Steve Jobs is leaving Apple. Not tomorrow, but probably very soon. That's why he started to say good bye today, doing something more important than just presenting new MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and an updated MacBook Air.
Today's event was a play in which he clearly told everyone that the company is more than himself. Since the very first minute, when he immediately sat down to let Tim Cook talk, he was saying: "Hey, look, Apple is more than Steve. These are The Guys, the Goodfellas, the A-Team. They share the same vision I have. And they are going to push the company forward when I change my office chair for a hammock and caipirinhas on my private beach in Hawaii".
In the past, Steve Jobs was always the Star of the Show. Like his dear Johnny Cash, this man in black would come out on stage with an orchestra behind him, enthusing his audience with his voice and inflections, make his magic moves and leave everyone hypnotized until he left the building. He wasn't the best singer or the best guitar player, but he had it. Like Johnny, he also shared the limelight with others from time to time, but it was only for a song or two. The concerts were always "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash". The keynotes were always "Hello, I'm Steve Jobs."
It was Steve's Show from beginning to "one more thing," and there was no doubt about it.
Today it was the confirmation that those days may be over forever. It seems like Steve has decided it's time not to appear like Johnny Cash anymore, but time to become Mick Jagger. And with him, he brought Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood. Today Steve's band played all the tunes in harmony, showing to the world that there's more to Apple than just the frontman, even while his DNA is deep inside every single aspect of the company's culture.
Instead of kicking off with a market analysis to prepare the ground, this time it was Tim Cook who took the stage wearing Steve's color scheme: Blue jeans and black top. Psychologically, this puts them at the same level, easing the future potential power transition. Seems stupid, but you can bet it wasn't coincidental, even while Cook has zero appeal when compared to the rockstar CEO. Then came "Jony" Ive to talk about the design and aluminum laser making, and it wasn't until minute 18 that Steve took over to present the actual toys. 27 minutes later, for a man that has taken on two-hour presentations without even blinking, the MacBook 2008 video kicked off only to be followed by a short Q&A-with Cook and Phil Schiller as wingmen-after which he had time to crack a quick joke about his own health.
Obviously, that's what lies at the heart of this transition. He joked about his blood pressure, taking a dig at this obsession with watching him decline, with the World's Press looking for the Biggest News Ever in Tech History this side of Steve Ballmer announcing his sex change and a new name (probably Dorita Estevez). But while, like I said before, it's not your business or mine to get into his private life, the man clearly understands that his baby, the company he created with the Woz from scratch, deserves a plan and a bright future.
It's part of him. He created it, he was pushed off it, and then he rescued it back from the pits of hell to the top of the world. Along that path he made plenty of mistakes, but getting together the team that have been directing the company with him during the last few years is not one of those mistakes. It may prove to be his biggest lasting achievement.
I'm sure we still have a lot more shows like this, and that Steve Jobs will always stay at Apple like Bill Gates will always stay at Microsoft, even after his retirement. But the play we saw today was the prologue of the new Apple Without Steve but With Steve Era, Jobs signaling that he's not alone at the helm, and that if he moves on, nobody should panic. Not explicitly, but the message was there in big neon letters for everyone to see.