
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5 Things to Do for Your Career in an Economic Downturn

Economic downturns are hard for everyone, at both work and at home. Week after week there are requests for managers to further reduce budgets, lay off more people and cut projects that were previously classified as “necessary to sustain normal business operations.” These pressures forge managers made of diamond, and those who perform well in both boom and bust are destined for greatness. The very best managers get out ahead of downturns and take action early to minimize shareholder losses and, ideally, create shareholder value. Read More about 5 Things to Do for Your Career in an Economic Downturn

Harvard: How to Predict Business Surprises & Disasters.

shakeltonhaulingr200.jpgWe write often about how the only thing predictable at a startup is — the lack of predictability. Today HBS Working Knowledge has a quartet of essays on how you can anticipate surprises, manage disasters vis a vis your team, and ultimately, learn from failures when they occur. It’s a captivating series, being based on some historic events, and each essay has great instruction on leadership:

* Ernest Shackleton’s failed expedition across Antarctica in 1914 (pictured): How disaster changes leadership goals
* The 1996 ascent of Mount Everest, (chronicled by Jon Krakauer in Into Thin Air: Effective signaling in a crisis — nurturing confidence, dissent and commitment in your organization.
* NASA’s failed Mission to Mars in 1999: Lessons from a failure.

But the fourth essay, Planning for Surprises, has the most relevance for founders. Why focus on reacting to such disasters when you can anticipate or even avoid them?
Harvard writes:

“Predictable surprises [like Enron] happen when leaders had all the data and insight they needed to recognize the potential, even the inevitability, of major problems, but failed to respond with effective preventative action” … Here’s the good news: There are reasons why leaders fail to prevent predictable surprises and there are ways to identify trouble while there is still time to stop it.

A few of these reasons are… Read More about Harvard: How to Predict Business Surprises & Disasters.

Dangers of the “Achievatron”: How Success Fosters Bad Behavior

Even before the ruinous prostitution scandal involving New York Governor Eliot Spitzer hit full force last week, pundits had churned out chapter and verse analyzing why this talented and high-achieving man would squander his political capital and leadership potential so recklessly. (Spitzer’s resignation is official today.)

Most of the explanations were trite: “naked hubris”; “power corrupts”; “just plain stupid,” and on.) But David Brooks of the New York Times takes a deeper consideration of why the most talented and successful among us, those who achieve “Bigness,” sometimes behave very badly.

…our social structure seems to produce significant numbers of people with rank-link imbalances. That is to say, they have all of the social skills required to improve their social rank, but none of the social skills that lead to genuine bonding. They are good at vertical relationships with mentors and bosses, but bad at horizontal relationships with friends and lovers.

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Saving Face(book): When do you hire a pro CEO?

zuckerberg500big.jpgWhen is the time right for a founder to give up the CEO post? It’s a question you will likely have to ask yourself — if your company is at all successful.

I’ve had this founders’ dilemma on the brain ever since I read last week’s Wall Street Journal feature on Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO Seeks Help as Site Grows Up, following his company’s announcement, Mar. 4, that it had hired Googler Sheryl Sandberg as COO.

Facebook ‘s board obviously senses that the company needs more adult supervision, but the piece makes clear that Zuckerberg has no intention of giving up the top job yet. So I read with keenest interest this graph the WSJ piece:

Mr. Zuckerberg’s experience is emblematic of Silicon Valley’s accelerated culture, where startups change more in a few years than most companies do in decades — forcing CEO-founders to adapt quickly in order to survive in their roles. The founders of Google, Yahoo Inc. and eBay Inc. all handed the reins to outsider CEOs within three years of founding their companies.

Is Zuckerberg adapting enough? I’m not so sure. Then yesterday I read GigaOM colleague Stacey Higginbotham’s column, Zuckerberg Isn’t About the Money, published from SXSW… Read More about Saving Face(book): When do you hire a pro CEO?

Thought of the Day: Live in the Arena

A very thoughtful reader offered up an inspiring quotation in his comment yesterday to our recent post on AllPeers, Good Lessons in One Graceful Failure.
We think it is worth promoting. Matt wrote in to say…

I know that this quote is used a lot, but it sits above my desk:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Teddy Roosevelt

By definition, founders live “in the arena.” So here’s to you! We suggest you paste TR’s words to your wall, too.

And thanks, Matt!

The Dangers of a Startup Democracy

Back in January 2007 while taking a shower I thought up the idea of my startup. 😉
I’m a business major, but I can’t write a single line of code. I knew I’d also need someone I to help with marketing and administrative parts and since my budget was nearly nonexistent, these would have to be people I could trust, and who’d be willing to take sweat equity. I started talking to a few of my friends. It was my 1st mistake.

Two of them were already working at other jobs, but I was not willing to spend our tight budget on salaries from day one. I figured I could get their attention by offering to split the company between us. Three of them accepted Read More about The Dangers of a Startup Democracy

5 Tips for Maintaining Vision in the Day-to-Day

Editor’s Note: Ben Yoskovitz is one of our favorite contributors. Today he offers a nice post at his Instigator Blog about vision, and how to keep “the big picture” in focus while struggling through the minutiae of “moving the ball forward” on a daily basis. Ben’s whole post is here, Keeping a 20,000 Foot View One Day at a Time, but here are his takeaways.

It’s definitely easy to lose sight of the 20,000 foot strategic goals and vision when battling daily issues. What’s worse, is how easy it becomes to change strategies quickly when you lose sight of what you were originally setting out to do. Strategies, goals and visions will change. There’s no doubt about that. But it strikes me how easy it is to change gears too quickly because of factors “on the ground” … without stepping back and taking an overall view of things.

On that front, here are [5] things I’ve been thinking about further … Read More about 5 Tips for Maintaining Vision in the Day-to-Day