Earlier today I read an article over at SocialBeat by Anthony Ha (one of my favorite writers over at that site) that discussed the idea that Zuckerberg would be a great fit as Apple’s next CEO. Even though I was skeptical from the start, I tried to read this with an open mind; but each word surprised me more than the last. First off, before I even begin arguing my thoughts, it’s obvious that Apple needs to start thinking ahead about this subject. Not to say that Jobs is nearing the end of his career, but in the sense that Apple is now the biggest company in technology and it’s all due to the innovation and charisma of their current leader. Finding the next Steve Jobs is an incredibly difficult task, and it’s something that should be discussed well before his retirement – a time like now. If there’s a circle filled with possible successors, I honestly have no idea who’s inside of it; but one thing I do know is that Mark Zuckerberg is definitely not going to be found within that circle. Not that he’s not an amazing CEO; I mean – he nearly single-handedly changed the way our social lives work – but because I don’t feel he’d be a great fit as the leader of a company like Apple.
Background Information: Not key to understanding the post, but please read Anthony Ha’s article for better context.
Let me get back to the article for a second. The author argues the following:
“…it’s no secret that the big tech players have been interested in Facebook for a while now — but Apple, its profits supercharged by the iPhone, may be the one company that can still afford the deal.”
That’s the first sentence that stood out to me. If there’s one thing we know about Zuckerberg, it’s that he couldn’t care less about money. So it wouldn’t matter if Apple threw 1 million or 1 billion dollars at Facebook, chances are any company would get the same reply: “No, but we’d love to work with you”. At least that’s how I look at what happened between Microsoft and Facebook. There’s no secret behind the fact that Ballmer was greatly interested in buying out Facebook and got rejected right on hand. Being the powerhouse that Facebook is, Microsoft took the “if you can’t beat’em or buy’em, join’em” route and I say they won in the end. With Bing completely attached with Facebook search, Microsoft Office becoming a Facebook application, and the numerous other impending joint products, it was clear that a buyout was not necessary for a successful partnership.
Here’s the kicker, though. Zuckerberg has been a Microsoft fan since..well, forever. If there was any company he would want to be a part of, it would be Microsoft. And with the public tension with Google at an all-time high, the two companies (Facebook and Microsoft) have been more buddy-buddy as of recent. But Zuckerberg still didn’t sell. It wasn’t because he thought Microsoft would drown the company, nor was it because Zuckerberg was waiting on other companies to send their bids. It was because currently Zuckerberg has the power to do almost anything he wants with Facebook and he loves it. He has this power because Facebook is still a private company, and we all know that going public takes away a significant amount of power from a CEO. There’s a huge difference between private and public companies, and Zuckerberg won’t appreciate the changes he’d have to deal with if Facebook were to go public or if he were to become the CEO of a public company…like Apple.
Mark is a young leader. Possibly one of the youngest success stories technology has ever had. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is simply just the beginning. Facebook hasn’t even hit their peak of innovation; with Messages evolving into an email client, Places becoming a hot topic, and the constant growth of Zuckerberg’s leadership abilities, we’re seeing only just the tip of the iceberg right now, and Mark will never give up his power at a time like this. Once he goes public, his thoughts and ideas drop down to just another voice, and that’s one risk no one in Facebook will want to take which is why an IPO is far from reach at the moment (at least in my opinion). If there’s such risk in IPO, why would Zuckerberg want to fall down to just a department in a big (and did I mention public?) company like, say…Apple.
There are three scenarios we must look at when we discuss Zuckerberg as the next leader of Apple:
- Facebook gets bought out by Apple. Eventually Jobs retires and Zuckerberg takes his place.
- Zuckerberg gets hired by Apple as the next CEO and he decides to bring the whole Facebook crew over.
- Zuckerberg gets hired by Apple as the next CEO and he hands the Facebook torch over to someone else.
Now, #3 is a long shot so I won’t even discuss it. Zuckerberg won’t let go of Facebook, so I won’t even waste my time with that one. The points of interest are the first two, so let’s take them step-by-step.
Zuckerberg will not want Apple. First off, as I have discussed before, Zuckerberg will not sell Facebook. He has the power to control the changes and movements in the company and he’s done a good job for the most part. I highly doubt that he’d want to sell to a company that’s so structured that he would lose not only his voice, but also the relaxed environment he’s built in his company. But let’s say Zuckerberg does sell the company to Apple. In other words, Facebook becomes just another department in the big Apple tree. We’d first see integration of Facebook on all fronts of Apple products, which I’m sure Mark would have no issues with. But soon we’d start seeing a decline in the importance of Facebook as a platform and instead just a social back-end of Apple’s products. Apple would not want an open social graph, nor would they appreciate the growth of Facebook Connect. If they did, we would see it on Apple products already. Apple hates outsiders coming into their world, and Facebook is all about that. Facebook Applications lands exactly in the same land as Microsoft way back in the early days of third-party software. Anyone is welcome and anyone can do what they want – just don’t harm our consumers. Of course, it’s a risky tone, but it’s still a workable movement. But Apple has always been controlling of all applications getting on any product. They swift through things and assure perfect compliance to exactly what they want; Zuckerberg will definitely not appreciate that. He likes the open market and most probably wants to keep it that way. But how about the future of the partnership – will Zuckerberg be crowned as the follow-up CEO? No. Although this is a continuation of the first point, it ties in completely with the first part of the next.
Apple will not want Zuckerberg. Let’s face it, Zuckerberg is young and thriving, but he just doesn’t fit into the Apple bucket. His ideas are too far-out for a large technology company to appreciate. Facebook is a very different product when set beside products like the iPhone or iPad – and I don’t mean in the obvious sense. Sure, both were huge risks and revolutionized the market they entered, but they’re significantly different in philosophy. Facebook stands as a platform; sites can connect to it, applications can be built upon it, and users can enjoy all the fruits of this. Single sign-ins, from social-to-marketing strategies, and something anyone and everyone can contribute to with a “Like” button. Apple’s iProducts? Closed to the core. You want to help out? Get approved. Even their social network lands in a walled-garden native application. The two basic ideas are just so distinctly different that Zuckerberg simply wouldn’t understand the nature of the company. Mark makes a great CEO of Facebook, but would make a terrible CEO at Apple, just as Jobs would be at Facebook. They just aren’t compatible, and I’m sure both sides of the discussion already know this.
So there you have it: my thoughts on the subject. But what do you think? Do you think it’s feasible for Zuckerberg to be a part of Apple? Or do you agree with me and think the idea is too far-fetched? Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. Did I mention that, along with their partnership with Microsoft, Facebook is apparently working on an Android phone? If Zuckerberg is to be the next Apple CEO, he definitely has an interesting choice in friends.