Former Microsoft chief operating officer Bob Herbold has suggested that the "Apple era" may be coming to an end, and that the company needs someone with the visionary leadership that late Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs possessed in order to regain its innovative reputation.

Highlighting Apple's declining stock price in an article for Forbes this week, Herbold suggests that financial analysts, who continue to remain positive about buying Apple shares, are ignoring the "critical ingredient," which is "a genuine belief that there is visionary leadership that will lead to a continuing flow of leading edge products and services."

Herbold, who was COO at Microsoft from 1994 to 2011, believes Apple needs a "visionary leader" who will "be paranoid about making the core offerings of the organisation more exciting and more impactful with its customers," ensuring that innovation doesn’t slow to a "snail's pace".

This leader also needs to have a deep personal involvement with the company's vision and product development, in order to determine what Apple's customers want and deliver that to them. Herbold notes: "Steve Jobs personally led the conceptualisation and development of the easy-to-use leading-edge products that enabled him to be so massively successful."


Finally, Herbold states that he thinks Apple's leader needs to "have the guts to lead" too.

Herbold makes it pretty clear that he doesn't think current CEO Tim Cook is the visionary leader that Apple needs. Cook took over from Jobs in August 2011 following Jobs' resignation due to health concerns. Jobs died less than two months later after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer.

"Apple could surprise us in the next six to nine months by emerging with another big new idea," Herbold continues. "On the other hand, I think the stock market is telling us that Apple really doesn't have strong visionary leadership. Apple will be a solid technology company but the Apple era may be on its way out."

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