Mr. Jobs' Choices for Successor Say a Lot About Apple's Future

/> [23:15 UTC] On Tuesday, Steve Jobs mentioned some possible candidates to become his successor. Two were Apple COO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer. These recommendations to the board say a lot about Apple's future.

In the not too distant past, Apple was a beleaguered company, at risk of going bankrupt. When Mr. Jobs returned, Apple was struggling to generate revenues of US$5B. Now, in 2008, Apple is a $25B company, almost certainly headed for $40B in just a few years. They have more money in the bank than the gross domestic product of Nicaragua.

Mr. Jobs' choices say several things to me. First, Apple is a confident company. While many enjoyed kicking them around in the past, the stark reality today is that Apple is a force to contend with and no one is making fun of them anymore. That's going to translate into a substantive threat to Microsoft -- just as father Steve intended.

Next, Apple is looking for a stable, sober manager to manage Apple's growth and finances. The next CEO will be a seasoned businessman, an executive to guide the company through its new found success. Mr. Cook may be a little on the sedate side and Mr. Oppenheimer isn't exactly rock star material, but that no longer matters. Apple won't be in desperate need of a firebrand to resurrect the company. Instead, it will need someone to guide it through the international introductions of future iPhones, advanced iPod touches, and new products to come.

What Apple will miss will be the taste and judgment of Mr. Jobs who knows just as much about features to omit as features to add. Even so, after ten years of Mr. Jobs at the helm, the culture is firmly in place.

Finally, as I mentioned, the threat to other companies will become even harder to ignore. Apple is well on its way to double digit market share with Macs. When we get into double digit market share of, say, 16 percent, that's one in six Macs. The banking industry, developers, and the U.S. government will suddenly find that it's no longer easy or convenient to ignore the Mac. American technical culture will change.

When the end of Mr. Jobs' reign comes, and I hope that's a long time from now, we'll look back fondly on the fireworks and the RDF. But change is certain, and Apple will be a more mature, confident, wealthy and businesslike company in that future. What else could we wish for?