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Until a new CEO is on board, Jobs is up to his trim 35-in.-waist jeans in determining Apple's future. "I'm here almost every day," he said, sitting in the boardroom last week, "but just for the next few months. I'm really clear on it." His position is fairly critical to the company's success, according to Edgar Woolard Jr., chairman of E.I. DuPont and one of only two board members who survived the latest assault. "It's conceivable Apple could turn around without Steve, but the probability goes up significantly with Steve. Steve is noted for his intellect and vision, but he can also bring a spirit of enthusiasm to users and employees alike."
He can also buy that spirit. To restore morale, Jobs says, he went to the mat with the old board to lower the price of incentive stock options, which had become virtually worthless as the share price sagged. In Silicon Valley, where job opportunities are as common as Porsches, stock options are crucial to retain employees. When the board members resisted, he pushed for their resignations. Jobs repriced the option at $13.25. Apple employees have already made 100%.
There's not one area of Apple that doesn't bear Jobs' fingerprints. Take product development. "We've reviewed the road map of new products and axed more than 70% of the projects, keeping the 30% that were gems. Plus we're adding new ones that are a whole new paradigm of looking at computers," he says. "The product teams at Apple are very excited. There's so much low-hanging fruit, it's easy to turn around."
Next on the list is Apple's fuzzy marketing message. (Quick: Can you think of it?) Jobs dismissed Apple's ad agency and held a "bake-off" for the account among three firms. The winner was TBWA Chiat/Day, the company that created Apple's legendary 1984 Super Bowl ad (only to be fired). Jobs is wildly enthusiastic about the new ad, which features the theme "Think Differently," but when he plays it for his inner team at the Castle Tuesday night, the group nixes it as not ready for prime time. Look for it soon, however. "There's a germ of a brilliant idea there," Jobs rhapsodizes.
The key, Jobs believes, is to take advantage of the Apple brand itself. "What are the great brands? Levis, Coke, Disney, Nike. Most people would put Apple in that category," he says. "You could spend billions of dollars building a brand not as good as Apple. Yet Apple hasn't been doing anything with this incredible asset. What is Apple, after all? Apple is about people who think 'outside the box,' people who want to use computers to help them change the world, to help them create things that make a difference, and not just to get a job done."