While speaking at Stanfords' Graduate School of Business yesterday, Apple board member Art Levinson spoke about his role as a board member and life at Apple without Steve Jobs.
It's been about 16 months since Jobs passed away, but the presence of the former CEO is still felt at Apple, Levinson explained.
"I'm still not to the point where I walk into that board room and don't miss Steve," said Levinson, who finally started but has so-far failed to finish reading Jobs's biography. "He was a one of a kind guy... The Steve Jobs that was in the public eye was not, for the most part, the Steve Jobs that I knew."
Of particular interest were Levinson's comments about Apple's creative process. While board members don't really have much input when it comes to creating a new product, they are presented with new products approximately 6 to 18 months prior to launch. What's more, if board members are presented with a product early on in the development process, and assuming that their background comes to bear, their opinions may very well be taken into account.
"The board is not there to define product specs," Levinson added. "It's there as a sounding board. It's there as a resource. And ultimately, the board is there to hire and fire the CEO."
Levinson's comments are particularly interesting because it was revealed in Jobs' biography that Levinson, back in the early days of the iPhone, called up Steve Jobs a number of times and lobbied hard for the creation of a mobile app store. Jobs famously remained stubborn on the issue for quite some time, believing that Apple didn't have "the bandwidth to figure out all the complexities that would be involved in policing third-party app developers.”
Of course, as we all know, Jobs eventually relented. The first iPhone SDK was released in March 2008 with the actual iTunes App Store opening up for business a few months later in July. And the rest, as they say, is history. To date, Apple has already paid out over $8 billion dollars to iOS developers.
Levinson touched on a number of other topics, including Apple's recent earnings report, which, despite setting a number of records, left investors disappointed and prompted a huge sell off in Apple shares. Echoing a sentiment often expressed by Jobs, Levinson said that Apple's current quarter was phenomenal and that it's important to look at the long-term picture rather than get bogged down with the specific number of iPhone units sold, for example.
"There [are] long-term signs of how a company is doing and whether or not Apple sells 47 or 48 million iPhones -- let somebody else worry about that," Levinson said.
Indeed, when pressed for answers regarding Apple's stock price, Jobs would routinely answer that Apple can't concern itself with the day-to-day fluctuations in share price. Further, he explained that as long as Apple remained true to its goal of creating revolutionary products, the company's share price would be just fine.
Levinson has been on Apple's board since 2000 and has been Chairman of the Board since November 2011. He also serves as Chairman on Genentech's board of directors, a company he previously led as CEO from 1995 to 2009.