Three lucky guesses in a row
That's the standard definition of an "expert". The same can be applied to a CEO. So far as Jobs and Apple (more specifically, Apple's success with the iPhone/Pad) his three lucky guesses were:
- Make it look pretty. Every other phone was pushing function, features, battery life, cost, size or camera-pixels. Jobs went after the "I don't what it does, but I WANT ONE" market.
- Optimise profit per unit. When the rest of the bunch were chasing market share and making pennies per device, he bucked the trend and went for the high-end. That Apple could exploit that exclusivity, helped too.
- Its not really a phone. This was the biggie. Stevie-boy called it a phone to keep it familiar, but really it was a platform to make buying apps and content easier. It also made calls.
and a bonus, to achieve true super-hero status:
- Make people feel good about owning one. That means get it associated with success, make it visible on TV and in films (but only "good" films, of course), keep the name in the spotlight and squash any and all bad publicity.
So what should Jobs' successor do? Probably as little as possible is the answer. Apple and the i<thing> won't last forever. However the best way to hasten its demse is to mess with the successful formula. Don't introduce a cheap version, don't let the competition grab a share of the "cool" reputation, don't sacrifice "shiny" for production costs, keep up the hype with new models every year and never, ever let it become a commodity item.
So long as the new guy can resist the temptation to try and "make his mark" - the downfall of most post-messianic leaders' replacements - and just keeps playing the game, Apple's probably got another 5 or 10 years left before the maggots get it.