Apple loses an intangible asset – maybe

With the announcement last night of Steve Jobs’ resignation as CEO of Apple, the importance of human capital as a key intangible asset has hit home. I don’t subscribe to the Great Man theory of history. But it is clear that Jobs made a difference. His key skill was in redesigning the industry – starting with Apple II and through to the iPod/iPhone/iPad. And it hasn’t been limited to products. And, as I have argued before, the big breakthrough was as much the business model of iTunes as it was the iPod design.
However, it is unclear what the final impact of yesterday’s announcement. Jobs will still be involved in setting Apple’s future course as Chairman of the Board. Jobs has also assembled a strong team, including Jonathan Ive, who some say is the real genius behind the design of the iPod. And Apple has built a strong culture of creating a “customer experience” that feeds customer loyalty. This relationship with its customers (aka fan base) is a strong intangible asset in and of itself (see earlier posting).
Of course, it was Jobs who pulled everything together. So the real question will the Jobs vision continue post-Jobs. Or will the team slowly fade away. We are not yet in that post-Jobs future. But is it is clear that an era may be ending.
UPDATE: One of the standard intangible assets is of course IP. Here is an interesting story from the Wall Street Journal on Jobs and Apple’s protection of its IP — “Controversy Surrounded Jobs’s Innovations”.

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