So it's coming - maybe. After a barrage of silence for what seems like forever, the French website 'No where else' has released an image of what is said to be the manual for the new iPhone 6 and a release date of September 25th. Might this be a hoax? Very possibly. Apple rumours are second only to sightings of Elvis in their unreliability. But 'No where else' has a history of delivering very reliable rumours, predicting the release of the last iPhone with uncanny accuracy.
Let's assume then that this is true. What will happen next is Apple will announce the new phone with a glitzy media show with CEO Tim Cook, shirt strategically pulled out, on stage. There will be much debate on social media on whether the phone is any good or not. And Apple's rigorous control of its supply chain will ensure demand outstrips demand, but not it such a way that people take their business elsewhere. Perhaps the greatest legacy of Steve Jobs is Apple's brilliant ability to stoke and manage desire.
But like a lot going on at Apple now, what this also shows is that the loss of Jobs, and Apple's inability to replace him with a visionary and charismatic leader, is beginning to have an effect. Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs and should stop trying to be, the iPhone 6 launch is not the iPad launch. It is an evolutionary product and no longer stands out from the crowd. This begins to feel like watching a Broadway show that has gone on a regional tour.
This is where Apple could learn from Microsoft of all companies. Bill Gates built Microsoft from a geek startup to a geek juggernaut. And then he stepped down and handed the keys to Steve Ballmer, a disciple. Ballmer did what disciples do - shared a simplified version of his former leaders message with the loyalty and zeal of a true believer. What he didn't do though was innovate. His vision was not his own, it was that of his predecessor. Satya Nadella, MS's new CEO, is very different. Whereas Gates was a product of the PC generation, Nadella is a product of the User Experience generation. He is his own man, with his own vision, and is now starting to make Microsoft look relevant and interesting again.
Cook has taken a similar, but much quieter, approach to Ballmer - Apple's marketing strategy has become a homage to their departed leader rather than something fresh, authentic and owned by the current one.
This is the biggest challenge for any leader taking over a really successful company from a really successful leader.
What Tim Cook needs to do is stop trying to copy how Jobs did it and instead work on his own version of what Jobs was good at - tantalizing, beguiling and holding beautiful things up in the light and saying "Here you are, look at this. Want one? Well you can have one... but not just yet." He needs to find a new and unique way of doing it.
This for many leaders is their greatest challenge. In an era when everyone is bombarding everyone with communications, Jobs' greatest skill was surprise - giving him the ability to capture the attention and imagination of users, customers and the media who have become very resistant to anything that looks like spin.Suggest a correction