Bob Herbold: The Apple Era Is Over, Probably

Former chief operating officer of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Bob Herbold, said in an article Monday that he doesn’t believe Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has the vision and leadership that it once had and the “Apple era may be on its way out.”

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Herbold said that Steve Jobs had what it took to lead the company in the right direction. In fact, “lead” might have been one of Herbold’s most important words, as he said a company’s success depends on “visionary leadership that will lead to a continuing flow of leading edge products and services.” And, further gains forĀ  company’s shares depends on a belief that the leadership exists.

Herbold noted three key ingredients to having a successful business: “A visionary leader, not an administrator;” “deep personal involvement;” and “the guts to lead.” He believes that a company’s leader needs to be quick and decisive and not let bureaucracy slow down or water down ideas. They also must be engaged in the creation and development of products and services and do everything with confidence.

It may be a lot to ask for, but he named off several industry leaders that he thought fit the profile: IBM’s (NYSE:IBM) Lou Gerstner and Sam Palmisano, Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ:QCOM) Paul Jacobs, and of course the late Steve Jobs. Notably omitted from the list was Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook.

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In his remarks, Herbold didn’t not specifically call out Cook as an underwhelming leader, but he claimed that Apple’s stock falling in the face of the Dow passing its 2007 high was an indicator that Apple might not have strong visionary leadership, and that the public seems to believe that. In his opinion, the company could turn it around if it launches something revolutionary in the next 6 to 9 months, but otherwise, there may be little future for Apple as an industry leader.

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