Yet, as we look forward to a happy ending, earnings taper off and it appears as though the saga may be over after all. However, a feeling of quiet confidence gradually takes over the observer, as both Apple Computers and Jobs negotiate through each downturn with aplomb.
Must a company's journey through time be so turbulent This document tries to draw lessons from the Apple experience and to suggest stable ways for commercial firms to manage their planning and operational processes.
There are two over reaching factors that seem to have influenced strategic change at Apple Computers. The first is the frenetic pace of technological change. No other industrial sector has witnessed the continuous and rapid improvements in processor speeds, storage capacity, transmission options and software development. This has been a source of strength and an opportunity for the entrepreneurial culture of Apple Computers, but it has proved to be a handful for people such as Sculley who labored so hard to bring a semblance of order and discipline to the highly individualistic style of functioning to which die-hard company employees have become accustomed.
A second factor which has affected strategy in this company has been the tumultuous and disorderly change of guard at the top. There is no precedent for such a striking founder to leave his creation while remaining in the business. Even more unusual has been the return of Jobs as a mere consultant to the company which he once owned. These moves, and indeed the manner of Sculley's departure have posed special challenges for the company.
Systematic and regular environmental scanning seems to be a lacuna in the planning process at Apple Computers. Every enterprise needs a deep understanding of the values that its products and services deliver in an environment of global competitiveness (Ohmae, 1991, 61-74). The success of Jobs to see the opportunity in the graphic user interface which Xerox apparently missed, did not repeat itself when the company invested resources in Newton. It leads one to suspect that iPod may have come about by chance more than by a designed set of steps to understand dynamic customer needs. Environment scanning is an important and integral part of formulating strategy. We do not know if Apple Computers made the effort to reach out across the world, as for example IBM has always done, to weave market realism and new trends in consumer needs in to they way it thinks and works as an organization. The genius of Jobs could have been a drag for the company he founded, for he is clearly a person who thinks way ahead of his time. The story of Apple's strategy could be seen in the light of essential differences between a University Research Department and the function in a pharmaceutical concern which creates solely for profit. Jobs seems to have erred in mixing business and more visionary roles in a manner that continued to haunt the company long after he had left. We do know from the case that Sculley tried hard to rectify matters, but perhaps his 'sugary water' background prevented him from managing the environmental scanning process with the technological orientation it deserved. This is reflected in IBM and even prime rival Microsoft making good business use of some key Apple innovations! Overall, every business needs sound and