Apple Firm Grip Causes Business Slip

Last Updated Aug 7, 2008 2:45 PM EDT

Control signI'm no fan of Apple's control freak persona because it is always a disappointment. Just when the company looks poised on the verge of commercial greatness, it stumbles and settles for merely good. And recently developments suggest that Apple might not even make that level, if it continues on its current path.

Here is some of the evidence from the last month or so of that desire for control, and how it can backfire:

In the meantime, here are some of the design, customer relation, and operational thorns that are sticking in many people's sides: The problem with being a control freak is that you focus on little areas within your grasp while ignoring broad areas beyond your power because they would be unbearably frustrating. However, every phase of growth necessitates learning new skills, and that is as true for corporations as for people.

It's been a long time since Apple was a small company. These days, it is a massive consumer electronics firm, not a niche provider of machines beloved by right-brained types. Eventually a company becomes so large that it cannot hope to control every aspect of its existence. Instead, the smart corporations focus on what is most important and put a lot of attention on once-simple details that are more critical, and more difficult, than ever before.

Apple isn't taking that necessary step. Maybe Steve Jobs needs to stick with being a visionary chairman and get a crack operations person to act as the CEO, just as Bill Gates did at Microsoft. Perhaps Apple should back out of areas like cloud computing until it can rock-solidly introduce a new product and know that customers will have a terrific experience when they use it, and not just look at it. Now is the time for Apple to let go of the driving need to control and grow up to meet the responsibilities it faces.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.