Steve Jobs' Retrospectives Deeply Flawed, Disrespectful

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- On Friday, the media bombarded us with tributes and takes on the one-year anniversary of Steve Jobs's death.

Everybody certainly means well. But, as Springsteen says in his latest effort, The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone.

My recent article -- If Steve Jobs Were Alive He Would Fire Tim Cook -- and an appearance on CNBC riled up Apple ( AAPL) diehards.

I don't call the diehards bulls or fanboys anymore. I have too much respect for bulls and fanboys.

Ninety-nine percent of AAPL bulls and fanboys are thinkers. They don't see things one way with blinders on. They relish in exploring possibilities and alternative explanations beyond status quo groupthink.

Meantime, the 1% are akin to rabid sports or extreme religious fanatics. They immediately discount, deflect and personally disparage sentiment that does not accentuate Apple's amazing past and present, while portending an equally-as-extraordinary, if not more incredible, future.

From an investment perspective the portion of the 1% that AAPL has made wealthy or downright rich (chest bumps across the board there) are golden. It's those who have not had their financial lives changed by Apple, but still refuse to consider fear, uncertainty and doubt (entrepreneurs often go with paranoia) who could get hurt.

Simply put, if AAPL has made you rich, I don't blame you for your unflinching loyalty. I can see how it might be difficult not to be an unreasonable diehard. That emotional response probably will not cost you because you're so far ahead. It's the folks who drink the final batches of Kool-Aid who usually end up dinged.

On Friday, two guys who I do not put in the unreasonable diehard category teamed up on a curious piece for Yahoo! Finance.

Though I rarely agree with fellow TheStreet contributor Eric Jackson, I appreciate his work. He always makes me think. The same goes for Yahoo!'s Jeff Macke, who has one of the more entertaining Twitter feeds in finance.

In Stop Asking What Steve Jobs Would Do, however, they both drop the ball.

Consider two key passages from the above-linked piece, written by Macke:
"There is no way, given the lead time that Jobs had on his disease, that he would not have ... had his fingerprints all over the product road-map for at least the next decade," says Eric Jackson, founder of Ironfire Capital in the attached video.

Macke closes by saying:
If Jackson is right, and he probably is, Apple should stop following the map.People at Apple already know what Jobs would do. He would come up with an amazing idea then relentlessly push his people until the vision became reality. For Apple to remain great that's exactly what they should do.

Macke and Jackson seem to disagree, but they're both wrong.

Jackson says Jobs probably loaded the Apple pipeline for the next decade. Macke argues that Apple should veer from the Jobs' trajectory by, ironically, doing what Jobs would have done.

Get it straight: Coming up with "amazing" ideas, pushing your people "relentlessly" to make these ideas happen and "creating the future" is not something you merely prescribe as solutions to such a dynamic problem.

People give Jobs what amounts to token praise, then, without taking a breath, argue that Apple can and will just roll on. That's not only flawed, it's disrespectful to Jobs. It dilutes and minimizes the extraordinary impact of his genius.

He wasn't a dime-a-dozen Vegas lounge act.

Think of it this way. Springsteen constantly writes songs. He always has stuff on the shelf and in the pipeline.

In his last days, he might tell The E Street Band -- Don't ask what the Boss would do just do what's right? -- but do you really think they could maintain the greatness? You can lose Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici (members of Bruce's band who left us too soon in recent years) and stay great, but when Springsteen checks out, the party's over.

Jackson's argument implies that Apple lucked out. Jobs knew his fate and left the company with a decade-long pipeline of new and exciting products and innovations.

Let's suspend reality and ignore the fact that even if Jobs did vision a decade out, he would have made changes "on the fly."

If we can agree that the people Jobs left behind could not come up with the same idea flow, isn't it a slippery slope to assume they can execute his vision down to every minute detail he became renowned for micromanaging? After all, it's not only the vision, but this precision that made Apple great.

Despite the raging success of the last year, that precision appears to be fading.

Over at Time, Harry McCracken also simplifies matters. He argues that if I don't think Cook can keep Apple great, I should "name at least one person who'd be better-suited to the gig."

Harry obviously likes to put things in neat little boxes to keep confusion away.

As I noted on CNBC, part of the tragedy is that a post-Steve Jobs Apple might just be an unworkable situation. That makes people intellectually uncomfortable, which helps explain some of the outrage as well as calls to halt the conversation. Our society has a difficult time coming to grips with complex issues that raise more questions than answers.

That's what I specialize in.

If you're a parent, you'll get this. I don't just tell my daughter, "Don't do that because I said so." Nor do I give her an answer merely for the sake of closure or sparing uncomfortable emotions.

Often, I tell her "I don't know." That so many things exist in life have no answers or many possible answers. We're still trying to figure things out. It's a messy, but wonderful and enlightening process.

I don't write with a fear of being wrong. In this racket, you have to accept that you'll be dead wrong multiple times. If you don't you're fooling yourself.

I write to explore emotions, to tangle with the unanswerable, not to spoon feed easy "answers" and tell people what they want to hear simply for the sake of winning approval.

I think the larger audience, Apple fans and otherwise, appreciates this approach.

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Rocco Pendola is a private investor with nearly 20 years experience in various forms of media, ranging from radio to print. His work has appeared in academic journals as well as dozens of online and offline publications. He uses his broad experience to help inform his coverage of the stock market, primarily in the technology, Internet and new media spaces. He has taken a long-term approach to investing, focusing on dividend-paying stocks, since he opened his first account as a teenager. Pendola, 37, is based in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lives with his wife and child.

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