One assumes you didn’t miss the latest results from Apple. To be honest, it is getting hard to keep track. Every year the company seems to set a new record, and we all know Apple’s growth has been extraordinary, but after a while you just get bored with using words like remarkable and stunning.

Revenue in the final quarter of 2010 came in at $26.74bn, up 70 per cent on last year’s impressive figures. Profits grew by 78 per cent, hitting $6bn (I remember the day when Apple barely made profits over $1bn – ed.) (And I remember the day when Apple was making a loss – ed’s father.)

The halo effect is working nicely, and sales of Macs rose 23 per cent, hitting 4.13 million. (The halo effect is supposed to describe this phenomenon in which people are so chuffed with their iPod or iPad that they migrate from a PC to a Mac.)

Sales of iPhones soared 86 per cent, hitting 16.24 million. (I was sitting on the train the other day, and noticed everyone I could see without bending my neck had an iPhone in their hand and was busy playing with it – ed.) (And I remember the day when people used their mobiles just to make phone calls – ed’s father, again.)

As for the iPad, things are getting ridiculous. The company sold no less than 7.3 million in the final quarter of 2010, and in terms of increase on the previous year that means sales rose by … err, infinity – because the iPad did not exist at the end of 2009.

So are iPad sales eating into PC sales? This is what Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer said: “Was there any cannibalization by iPad…Honestly, I don’t know for sure. But yes, I think there is some cannibalization.” He added: “If this is cannibalization, it feels pretty good.”

And yet, at the beginning of the week, fears related to the health of Apple’s famous boss Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs has worked miracles for Apple (I remember when Apple fired him – Ed’s grandfather), but is he still crucial to the company?

In his book Them and Us, written by Will Hutton (that’s a coincidence, I am reading that book at the moment – Ed), the author quotes Michael Hawley, a professional pianist and a computer scientist who once worked for Jobs. “As special as Steve [Jobs] is, I think of Apple as like a great jazz orchestra. Steve did a superb job of recruiting a broad and deep talent base. When a group gets to that size, the conductor’s job is pretty nominal – mainly attracting new talent and helping maintain the tempo, adding bits of energy here and there.”

Hutton was making a point about executive pay, and suggesting that even the brilliant Jobs is probably less important to Apple than is commonly realised.

Jobs of course played a crucial role for Apple. He was after all the co-founder, and when he returned to the company it was he who led the way into the brave new world of the iPod. In the wilderness year, between the Jobs sacking and return, Apple limped forward from one bad decision after another.

But now Jobs has fixed the culture at Apple. And the latest thinking in network theory says that it is not a company’s boss that really counts, it is the network of people who make it up, and corporate culture. The boss can do little more than influence this. Of course, Lord Browne helped steer the culture at BP towards cost cutting, and Tony Hayward was unable to change that culture sufficiently fast to avoid disaster.

Like most readers here, we wish Steve Jobs the best, and hope he recovers fully and quickly. But Apple is no longer a one-man band. And no doubt Jobs will be delighted to know that.

We still maintain our long-term doubts about Apple, however, whose culture seems to lean towards proprietary technology, and stands for the complete opposite of open standards and inter-company cooperation that seem to be the way things are going. (You young ones and your new-fangled ideas – Ed’s great grandfather.)


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