Monday, October 31, 2005

Not your usual Steve Jobs put-down piece

In fact, he says that Steve's willingness to take a risk like this is what makes Apple, well, Apple - never count 'em out. Don't sell your Apple stock, for Pete's sake.

Did Jobs kill the iPod mini too soon?

A harsh law of the high-tech jungle says only those companies willing to kill off their most successful products to make room for even better ones can hope to remain on top. Few chief executives actually follow that tenet, however. One of the exceptions is Apple Computer's Steve Jobs.

But then, Jobs isn't your typical CEO. He showed why a month ago, when he announced the supercool iPod nano on Sept. 7. That day, Jobs also announced that Apple had discontinued the iPod mini -- as of that day Apple's single hottest product.

. . . Amazingly, few -- if any -- observers questioned the wisdom of Jobs's call at the time. But surely some investors questioned it on Oct. 11, after the 10 per cent drop in Apple's stock that followed the release of the company's fourth-quarter results. While Apple sold 6.4 million iPods in the quarter, up 220 per cent from the year before, total iPod shipments fell short of Wall Street's lofty expectations. . . .

If the price for making the nano a hit was to clear the iPod mini decks, so be it. Indeed, Jobs has been a stickler for simplicity ever since returning to Apple in 1997. At the time, he immediately nixed dozens of unremarkable product lines, replacing them with just four. Ever since, he has argued that Apple's success is as much a result of what the company doesn't do as what it does.

And by the way, Jobs is by no means just the wild-eyed product visionary of his youth. He has long since proved himself an operationally minded executive as well. Indeed, we will likely get a better understanding of the mini's demise as early as today, when Apple is expected to roll out a new member or two of the iPod family at a much-anticipated event in San Jose.

I'd bet that by the end of his keynote, few investors will be griping about last quarter's performance -- but will instead be handicapping just how well Apple can do in the next one thanks to its rapidly changing lineup of iPods.

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