Explaining Southern California's economy

FAQ: What is 'skeuomorphic design' and the executive shakeup at Apple

Apple Unveils Updated iPad In San Francisco

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 07: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple product launch event. The successor to Steve Jobs is enduring his first major leadership challenge.

Superstorm Sandy ravaged the East Coast this week, but another storm blew through the West Coast, and it was centered in Cupertino, California, at Apple headquarters.

Two Apple high ranking Apple executives, Scott Forstall and John Browett, were shown the door. In both cases, it wasn't really a surprise. But it was clear evidence that, a year removed from Steve Jobs' death and with the company's stock price sliding by more than 100 points in less than two months, CEO Tim Cook is experiencing his first major leadership challenge.

Q: Why were Forstall and Browett asked to leave?

A: Browett is an easier departure to explain. He ran Apple's retail operations and had instituted some bizarre strategies since his arrival at Apple little more than six months ago. As Tim Worstall points out at Forbes, his background in British retail didn't fit with Apple's brand goals for its stores. Furthermore, he created a near revolt among the Apple Store's blue-shirted staffers. A lot of Apple observers were actively questioning why he was hired in the first place.

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The Wisdom of Woz: Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak explains why he and Steve Jobs were a great team

I just relayed questions from the audience. Woz dispensed the wisdom.

I got to do a very cool thing last week: introduce — and then lead a question-and-answer session with — Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. It was part of the Distinguished Speakers Series, and the event took place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

KPCC often provides on-air folks to participate in the series. This was my first opportunity, and for a person who has never really owned anything other than Apple computers since the the late 1980s, it was both a privilege and a thrill to be on the same stage as Woz.

His speech was a charming, funny, and accessible ramble through his years before and after Apple — including a stint on "Dancing with the Stars" and a new memoir, "iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It."

Given that Steve Jobs passed away last year, however, Wozniak's memories of his co-founder were some of the most moving of the evening.

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Steve Jobs: A year after his death, still a symbol of the California way of business

Apple CEO Steve Jobs Delivers Opening Keynote At Macworld

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Steve Jobs passed away a year ago. His legacy lives on, at Apple and in California — and beyond.

It is the one-year anniversary of Apple co-foudner Steve Jobs' death. Last year, I tried to situate Jobs' achievements in the context of a unique California way of business. Here is my blog post from last year. Please note that in one year, that $350-billion market cap has doubled.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' death at 56 has provided ample opportunity to reflect on his life and his status as an American visionary, a character out of one of Apple's "Think Different" ads. But Jobs was also a Californian, and it's worth asking whether he represented a California way of business.

Gov. Jerry Brown certainly thought so. This is from the Wall Street Journal, and includes Brown's reaction to Jobs' death:

California governor Jerry Brown, who knew Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs since his first governorship when Mr. Jobs sat on a innovation commission he created, said Wednesday of the Apple co-founder’s death: “Steve Jobs was a great California innovator who demonstrated what a totally independent and creative mind can accomplish. Few people have made such a powerful and elegant imprint on our lives…"

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Elon Musk to Caltech grads: 'You guys are the magicians of the 21st century'

Elon Musk

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Elon Musk, SpaceX founder, gives his commencement speech to the Caltech graudatiing class during the 118th annual commencement ceremony on June 15, 2012. "You guys are the magicians of the 21st century. Don't let anything hold you back, imagination is the limit and go out there and create some magic," said Musk.

Caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

A graduate gives his undivided attention to Elon Musk's commencement speech during the Caltech graduation ceremony on June 15, 2012.

Elon Musk - Caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Jordan Robert Raney (right) shakes the hand of Elon Musk (left) after recieving his doctorate of philosophy degree during the Caltech graduation ceremony on June 15, 2012.

Caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Caltech Graduates wait to be seated during the 118th annual commencment ceremony on June 15, 2012 in Pasadena.

Caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

The Caltech Glee Club sing "Ode to Joy," during the 118th annual commencement ceremony on June 15, 2012.

caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Family members try to capture a photos and video of graduates as they walk up on stage to receive their degree during the Caltech 118th annual commencement ceremony on June 15, 2012.

caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

A barefoot graduate walks to his seat after recieving his degree during the Cal tech Commencement ceremony on June 15, 2012.


Elon Musk has made a name for himself as an innovative entrepreneur in banking (PayPal), cars (Tesla Motors), rocketry (SpaceX), and alternative energy (SolarCity). He's a very driven, very smart man. He's a billionaire, the 20th richest person in Los Angeles. But at today's California Institute of Technology graduation is Pasadena, he was surrounded by more brainpower than even he's used to, and it was humbling.

Musk's commencement address capped an impressive few months for the CEO. The model for the Tony Stark character played by Robert Downey, Jr. in the "Iron Man" and "Avengers" movies just completed the first successful commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. In a week, Tesla will begin deliveries of its Model S sedan. He's on a roll. 

But so is Caltech. So the 526 graduates of the 2012 class at all academic levels were ready to receive Musk's inspiration and wisdom. He didn't disappoint. "You guys are the magicians of the 21st century," he said. "Don't let anything hold you back. Go out there and make some magic."

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Is Elon Musk the new Steve Jobs? Not according to Musk

Tesla Worldwide Debut of Model X

Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Tesla

SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks onstage during the debut of the Model X electric vehicle in Los Angeles. Steve Jobs had the black turtleneck. Musk has the black velvet dinner jacket.

SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk, hit a home run last week by launching the first commercial mission to service the International Space Station. This has led some to ask if Musk might be the "next Steve Jobs" — a technological and cultural visionary who unites people across a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. 

It's a tempting question to ask. I've seen it pop up on Quora, the startup question-and-answer site where I've been spending a lot of time lately hanging out and...well, answering questions (just not yet ones about whether Musk is the new Jobs). It's cropped up since Jobs' death last year and has been discussed more recently in the context of what the two men have in common. 

A few months back, in connection with an article I wrote for Pasadena magazine about Musk's other company, Tesla Motors, I asked him what he thought. He was gracious, praising Jobs, but also careful to make a distinction about what he does (sorry, no link):

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