Apple may be ready to give up Steve Jobs' ghost
Apple shares are enjoying an impressive week, after the company reported earnings that beat analyst expectations on strong iPhone sales. But the best news for the company may be the cultural shift that management is undergoing, said one close Apple watcher.
"They're about to get the ghost out of the boardroom," said Max Wolff, senior analyst and chief economist at Greencrest Capital. "They'll start making what the market is telling them to make, and not what someone is channeling out of the ghost of Steve Jobs."
Wolff thinks this will help tremendously.
"I don't think channeling is all that useful in the boardroom," he told CNBC.com. "Tim Cook is a good CEO. If he's free to make decisions, he'll make good ones. Rather than saying, 'Well, over paella in Menlo Park in 1977, Steve Jobs said, 'I don't like cheese.' "
As it is, the company has been constrained by Jobs' vision, Wolff said. "People would tell them, 'Gee, I like your phone, but the screen's so small.' And they would say, 'Well …' "
For example, Jobs said that a 3.5-inch screen is a "perfect size for consumers" and that larger screens are foolish. But the company is now looking to introduce iPhones with 4.7-inch and 5.7-inch screens after the popularity of Galaxy's large-screen "phablets," Reuters reported in June.
On the stock side, Jobs was strongly opposed to the idea of Apple offering shareholders a dividend rather than hanging onto its cash. But in March 2012, the company announced its first dividend since 1995. (Jobs, who had left Apple, returned in 1996.)
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"I wouldn't doubt that here and there the company has asked itself, 'What would Steve do?'" said JMP Securities analyst Alex Gauna. "I don't think those shadows last forever—I think people move on. It's a very capable organization. And the company is moving on."
In fact, he added, "I never subscribed to the notion that this company never had a multiyear road map put in place by Steve Jobs. I believe that tech is far too fluid and too dynamic for that."
(Read more: The secret sign that Apple's a buy)
In addition, Gauna said, people tend to overestimate the co-founder's role.
"What Steve Jobs was always exceptionally good at was being the final gatekeeper," he said. "That's the big change—they no longer have that final decision-maker. They no longer have that individual with such bearing and credibility among different teams."
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Wolff also thinks the breadth of Jobs' vision may have been slightly overstated.
"It's not the stuff of legend—he didn't discover cheese," Wolff said (mentioning the milk curd product for a second time). "He just figured that if you made something that didn't break every five minutes, people would be willing to pay for it."